Andrews Sisters

FORMED: Minneapolis, MN

Building on the rhythmic harmonies of their forebears the Boswell Sisters, the Andrews Sisters became the most popular female act of the pre-rock era. The trio's incredibly close harmony, nimble delivery, and effervescent smiles defined the jitterbugging and boogie-woogie crazes of the '40s. With Bing Crosby, the Andrews Sisters also became one of the most popular recording artists of the war years, and provided hours of entertainment on USO tours.
The sisters, LaVerne, Maxene and Patty Andrews were all born in Mound, Minnesota within seven years of each other in the 1910s. While still teenagers, they began performing around the region and mounted a vaudeville act by the early '30s. The Andrews Sisters finally hit New York in the mid-'30s, appearing with an orchestra led by Leon Belasco. Signed to Decca soon after, the trio hit big early with the number one hit "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen," a remake of a song from a Yiddish musical with new lyrics. Though it took several years to trump the success of their chart debut, the Andrews Sisters remained popular during the late '30s with "Hold Tight, Hold Tight," "Beer Barrel Polka," "Well All Right (Tonight's the Night)" and their second Hit Parade chart-topper, "Ferryboat Serenade."

The group hit Hollywood in 1940, appearing in a few small roles and introducing a new hit for 1941, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," in an Abbott & Costello war movie. By the middle of World War II, the Andrews Sisters had hit their peak with year-defining singles like 1943's "Shoo-Shoo Baby" and "Pistol Packin' Mama," the following year's "Hot Time in the Town of Berlin" and "Don't Fence Me In," and 1945's "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" and "Rum and Coca-Cola" -- many of which featured duets with Bing Crosby.

The immediate post-war years found the trio falling a bit from the highs of 1943-45. In 1949, Patty made her solo-billed debut with "I Can Dream, Can't I?," though as on almost every previous Andrews Sisters record, LaVerne and Maxene backed up Patty's lead vocal. Both it and the following year's similarly billed "I Wanna Be Loved" hit number one and became the group's biggest hits in years. In 1953, Patty left the group for a full-time solo career -- though only one moderate hit resulted on either side after the split, and the records that did appear often featured all three sisters. After LaVerne died in the late '60s, a miniature revival kicked off by Bette Midler's 1973 rendition of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" sparked interest in the Andrews Sisters once more. One year later, Patty and Maxene teamed up for a WWII-themed Broadway musical named Over Here. Maxene recorded her first solo album in 1985 and made a charity appearance several years later, but died in 1995. Patty continued to perform, and appeared with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. ~ John Bush, All Music Guide

Called upon to help support their Greek-Norwegian family when their father's business was wiped out by the Depression, little Laverne, Patty, and Maxene Andrews began their professional singing career. In their first radio and vaudeville appearances, the Andrews girls consciously emulated the closely harmonic Boswell Sisters, but by the late '30s the Andrews Sisters had developed their own breezy style. Scoring their first hit in 1937 with "Bei Mist Du Schoen," the Andrews Sisters quickly rose to the top of the show biz heap which enhanced their popularity on network radio. In 1940, they signed a contract with Universal Pictures, and for the next six years were starred or co-starred in a dizzying array of A- and B-pictures. They were shown to best advantage in three Abbott and Costello films, notably Buck Privates (1941), in which they performed such enduring hits as "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Apple Blossom Time." During their Hollywood years, Patty Andrews, the most personable and energetic of the trio, emerged as the leader of the group, with Maxene Andrews and Laverne Andrews (both of whom looked uncomfortable in glamorous Hollywood makeup and costumes) shunted to the background. Though the Andrews Sisters' films were popular, Patty Andrews always felt that she and the others came across as somewhat grotesque: "We looked like the Ritz Brothers in drag." After a guest appearance in Road to Rio (1947) and a voice-over stint in the Disney animated feature Melody Time (1948), the Andrews Sisters and Hollywood parted company. The act endured several breakups and reconciliations over the next decade, but by the mid-'60s they were in vogue again thanks to the burgeoning nostalgia craze. After Laverne Andrews died in 1967, Patty Andrews and Maxene Andrews reunited for the short-lived campy Broadway musical Over Here. Though retired, the Andrews Sisters enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in 1971 when Bette Midler recorded a lively new rendition of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide