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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

The Brandt Sisters of Atlanta

The Brandt Sisters Trio was part of the entertainment at the 1940 President's Birthday Ball. The Brandt sisters were five sisters born in Atlanta, Illinois who sang close harmonies. At different times, all five sisters sang as part of this close harmony trio, but it seems that Irma, Wanda and Mary were involved in the group for a longer period than Lois or Betty. These five sisters had five brothers as well, all the children of Merle and Nellie Brandt.

At first the Brandt Sisters were content to sing at local events, but by 1938 their talent was being recognized and they signed contracts to perform across the country. They were also heard occasionally on the radio (WLS and WJBC). Irma, Wanda and Mary travelled with the Major Bowes show across the West in 1941, and a former Atlantan wrote to the Atlanta Argus after seeing them perform in Wichita, Kansas. In Wichita the Brandt sisters were taken by the Wrights to see the airplane factories and given a fine visit on their five night stay in Wichita. In 1938 they also performed at an Ice Show at the Hotel Sherman (Chicago area) as the headlining act. In 1939 Irma, Wanda and Mary were contracted to WJBC in Bloomington to perform three times a week for six months. In 1944 and 1945 Irma, Wanda and Mary were heard three nights a week on WGN on their own program called "Say it with Music." Betty travelled as a member of the trio during the summer after her sophomore year at Atlanta High in 1943.

Eventually, each of the sisters married and stopped performing. Lois/Lora Brandt married Richard Thompson, but very sadly died in 1943 of a long illness at the age of 24, orphaning a young family of four children, her husband having died in 1941 of a heart attack.

Irma Brandt married John Williams and later Henry Kropp. In later years, she lived in Chicago, but she continued performing throughout her marriage to John Williams.

Mary Brandt married orchestra leader George Doll in 1941, sometime after signing a contract to sing with his band. He was drafted shortly after their marriage, and Mary continued performing with her sisters while her husband was overseas. In another blog, supposedly based on the writings of her husband, he says their marriage was another casualty of the war. She married Samuel P. Jones in 1951 and lived in such places as California and Michigan.

Wanda Brandt married George Pond and lived in Thornton, IL.

Betty Brandt married Sharon Cheek in New Orleans in December of 1945, when she was working with the National Railway in Chicago. He was also an Atlantan (in the U.S. Navy). Betty was the only one of the sisters to remain in Central Illinois after her marriage. She worked for 30 years in customer relations at Nestle Beich and died in 1998 in Atlanta. In addition to her singing, Betty wrote the school play in 1943 and won the Good Citizenship award in 1944 from the local DAR.

The marriage of Merle and Nellie Brandt ended sometime before 1940, and Nellie was living in Atlanta with seven of her children, aged 27 through 11. Merle was living in Atlanta with his new wife in 1940, a woman 20 years his junior.

Merle and Nellie's son, Joseph Brandt, registered for the draft in 1943 at age 18 and was lost in action in the Pacific in 1945.

When their mother Nellie was living at a care facility in Atlanta in 1981, Mary and Wanda visited their mother for several days, singing to her and the other residents of the home. They even formed a trio on the Sunday, with their sister Betty. Their mother was unable to communicate with them, but they felt sure that the message of their music was touching her.

A second image of the Brandt Sisters depicts the women performing in Bloomington at the Merchandising Dinner on October 24, 1940. All costumes worn by the trio were made by an Atlantan seamstress.

Issues of the Atlanta Argus and other Atlanta newspapers going back as far as 1869 can be easily searched on the digital archives of the Atlanta Public Library!!!

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