Singer Embodied '50s Innocence but Ran With Gangster

Phyllis McGuire made it big with her sisters
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 1, 2021 3:55 PM CST
Singer Embodied '50 Innocence but Ran With Gangster
From left, Christine, Phyllis and Dorothy, the McGuire Sisters, pose outside Radio City Music Hall in New York in 1986.   (AP Photo/Ed Bailey, File)

Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving member of the three singing McGuire Sisters who topped the charts in the 1950s, has died. She was 89. The lead singer and younger sister of Dorothy and Christine McGuire died Tuesday in Las Vegas, the AP reports. A cause of death was not provided. Known for their sweet harmonies and identical outfits and hairdos, the McGuire Sisters earned six gold records for hits including 1954's "Sincerely" and 1957's "Sugartime." The group performed for five presidents and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, and was inducted into the National Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001. The Las Vegas Sun reported Phyllis McGuire died at her mansion she called “the Beverly Hills of Las Vegas” near downtown Las Vegas. The 26,000-square-foot home includes a 45-foot version of the Eiffel Tower and a swan moat.

Her image changed when she was linked in 1965 to a Chicago mobster, Sam Giancana, per the New York Times. In addition to organized crime, Giancana reportedly was connected to a CIA plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. After being under federal surveillance for years, McGuire and Giancana were called to testify to a grand jury in Chicago. She confirmed the relationship but said she didn't know anything about any criminal activities. "It makes me look terrible," she said to reporters, adding, "My sisters and my parents—they’re brokenhearted about this." The group retired in 1968, though Phyllis McGuire continued to appear in Las Vegas. She defended her relationship with Giancana, saying, "He was so wise about so many things." The sisters made a comeback in 1985. "They brought the country together by singing wonderful songs," a friend said. "Phyllis McGuire was beautiful, talented and was part of the Las Vegas allure."

(Read more obituary stories.)

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