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Friday, February 1, 2013

Last of the famous Andrews sisters singers died this week

We were such a part of everybody's life in the Second World War. We represented something overseas and at home - a sort of security.
- Patty Andrews (speaking of the Andrews Sisters, attributed)

The wonderful thing was we were together for so many years. We dressed
together, we slept together, we roomed together, and of course we rehearsed together. We never separated.
- Maxene Andrews (attributed)

It wasn't just wanting to sing together again, but the public never wanted the Andrews Sisters to break up.
- LaVerne Andrews (on reuniting in 1956)

No matter how pop tastes have switched from boogie to ballads, sagebrush to sambas, waltzes and calypsos to be-bop, the Andrews Sisters have continued to be faves. In discs, they rank only to Bing Crosby on the Decca lists.
- Billboard magazine, 1946

I wanted to become an Andrews sister. My wish was that they could become a quartet, and I'd be the fourth singer.
- June Allyson (1917-2006)* (attributed)

This past Wednesday saw the passing of Patricia Marie ("Patty") Andrews (1918-2013), the last surviving member of the fabulous World War II-era singing group, the Andrews Sisters. She was 94. Like her older sisters, LaVerne Sophia (1911-1967) and Maxene Angelyn (1916-1995), Patty Andrews was born in Minnesota to a Greek immigrant father (who had changed his name from Andreou) and an American mother. They first performed together when Patty was only seven and became well known on the vaudeville circuit and by singing with dance bands in the early 1930s.

The Andrews Sisters' big break came in 1937 with their first major hit, "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen," and their recordings (on Decca) and regular radio broadcasts had made them national celebrities by 1940. Their popularity surged during World War II, when they entertained the troops, participated in Victory Bond drives, appeared with all of the major big bands, including Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey, and recorded such hits as "The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B," "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree," "Rum and Coca-Cola," and "Pistol Packin' Mama" (with Bing Crosby). After the war, their success continued unabated until Patty left (amid considerable acrimony) to join another group in 1951, but they came back together in 1956 and continued as an act until December 1966, when LaVerne was forced to withdraw by the cancer that killed her six months later. Patty and Maxene stayed together for two more years but then split up and pursued various musical opportunities separately until reuniting for the World War II Broadway musical, Over Here! in 1974. After that, their popularity trailed off, and Maxene died in 1995. At the height of their career, the sound of the Andrews Sisters was absolutely ubiquitous, and until the advent of the Supremes in the 1960s, they were the most imitated of all female singing groups. As Patty once remarked,

"We were very fortunate because we had so many hits, so we'd be
singing nothing but hits.")

* N.B. Film and television actress June Allyson is remembered for her wholesome "girl next door" persona in films such as Two Girls and a Sailor and Too Young to Kiss.

A World War II movie version of perhaps the Andrews Sisters' greatest hit:

The iconic war-era photo of Maxene, Patty, and LaVerne:

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