Tricky Task: Jeanette (McDonald) and The Nettles Sisters

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Tricky Task: Jeanette (McDonald) and The Nettles Sisters

Postby HillbillyCat » Sun Nov 20, 2022 5:19 pm

Today I have devoted myself to a somewhat tricky task. The starting point was a picture showing Elvis with his parents and a girl who turned out to be Jeanette McDonald:

[1] Source: https://tr.pinterest.com/pin/308637380703662808/
1955-07-02 Shreveport LA with Vernon, Jeanette McDonald and Gladys.jpg

According to the book "A Boy From Tupelo" (ABFT, pages 300 and 301) it was taken in Shreveport LA on July 2nd, 1955 as were the following two backstage pictures with Miss McDonald:

[2] Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/839780661746211535/
1955-07-02 Shreveport LA Backstage with Jeanette McDonald 1.jpg

[3] Source: https://www.facebook.com/EPGuitarMAN/po ... 269289849/
1955-07-02 Shreveport LA Backstage with Jeanette McDonald 2.jpg

It's the same Jeanette McDonald who sat in a photo booth with Elvis in October 1954 (ABFT p. 61):

[4] Source: https://olineeaton.com/2017/08/16/elvis/
1954-10 Jeanette McDonald and Elvis.jpg

The fact that different information and names can be found on the Internet - especially on Pinterest and Facebook - for the girl featured in the first three pictures is highly confusing. Apparently, a mix-up with the The Nettles Sisters vocal duo is to blame here (more later).

For example, the following description can be found on Pinterest for a cropped version of the first photo (1) with Vernon and Gladys:
Louisiana Hayride - a local girlfriend of Elvis (1955)... She'd been only 15 at the time when they first met... "Her name was Jeanette... She and her sister Nettle both had a crush on Elvis..." A quick look at the original vintage candids reveal Elvis fancied them both. "The sisters hung around him all the time when he played the Hayride and other local shows near Shreveport. Nettle was a few years older than Jeanette...and taller." Who's That Girl? - By Ger Rijff 

If that's an accurate quote by Ger Rijff then he must have messed things up a bit too. I highly doubt that he is talking about Jeanette McDonald, who I don't know if she even had a sister. And "Nettle" as a first name? That seems very unusual to me. So I rather think he's talking about The Nettles Sisters here, but he's getting the names mixed up (more later).

Another description from Pinterest, this time for the above kissing picture (3):
August 13, 1955 ~ Elvis Kissing Jeanette Nettle backstage at the Louisiana Hayride. (part of the vocal duo The Nettles Sisters) Both Nettles Sisters had a crush on Elvis.

Now "Nettle" is used as a last name! As a reminder: the kissing girl is Jeanette McDonald. Already confused? Wait, there's another confusing posting (and another picture) on the net that comes into play, this time it's from the Facebook group "Guitar MAN":

Facebook - GuitarMan.jpg

Now it's "Jeanette Nettles"! As we have already established, the girl who kisses Elvis is Jeanette McDonald (both pictures on the right had been taken on July 2nd 1955). So let's take a look at the bigger picture on the left - and to make it clear right away: this time it's not Jeanette McDonald. The big picture can also be found in the book "A Boy From Tupelo" (p. 295), as well as another photo that is supposed to show the same girl (on a different date, p. 294):

[5] Source: https://www.facebook.com/EPGuitarMAN/po ... 269289849/
1955-06'08 Backstage with Glenda Nettle according to ABFT 2.jpg

[6] Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/324329610638498654/
1955-06'08 Backstage with Glenda Nettle according to ABFT 1.jpg

ABFT states that this girl's name is "Glenda Nettles (or her sister)" and the pictures (5 & 6) were taken in June/August 1955...

Sisters whose last name is Nettles? That brings us back to the posts that talks about the vocal duo "The Nettles Sisters". But their names are Jeanie and Mary Arlene Nettles.

