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The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters and the famous Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B
The Andrews Sisters had a certain something that was truly special.Their sound and their music epitomizes a long gone era, that of the Second World War.Even if you didn't live through the war (and few of us today can claim that we did) then the music can still evoke days gone by.
So many times, groups who called themselves 'sisters' or 'brothers' weren't in fact related, but that wasn't the case with these girls.
LaVerne, Maxene and Patty were born in Minnesota in 1911, 1916 and 1918 respectively. Their father was from Greece, their mother from Norway and the couple, the parents of the girls, ran a restaurant in Minneapolis.
The three of the girls started singing together at an early age.Then during the Second World War they traveled extensively to entertain the troops and were much loved by the forces, as well as at home in America.Their sound - featuring close harmonies, great beats and lively melodies - soon became synonymous with the wartime years. But the women had tempestuous times in their privates lives - harmony could sometimes be hard to come by.
Find out more about them and see fabulous videos below.
How I first heard about this singing trio
I'm old, that's true, but not old enough to remember the Second World War! No, in the nineties I had a very amicable divorce from my jazz musician husband.
He went off to be a music teacher and took over the high school band. I know, high school bands can be really quite awful. But he taught them jazz classics and before long, they were in demand performing all over the world.
The band had three incredible girl singers who averaged probably sixteen in age.They performed the Andrews Sisters songs incredibly, even to the extent of appearing on TV dressed in WW2 uniforms and to this day, I can't tell the difference between them and the true Andrews Sister's recordings. Incredible!
Above: A typical pose in uniform. The girls were attractive and fun. Without even hearing them, you can see why they were popular. They weren't pinups in the conventional sense but I bet they were on many a locker door. But nevertheless, the represented 'the girl next door' - and they were great to look at too. They had just the right combination of charms. They were universally liked and appealed to all ages and to men and to women. They have never been equaled and the appeal has not faded over the years. Not all music can endure in this way.
Watch and listen
These are two of my personal favorites. Can you listen to them without tapping your feet? I can't. To me, the star of the show was always Patty (the one in the middle). Watch her in this one - she has a great sense of comedy. I just love her facial expressions and sense of fun. She was the youngest of the three sisters.
Below is another favorite song. This song was actually banned by the rather staid BBC radio in England who refused to play it despite its popularity.
Below is a great medley of various hit songs. They are so indicative of wartime.
Not always in harmony
The girls were sisters who worked and toured together so it was natural that everything wouldn't always be plain sailing. In 1951, LaVerne and Marlene found out that Patty had decided to go solo. Unfortunately, it wasn't their sister who told them this - they heard the news when they read it in the newspapers' gossip columns. The group split up.
When their parents died, Patty felt that their will had been unfair or badly managed and she sued LaVerne, demanding her fair share. There was further disharmony between the women.
In 1954, Maxene was admitted into hospital having taken an overdose of sleeping pills. Her sister LaVerne insisted that this was accidental.
The girls reformed the group and made records, films and went on tours during the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s. Then LaVerne, the eldest, fell ill. She was only 56 when she died on cancer in 1967.
After LaVerne's death, Maxene decided on a complete career change and went to work with an organization that helped troubled teenagers.
The two remaining women had a comeback in 1974 when they appeared in a Broadway show; the parts had been written especially for them. This was a great success but ended when Patty's husband (and manager) sued the management regarding the show's planned tour. Once again, the two women were at war - this time with each other. Maxene died of a heart attack in 1995.
THE END The last surviving member, Patty, died on January 30th, 2013 at the age of 94.
The story of these three women is fascinating and they have been the subject of several books, typifying as they did a particular era in America's history. The books are available online so are easy to order and buy. Enjoy!
© 2013 Jackie Jackson