The Fischer Girls

Carl

Carl T. Fischer was not only Frankie Laine’s friend, but he was Frankie’s piano accompanist, musical director, and song-writing partner. Carl and Frankie were a team when Frankie first became world famous in 1947, when “That’s My Desire” went gold. Carl tragically died at age 42 on March 27, 1954. This utterly devastated Frankie. Together, they had become successful. They collaborated on wonderful songs such as “We’ll Be Together Again” and “You’ve Changed.”

Carl was of Cherokee descent. Over a period of 15 years, he composed an orchestral suite in nine movements that recalled his Indian heritage and his love of the land, Reflections of an Indian Boy. Just days before Carl died, he finished the composition and handed it to Frankie. Frankie made sure his friend’s work was heard, and the suite was recorded by Paul Weston and released as an LP in 1955.

Carl and his wife, Terry, had two daughters, Terry and Carol. Terry, named after her mother, was the oldest. When Frankie Laine was surprised by Ralph Edwards on the popular television show This Is Your Life on June 15, 1955, Carl’s widow, Terry, and their daughters (who were both still little girls), appeared on the show to honor Frankie.

As teenagers, Terry and Carol along with Sally Gordon formed the popular singing trio the Murmaids. In January 1964, their recording of “Popsicles and Icicles” reached number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Terry was lead vocalist for the group. I was rather surprised when I learned that the sisters in this group were Carl’s daughters. This was a Frankie Laine collection tidbit that I hadn’t known about.

Unfortunately, the Murmaids did not continue to succeed as hit makers. I remember hearing their hit song on the radio when I was a kid. I rediscovered that song in 2015. The song is wonderfully done and very appealing. I began to look for other songs by them and after purchasing a collection of their recordings, rediscovered another song that I had recalled from years ago: “Heartbreak Ahead.” I especially liked “Wild and Wonderful,” a song that really has that magical early 1960s “sound” that only we baby boomers recognize.

Terry and Carol

It was during this time of my rediscovery of the group that I decided to write to Terry Fischer. After initial research to locate her contact information, I sent her an email with the subject line “From a fan of yours, your father’s fan, and a Frankie Laine fan.”

I soon received an email back:

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December 16, 2015

Hi Craig,

This is actually from Carol—Terry’s sister. I have been handling the email for the past year or so as she has not been well.

I really enjoyed reading your email. What a fan you are of Frank’s. So very nice. No – we were not at the funeral. I believe the last time we saw him was a few years before his death. Amazing how time passes. As kids we spent half of our lives with Frank, Nan, Pam and Jan. But as the years went on our paths went different ways.  But they are such a large part of our childhood memories. And he was such a large part of my father’s life, as you well know. You probably know more about that than I do. I was only five when my father died and most of what I know of him is through his work, his friends, and of course, my mother (who died about 20 years ago).

I must say I think you have very good taste to have Frank on your list of great singers. His pop songs were good of course, but I appreciate him more as a jazz singer. He was heavily influenced by Nat Cole and all the greats. I do think he is under-rated as a jazz singer, but he did get “type cast” with all those pop songs, especially the television themes. Don’t get me wrong – not a bad thing. They were of course very well done, but his earlier recordings were really great. It’s nice to know also that you appreciated my father’s music. Very nice . . .

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It was sad to know that Terry Fischer was ill. I later discovered that she was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. After researching and ultimately finding the other “Murmaid,” Sally Gordon, on Facebook, I also wrote to her. I related my Frankie Laine interests and explained that I had recently rediscovered the Murmaids after learning that Carl Fischer’s daughters had been part of the group.

It was nice to receive a reply from Sally, and we communicated for a bit. Ironically, I am the one who broke the news to her that Terry Fischer was ill. She hadn’t known that, adding that she hadn’t seen Terry in several years.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that Terry had passed away in 2017. I wish I had followed up with Carol about Terry’s health. Carl Fischer’s oldest daughter was gone—the lead vocalist for the Murmaids, now forever silent. Sadly, like her father, she was taken from the world all too soon.

 

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About the Author:

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Craig Cronbaugh, Director of the Legislative Information Office with the Legislative Services Agency at the Iowa State Capitol. As famed singer Frankie Laine’s special friend and a collector of Laine’s recordings and career memorabilia, Craig has written articles; has written, produced, directed, and hosted a distinctive radio program; and has appeared on Iowa statewide television regarding his Frankie Laine avocation. Craig has been highlighted briefly and has been given a research screen credit in the 2003 internationally distributed documentary Frankie Laine: An American Dreamer. Craig’s book, a memoir, Reaching for a Star, featuring his friendship with Laine, was published in 2005.