[7] Source: http://rcs-discography.com/rcs/search.p ... y=nett5000 - Photo (L to R): Jeanie and Mary Nettles
The Nettles Sisters.jpg

They recorded two singles for the Rodeo label in 1956 with The Rodeo Tune Wranglers (click on the links to listen to their songs via YouTube):

Take a step back to the above (supposedly) Ger Rijff quote: On a Polish fan blog I found the (translated) text in a variant that (though still confusing) makes a little bit more sense now:
Louisiana Hayride - Elvis' Local Girl (1955). She was only 15 when they first met. Her name was Jeanette Nettle. She and her sister Mary Nettle had a crush on Elvis. A quick look at the original vintage candids reveals that Elvis liked them both. The sisters hung around him the whole time he played in Louisiana Hayride and when he appeared at other shows near Shreveport. Mary Nettle was several years older than Jeanette... and taller.

Here's clearly a confusion going on. Jeanette Nettle (or Jeanie Nettles) is not Jeanette McDonald. And it's Mary Nettles who actually looks more similar to Jeanette McDonald than Jeanie did. And according to the above picture (7) of them I would say that Jeanie Nettles looks taller than Mary Nettles. Oh my god, I'm getting a headache right now...

It's too bad I can't open this promising looking (fee required?) article about Mary Nettles, who seems to have been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2007: Astroria woman remembers 'Elvis never called me Mary'. I wouldn't be surprised if the decisive information could be found right there...

So, what do you think? Is ABFT wrong here with the name "Glenda" (pictures 5 & 6)? Is it Mary Nettles hugging Elvis in both pictures (5 & 6)? Incidentally, this variant can also be found on Pinterest and, strangely enough, also in a post on the GuitarMAN Facebook group.

In between I even thought that Mary Nettles and Jeanette McDonald are the same person and that Jeanie Nettles hugs Elvis in the pictures... What have I gotten myself into here, it all started so harmlessly... :lol:

I would be very grateful if someone could shed some light on this mess! ;)
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Re: Tricky Task: Jeanette (McDonald) and The Nettles Sisters

Postby Mister Moon » Mon Nov 21, 2022 7:39 pm

Wow, that's a really deep post. Thanks, HC.

I haven't delved deep into this matter, but I would say we have three separate and unconnected entities here :


--Jeanette McDonald, the girl with the white dots dress we see in the first three photos, and also in the photo booth with Elvis.

--The girl captioned by ABFT as "Glenda Nettles or her sister", who is seen hugging Elvis in two other photos.

--The Nettles Sisters, Rodeo recording stars, probably unconnected to Elvis.


I guess this is just another case of information being wrongly passed around again and again over the years, which creates this ugly mess.


**This is an interesting thread and, although it's photo-based, I feel it may be somewhat overlooked by being here in the photo section. Maybe it would reach more people if it could be moved to the main section. Just a suggestion. Thanks.

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Re: Tricky Task: Jeanette (McDonald) and The Nettles Sisters

Postby HillbillyCat » Tue Nov 22, 2022 7:56 pm

Mister Moon wrote:Wow, that's a really deep post. Thanks, HC.

I haven't delved deep into this matter, but I would say we have three separate and unconnected entities here :


--Jeanette McDonald, the girl with the white dots dress we see in the first three photos, and also in the photo booth with Elvis.

--The girl captioned by ABFT as "Glenda Nettles or her sister", who is seen hugging Elvis in two other photos.

--The Nettles Sisters, Rodeo recording stars, probably unconnected to Elvis.


I guess this is just another case of information being wrongly passed around again and again over the years, which creates this ugly mess.


**This is an interesting thread and, although it's photo-based, I feel it may be somewhat overlooked by being here in the photo section. Maybe it would reach more people if it could be moved to the main section. Just a suggestion. Thanks.

