The Andrews Sisters Biography

Female vocal group comprising sisters LaVerne (6 July 1911, Mound, nr. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, d. 8 May 1967, Brentwood, California, USA), Maxene (b. 3 January 1916, Mound, nr. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, d. 21 October 1995, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and Patty Andrews (b. 16 February 1918, Mound, nr. Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA), lead singer and soloist. In the early 30s the sisters appeared in vaudeville and toured with the Larry Rich band before joining Leon Belasco at New York’s Hotel Edison in 1937. With their new manager Lou Levy (b. 3 December 1910, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, d. October 1995), who later married Maxene, they signed for Decca Records and almost immediately had a massive hit in 1938 with ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Schön’, a Yiddish song from 1933, with a new lyric by Saul Chaplin and Sammy Cahn. This was followed by the novelty ‘Hold Tight, Hold Tight’, and ‘Roll Out The Barrel’, an Americanized version of the old Czechoslovakian melody, ‘The Beer Barrel Polka’, which became one of World War II’s smash hits and helped them to become the most popular female vocal group of the war years.

The Andrews went to Hollywood in 1940 to appear in Argentine Nights with the Ritz Brothers, and featured in several movies starring comedians Abbott And Costello, including Buck Privates, in which they sang ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’. In Hollywood Canteen, Warner’s 1944 star-studded morale booster, the sisters sang ‘Don’t Fence Me In’, later a chart-topper with Bing Crosby. Their fruitful career-long collaboration with Crosby also included ‘Pistol Packin’ Mama’, ‘Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?’, ‘Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive’, ‘The Three Caballeros’, ‘Along The Navajo Trail’, ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Sparrow In The Tree Top’. They also recorded with several other artists such as Les Paul (‘Rumors Are Flying’), Burl Ives (‘Blue Tail Fly’), Danny Kaye (‘Civilisation’ and ‘The Woody Woodpecker Song’), Carmen Miranda (‘Cuanto La Gusta’), Guy Lombardo (‘Christmas Island’) and country singer Ernest Tubbs (‘I’m Biting My Fingernails And Thinking Of You’). The sisters own unaided hits, accompanied mainly by the Vic Schoen Orchestra, were a mixture of novelty, commercial boogie-woogie, calypso, jazzy numbers and heartfelt ballads. Following that first Yiddish hit in 1938, they were consistently in the charts with records such as ‘Says My Heart’, ‘Say Si Si’, ‘Beat Me, Daddy, Eight To The Bar’, ‘I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much)’, ‘I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time’, ‘Three Little Sisters’, ‘Strip Polka’, ‘Straighten Up And Fly Right’ and ‘Underneath The Arches’/‘You Call Everybody Darling’, which was recorded in the UK and accompanied by the Billy Ternent Orchestra.

In 1949 Patty Andrews topped the US chart with her solo record, ‘I Can Dream, Can’t I?’/‘I Wanna Be Loved’, and in 1953 she left the group to go solo. The sisters still worked together occasionally until LaVerne’s death in 1967. At their peak for just over a decade, their immediately identifiable close harmony sound, coupled with a swinging, vigorous delivery, eventually gained them world record sales in excess of 60 million, making them perhaps the most successful and popular female group ever. Bette Midler’s frenetic revival of ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ in 1973 revived some interest in their records, and in 1974 Patti and Maxene were reunited for Over Here!, a Broadway musical with a World War II setting that ran for over a year. In the early 80s Maxene underwent heart surgery, but in 1985 she was able to record her first solo album, Maxene: An Andrews Sister, a mixture of new material and some of the group’s old hits. In 1991, four years before her death, she made her ‘in-person’ debut as a solo artist, in aid of charity, at the Beaux Arts Ball in Brighton, England. Patty continues to work, touring the UK in 1990 on a wave of wartime nostalgia with the current Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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