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The Michael Sisters
Chippewa Valley Barn Dance
KSTP Sunset Valley Barn Dance

About the Group

About The Group

In the late 1940's, Helen Peterson and Lillian Peterson gained notoriety as The Michael Sisters, country music singers on the Chippewa Valley Barn Dance out of WEAU in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and the Sunset Valley Barn Dance on KSTP in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Sisters Helen and Lillian were two of the 10 children in a musical family of Norwegian Americans. Their father, Ingval Peterson, played the violin and their mother, Gena Mickelson Peterson, played the guitar and all of the children sang. In fact, their brother Harlan Peterson led a polka band, Pete's Serenaders, for more than 30 years, performing throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. The family had a farm seven miles north of Star Prairie, Wisconsin, where they raised dairy cows and harvested corn and oats. As a family, they often sang in church, at PTA meetings, and for community gatherings.

They often listened to the National Barn Dance broadcast from WLS in Chicago, inspired by acts such as LuLu Belle and Scotty.

Helen and Lillian received their big break on the radio when they appeared on Cedric Adams' "Stairway to Stardom," a talent show on WCCO, where they both sang and yodeled.

In 1949, the sisters joined the Chippewa Valley Barn Dance on WEAU, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, which was led by Maggie and Scottie Swan. Their troupe of nine performers traveled throughout the Upper Midwest, covering more
than 75,000 miles in one year. Helen and Lillian were called the Chippewa Valley Sweethearts while they were with these entertainers.

In 1953, Helen and Lillian Peterson sang on the WDAY Hayloft, in Fargo, ND.

From 1954 to 1957, they were known as The Michael Sisters. Why did they change the name of their act? They joined the Sunset Valley Barn Dance on KSTP in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their name referred to a rival Barn Dance, so Sunset Valley's producer, David Stone, asked them to come up with another name. They anglicized their mother's maiden name, Mickelson, and became The Michael Sisters. They sang old-time country music, often teaming up with Billy Folger, one of the stars of the Sunset Valley Barn Dance. Other performers included Dusty Lane, Kathy Datwyler, Cannonball Tyler, Lou Skarning, Cactus Slim, Ebie Kittleson, Smilin' Eddie, Andy Walsh, and Bobby Walker.

In 1957, when Billy Folger left the Barn Dance, Lillian and Helen retired from professional singing.

Helen married Floyd Engebretson in 1963.

Lillian married Warren Hanson in 1965.

Today they reside in New Richmond, Wisconsin.

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its appreciate to Vicki Palmquist, a relative of Helen and Lillian for providing us with the biographical notes of the careers of the Michael Sisters.