In the beginning it was only intended as a new photo thread, but at some point it got out of hand... :lol: If it can be relocated: that's fine by me. ;)

As far as the duo "The Nettles Sisters" is concerned, I was also almost convinced that they had nothing to do with the matter at all - until I found the above mentioned article about Mary Nettles. An article from which I only know these excerpts/synopses:
Her sister dated Elvis! Mary Nettles of Astoria is now in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In the 50s, she was just "the 9-year-old yodeling cowgirl," running in the same circles with Johnny Cash and Eddie Cochran. And Elvis was a very charming young teenage boy.
(Source: https://www.oregonlive.com/nwheadlines/ ... elvis.html)
Astoria woman remembers 'Elvis never called me Mary' - When Mary Nettles was growing up in Shreveport, La., she was "just the 9-year-old yodeling cowgirl." That's how she describes her childhood and teenage years singing honky-tonk, hillbilly country music when the tradition was in its heyday.
(Source: https://www.dailyastorian.com/news/asto ... 9e711.html)

Maybe Elvis called her "Glenda" for whatever reason :lol:

But seriously: There was also definitely a "Glenda Nettles" in Shreveport, according to e-yearbook.com she was a 1953 student of the C.E. Byrd High School. Another yearbook source for 1954 (same High School) mentions both Glenda ("Nettles, Glenda Faye, Jr." - Jr. = Junior, 11th grade, ~17 years old) and Nancy Nettles ("Nettles, Nancy, Soph." - Sophomore, 10th grade, ~16 years old)... So that sounds like the sisters mentioned in the ABFT book (just a possibility). Both of them must have been around 17 and 18 years old in 1955.
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Re: Tricky Task: Jeanette (McDonald) and The Nettles Sisters

Postby Mister Moon » Tue Nov 22, 2022 8:23 pm

HillbillyCat wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:Wow, that's a really deep post. Thanks, HC.

I haven't delved deep into this matter, but I would say we have three separate and unconnected entities here :


--Jeanette McDonald, the girl with the white dots dress we see in the first three photos, and also in the photo booth with Elvis.

--The girl captioned by ABFT as "Glenda Nettles or her sister", who is seen hugging Elvis in two other photos.

--The Nettles Sisters, Rodeo recording stars, probably unconnected to Elvis.


I guess this is just another case of information being wrongly passed around again and again over the years, which creates this ugly mess.


**This is an interesting thread and, although it's photo-based, I feel it may be somewhat overlooked by being here in the photo section. Maybe it would reach more people if it could be moved to the main section. Just a suggestion. Thanks.

In the beginning it was only intended as a new photo thread, but at some point it got out of hand... :lol: If it can be relocated: that's fine by me. ;)

As far as the duo "The Nettles Sisters" is concerned, I was also almost convinced that they had nothing to do with the matter at all - until I found the above mentioned article about Mary Nettles. An article from which I only know these excerpts/synopses:
Her sister dated Elvis! Mary Nettles of Astoria is now in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In the 50s, she was just "the 9-year-old yodeling cowgirl," running in the same circles with Johnny Cash and Eddie Cochran. And Elvis was a very charming young teenage boy.
(Source: https://www.oregonlive.com/nwheadlines/ ... elvis.html)
Astoria woman remembers 'Elvis never called me Mary' - When Mary Nettles was growing up in Shreveport, La., she was "just the 9-year-old yodeling cowgirl." That's how she describes her childhood and teenage years singing honky-tonk, hillbilly country music when the tradition was in its heyday.
(Source: https://www.dailyastorian.com/news/asto ... 9e711.html)

Maybe Elvis called her "Glenda" for whatever reason :lol:

But seriously: There was also definitely a "Glenda Nettles" in Shreveport, according to e-yearbook.com she was a 1953 student of the C.E. Byrd High School. Another yearbook source for 1954 (same High School) mentions both Glenda ("Nettles, Glenda Faye, Jr." - Jr. = Junior, 11th grade, ~17 years old) and Nancy Nettles ("Nettles, Nancy, Soph." - Sophomore, 10th grade, ~16 years old)... So that sounds like the sisters mentioned in the ABFT book (just a possibility). Both of them must have been around 17 and 18 years old in 1955.


Gee, what a mess. This goes beyond my capabilities. My brain is getting weaker every minute !

