Olive and Eva - Prestophone Mastertape, 1955

Olive and Eva - Prestophone Mastertape, 1955
Bauer Media Pty Limited / The Australian Women’s Weekly (image)
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Olive and Eva were a harmony duo active in the 1950s.

Born Olive McGuiness and Eva Bell, the cousins had two releases over the span of their career. Both were 10” records (78 rpm) on Australia’s Prestophone label, consisting of two songs with quartet accompaniment.

The first release was in 1955 with songs written by Grace O’Clerkin (1901–1964). Grace was a NSW composer inspired by Australia’s bushland and its First Peoples. Her songs, 'Old Rugged Hills' and 'Rhythm of Corroboree', paint a picture of an exotic land filled with ancient river gums and mystic legends.

This picturesque ideal is further romanticised by the yearning harmonies of Eva and Olive. Harmony bands were popular music of the time. American stars such as The Chordettes and The Andrews Sisters sang in similar tones, delivering songs of wistful daydreams. After the Second World War, the western world was awakened to the lure of foreign adventures and the music genre known as 'exotica' was born. Fuelled by an American middle-class suburban longing for unknown idyllic lands, its sentiment is an obvious influence. O’Clerkin’s words paint Australia as a near fantasy.   

Olive and Eva were an exceptional duo. Their close connection to each other and to Australia’s land is expressed through their heartfelt delivery. Their harmonies show a natural synchronicity akin to the rhythm of language. Where one misses a lyric, the other seamlessly leads; where one’s voice drops, the other's picks up. While Olive and Eva’s songs tell a mix of fantasy and reality, they also capture an honest portrait of two significant popular singers from the 1950s, unique to our country.