Quartets and quintets once were popular additions to variety shows and big bands. And our university had its own quartet, the Swingtet, who got their start in 1943 singing with 'Fessor Floyd Graham's Aces of Collegeland. The four went on to fame as the Moonmaids, touring with nationally known band leader Vaughn Monroe.
When the Swingtet — students Tinker Cunningham, Katie Myatt, Mary Jo Thomas and Arline Truax — entered a radio show contest in 1944, they made a bet that they would not win. But they did win and received a contract singing at the Dallas Palace Theatre.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that that big band leader Sonny Dunham made them an offer but it was not enough to take them away mid-semester. Coincidentally, June Hiett ('46), who later would become a Moonmaid, performed with Dunham, as did Mary Jo's future husband, Harrold Grogan ('49).
During the war, the Swingtet traveled with Graham's variety show to Texas hospitals and Army camps and sang with a USO group throughout the South and California. They were soon discovered by Monroe's publicity agent. Monroe, whose theme song was "Racing With the Moon," renamed them the Moonmaids and took them on the road in 1946.
That summer, Monroe's orchestra filled Abbott and Costello's vacated Thursday-night NBC radio show timeslot, and the Moonmaids' first recordings (the first of more than 50 with Monroe) went on sale. Within ten months of leaving Denton, the Moonmaids were on the cover of Downbeat magazine and featured in Radio Mirror magazine. They received rave reviews and were photographed beside Danny Kaye, Jimmy Dorsey and other guests of Monroe's radio show, which toured the country. They even appeared in the motion picture Carnegie Hall.
However, they did not forget Texas. The Campus Chat reported that their New York kitchen cupboard contained a small glass jar filled with "honest to goodness Texas dirt." In 1949, Tinker, Mary Jo and June returned to campus with the Moonmaids for a national CBS broadcast. By the next year, all the original Swingtet members had moved on to married life or other endeavors.
In the 1980s, Tinker, Mary Jo and June joined with North Texas alumna Libba Anderson Weeks and Harrold Grogan to reform as the Moonmaids Plus One.
Most recently, Tinker, Mary Jo and June performed with the Palm Beach Pops Orchestra to celebrate the 80th birthday of Monroe guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. The 2006 show marked 60 years since the Swingtet took to the road with Monroe.