I see that the thread is still under "Elvis Photos". Too bad.

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Re: Tricky Task: Jeanette (McDonald) and The Nettles Sisters

Postby John » Tue Nov 22, 2022 10:53 pm

Mister Moon wrote:
HillbillyCat wrote:
Mister Moon wrote:Wow, that's a really deep post. Thanks, HC.

I haven't delved deep into this matter, but I would say we have three separate and unconnected entities here :


--Jeanette McDonald, the girl with the white dots dress we see in the first three photos, and also in the photo booth with Elvis.

--The girl captioned by ABFT as "Glenda Nettles or her sister", who is seen hugging Elvis in two other photos.

--The Nettles Sisters, Rodeo recording stars, probably unconnected to Elvis.


I guess this is just another case of information being wrongly passed around again and again over the years, which creates this ugly mess.


**This is an interesting thread and, although it's photo-based, I feel it may be somewhat overlooked by being here in the photo section. Maybe it would reach more people if it could be moved to the main section. Just a suggestion. Thanks.

In the beginning it was only intended as a new photo thread, but at some point it got out of hand... :lol: If it can be relocated: that's fine by me. ;)

As far as the duo "The Nettles Sisters" is concerned, I was also almost convinced that they had nothing to do with the matter at all - until I found the above mentioned article about Mary Nettles. An article from which I only know these excerpts/synopses:
Her sister dated Elvis! Mary Nettles of Astoria is now in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In the 50s, she was just "the 9-year-old yodeling cowgirl," running in the same circles with Johnny Cash and Eddie Cochran. And Elvis was a very charming young teenage boy.
(Source: https://www.oregonlive.com/nwheadlines/ ... elvis.html)
Astoria woman remembers 'Elvis never called me Mary' - When Mary Nettles was growing up in Shreveport, La., she was "just the 9-year-old yodeling cowgirl." That's how she describes her childhood and teenage years singing honky-tonk, hillbilly country music when the tradition was in its heyday.
(Source: https://www.dailyastorian.com/news/asto ... 9e711.html)

Maybe Elvis called her "Glenda" for whatever reason :lol:

But seriously: There was also definitely a "Glenda Nettles" in Shreveport, according to e-yearbook.com she was a 1953 student of the C.E. Byrd High School. Another yearbook source for 1954 (same High School) mentions both Glenda ("Nettles, Glenda Faye, Jr." - Jr. = Junior, 11th grade, ~17 years old) and Nancy Nettles ("Nettles, Nancy, Soph." - Sophomore, 10th grade, ~16 years old)... So that sounds like the sisters mentioned in the ABFT book (just a possibility). Both of them must have been around 17 and 18 years old in 1955.


Gee, what a mess. This goes beyond my capabilities. My brain is getting weaker every minute !

I see that the thread is still under "Elvis Photos". Too bad.

I'll ask Colin to move it.

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Tricky Task: Jeanette (McDonald) and The Nettles Sisters

Postby Colin B » Tue Nov 22, 2022 11:15 pm

Thread moved from Elvis Photos.
Colin B

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Re: Tricky Task: Jeanette (McDonald) and The Nettles Sisters [2]

Postby John » Tue Nov 22, 2022 11:38 pm

Colin B wrote:.

Never even got to ask you. Cheers Colin.

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Re: Tricky Task: Jeanette (McDonald) and The Nettles Sisters

Postby Mister Moon » Wed Nov 23, 2022 8:47 am

Thanks, folks !

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Re: Tricky Task: Jeanette (McDonald) and The Nettles Sisters

Postby JimmyCool » Thu Nov 24, 2022 1:27 am

Great post, HillbillyCat!
HillbillyCat wrote:It's too bad I can't open this promising looking (fee required?) article about Mary Nettles, who seems to have been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2007: Astroria woman remembers 'Elvis never called me Mary'. I wouldn't be surprised if the decisive information could be found right there...

Here's the full article. Unfortunately it does not contain pictures, but I hope it helps:
The Astorian wrote:Astoria woman remembers 'Elvis never called me Mary'
Apr 1, 2007 Updated Dec 6, 2018

When Mary Nettles was growing up in Shreveport, La., she was "just the 9-year-old yodeling cowgirl."

That's how she describes her childhood and teenage years singing honky-tonk, hillbilly country music when the tradition was in its heyday.

More than 50 years later, Nettles lives in Astoria, but her younger years down South and later California have landed her a place in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame - although she didn't know until her son discovered it on the Internet. And she shies away from listening to her past hits, songs like "Real Gone Jive" and "Beatel Um-Bum."

"I'm not really into country music," especially not the "new country," she said at her son's home last week. "I just love good music, but I want to hear other people's music."

The Nettles family was tight-knit, much like its peers at the core of barn-dance programs popular in the 1950s. Performers caravanned between venues, singing at "all the same clubs" and often taking the stage together, she explained.

Her father was Norman Nettles of the popular string ensemble the Dixie Blue Boys and the Nettles Brothers, playing packed shows at the legendary Grand Ole Opry and the Louisiana Hay Ride. It was only natural his daughters would continue the tradition.

"We just did it," she said. "It's all we knew. I was scared at first that people wouldn't like me, but it felt good to please. And it meant so much to my father."

Mary Nettles' older sisters Dicie and Jeanie started things off for their generation. The youngest, Patty, never took to performing, but the younger middle child soon joined in. In various combinations, they were the Blue Mountain Sweethearts and the Nettles Sisters.

Soon it was just Mary and Jeanie. About two years apart in age, the girls sang foot-stomping country with hiccuping vocals backed by twanging fiddles and guitars. Their mother sewed the dresses. Their father wrote the songs.

Always a little louder, always a bit brassier, Mary Nettles said she had to stand a step farther back than Jeanie from the microphone.

Growing up among musicians in hillbilly's heyday meant more than a few brushes with fame for the yodeling youngster. Nettles met Johnny Cash and shared the stage with Eddie Cochran, although at the time, many acts were unaware of their pending stardom, she said.

After all, that's what the Louisiana Hayride was known for. Like the Grand Ole Opry, the live broadcast debuted some huge names in American music. But at the Hayride, rising stars could get their first big-time exposure.

It was where a young Elvis Presley began his climb to fame. In fact, Nettles' sister Dicie dated him when the two were teens. She became the first president of his fan club and even footed the bill for some of his first promotional cards, which showcased "Elvis 'The Cat' Presley." "He was the sweetest, nicest person you'd ever want to meet," said Mary Nettles.
The one thing she never understood was why he didn't call her by her given name.

"Elvis never called me Mary," she said. "He said, 'You look like a Betty to me.' And from then on he called me Betty." She was 11 years old at the time.

That year, Norman Nettles moved his family to Los Angeles. At age 12 Mary started recording - for 1 cent per record in royalties, according to a contract she signed in the 1950s.

After four or five years, she began singing alone. Her father died of cancer, and her sister Dicie died young, too. Nettles had a child and was widowed at age 18, when her husband died in a work-related accident. But she remarried and eventually moved to Albany. Three years ago, she came to Astoria to be near her son Tony Garcia, who owns Clatsop Property Management.

Although none of Nettles' five children carried on the singing legacy, Garcia has taken interest in part of the family's music business.

"Growing up, I always heard my mom talking about singing," he said. "I started investigating it online, and my mom and grandfather are all over the Internet." Turns out, companies have been selling the family's music on compilations without permission; Garcia's grandpa was a songwriter, and a well-known one, penning hundreds of compositions over his lifetime.

According to the family's attorney, Scott Fisher, those works are of high value.

"In the music industry, sure, the artists make some money, but it's the songwriters and owners of the original music compositions that are the true money-makers," he said. "The licensing of original works is a multimillion-dollar industry."

Garcia now owns his grandfather's company, Arnett Music Publishing, and plans to license songs and recordings once the legal trouble is over.

He is also in the process of pressing charges in a different suit; he and his mother were reportedly assaulted in March at Garcia's home near the county fairgrounds.

And while Nettles no longer sings, she sometimes enjoys watching gospel shows on television. "They seem to love each other so much," she said. The performances remind her of the country shows so popular in the late 1940s through '60s.

"Oh, yes... Everybody loved each other so much," she said. "Except for Webb Pierce. He was a little devil."


The Nettles Sisters with The Rodeo Tune Wranglers - Real Gone Jive (1956).mp3

(Sounds like "That's All Right" to me.)

The Nettles Sisters with The Rodeo Tune Wranglers - Beatel Um-Bum (1956).mp3


http://rcs-discography.com/rcs/search.p ... y=nett5000
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Re: Tricky Task: Jeanette (McDonald) and The Nettles Sisters

Postby HillbillyCat » Thu Nov 24, 2022 8:54 pm

JimmyCool wrote:Here's the full article. Unfortunately it does not contain pictures, but I hope it helps:
The Astorian wrote:Astoria woman remembers 'Elvis never called me Mary'
Apr 1, 2007 Updated Dec 6, 2018
[...]
It was where a young Elvis Presley began his climb to fame. In fact, Nettles' sister Dicie dated him when the two were teens. She became the first president of his fan club and even footed the bill for some of his first promotional cards, which showcased "Elvis 'The Cat' Presley." "He was the sweetest, nicest person you'd ever want to meet," said Mary Nettles.

The one thing she never understood was why he didn't call her by her given name. "Elvis never called me Mary," she said. "He said, 'You look like a Betty to me.' And from then on he called me Betty." She was 11 years old at the time.
[...]

Thank you very much JimmyCool!! Wow, that went differently than expected...

The sentence "She was 11 years old at the time" (related to 1954/55) makes at least one thing clear: The young woman in those hugging pictures (5) & (6) was by no means Mary 'Betty' Nettles! Accordingly, it can also be assumed that Mary was probably around 13 years old when she recorded the four songs mentioned above with her older sister Jeanie in 1956 and the above photo (7) of the two was probably taken even later than initially thought.

The other half of the singing duo "The Nettles Sisters", Jeanie, is not mentioned in connection with Elvis. Whereas we now learn of another Nettles sister: Dicie Nettles, fan club president, "sponsor" and another Elvis' date!

A quick internet search revealed the following information about Dicie: According to the 1940 Census Record, Decie M. Nettles was born in Shreveport LA in 1937 to Norman and Ada Nettles. So she must have been around 18 years old when she met and dated Elvis in Shreveport in 1954/1955. In 1954 she recorded a song with her dad "and his Blue Mountain Boys":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3nlJ4FXhJU

In the music magazine "Cash Box" from June 5th, 1954 (p. 32) this recording is reviewed as follows:
"THE LIFE HE DIDN'T CHOOSE" [Jiffy BMI-Nettles] A touching middle tempo piece dealing with the evils of Communism. Tender vocal job of Dicie Nettles.

Coming back to pictures (5) & (6), it would of course also be possible that it was Dicie hugging Elvis... The other siblings of the Norman Nettles family are probably out of the question (Mary and Patty and I think even Jeanie - not mentioned in the 1940 census - were too young and another older sister, Norma - mentioned in the 1940 census - presumably died very young as she is not mentioned at all in the above article).

But as long as there is no one who can positively identify the young woman in the photos (5) & (6), I trust the ABFT statement that it was "Glenda Nettles or her sister" (who's name could probably be Nancy, as I mentioned in my above posting). These two clearly come from another Nettles family (although a relationship seems likely).

After all, it seems we stumbled across a little-known piece of the Elvis story! Thanks again to JimmyCool for the article!
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Re: Tricky Task: Jeanette (McDonald) and The Nettles Sisters

Postby Mister Moon » Thu Nov 24, 2022 9:48 pm

Bill Nettles' (Norman's older brother) "Wine-O Boogie" (Starday, 1955) is an underground proto-rockabilly classic :


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3Laj8KaRrY


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