Happy Birthday, Patty Andrews!

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Patricia Marie Andrews (February 16th, 1918 - January 30, 2013) was an American singer in band The Andrews Sisters, alongside her two elder siblings LaVerne and Maxene Andrews. The three sisters sang as a trio for the majority of their lives, sticking together through a long career full of stardom and adventure. When the band officially formed, Patty was only seven years old. The Andrews Sisters would go on to be famous all over the world, and release countless pop hits. Some of these include: Bei Mir Bist Du Schön, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Beer Barrel Polka, Nice Work If You Can Get It, (I'll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time, Sonny Boy, Jingle Bells, Rum and Coca Cola, Winter Wonderland and I Can Dream, Can't I? as well as many, many more. The Andrews Sisters were the first all-girl trio to reach mainstream popularity and influenced the likes of Bette Midler, The Puppini Sisters, Barry Manilow, The Manhattan Dolls and even Elvis Presley. Patty Andrews died earlier this year after a distinguished career as a talented singer and the sweetheart of the Andrews Clan.

Patty Andrews was born in Minnesota to a Greek and Norwegian couple. Despite being the youngest of the Andrews Sisters, she would become the trio's lead singer. The sisters began performing when they were very young and won their first talent contest when Patty was only ten years old. But they had found their vocation. Apart from appearing in seventeen Hollywood films, singing would be the only thing that would fill the Andrews girls' lives. The oldest sister LaVerne played piano music for silent film screenings at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. She held this job in exchange for free dancing lessons for herself and her siblings. LaVerne was always the responsible one, siding with their parents in family feuds and acting as the peacemaker when her youngest sisters fought.

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When the girls' father's restaurant shut down, they were determined to help. They went on tour, and made money to support their family with. The Andrews Sisters would eventually settle in California. They made a home for their parents in their Brentwood, Los Angeles estate and the parents would go on to live their for the rest of their lives.

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When World War II was at its peak, The Andrews Sisters did everything they could to support the Allied Forces. They visited the troops throughout America, Africa and Italy and kept the soldiers entertained on Navy, Marine and Coast Guard bases. The Andrews Sisters promoted the sale of War Bonds and volunteered to sing for free at both the Stage Door Canteen in New York and at Bette Davis's Hollywood Canteen. The sisters recorded a set of Victory Discs made available only for the servicemen and legend has it they would pay for three servicemen's dinners while eating on tour. It was natural that the Andrews Sisters were hereby named the "Sweethearts of the Armed Forces Radio Service." An amusing anecdote tells of the sisters' recording being smuggled into Germany, retitled as "Hitler's Marching Songs." When the Nazis found out that Bei Mir Bist Du Schön had descended from a Yiddish song, and that the singers were of Jewish descent, it was immediately banned. The Jews in the camps continued to sing it, and the song was made popular in several languages including a Russian version with satirical Anti-Nazi lyrics called Baron von der Pshik (1943) and a Swedish version called Bär ner mig till sjön. In true American fashion, beverage company Shasta used the song in a Root Beer commercial in 1976.

 

 

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The Sisters on What's My Line?

Patty and her sisters were known for their loud, lung-bursting voices. The music scene at the time was very heavily focused on instruments, and the girls' emphasis on vocals shook that foundation. They were known for singing in the genres of rhythm and blues, jazz, swing, boogie woogie and jump blues. Their 1941 single Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy is said to be one of the very first examples of the "jump blues" style. They also wrote many of our favorite Holiday songs, such as Jingle Bells (1943), Winter Wonderland (1946), Christmas Island (1946), Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (1947) and Merry Christmas Polka (1950).

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Dean Martin Sings with The Andrews Sisters

The Andrews Sisters performed with just about every big name in American pop culture, including Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Carmen Miranda, Burl Ives, Alfred Apaka, Les Paul, Judy Garland, Nat "King" Cole, Jimmie Rodgers, Andy Williams, and The Supremes - to name just a few. They starred in the film Argentine Nights (1940) alongside boy trio The Ritz Brothers. They also appeared in Buck Privates (1941), In the Navy (1941), Give Out, Sisters (1942), Hollywood Canteen (1944), Make Mine Music (1946) and more.

Scene from Buck Privates

patty-477x600In 1951, Patty began to desire a solo career. Her relationship with her sisters was rocky after the death of their parents in 1948 and 1949 respectively. Patty's husband Walter Weschler suggested being her agent, and she left the group to follow her own dreams. But the group were family, and the sisters did not respond to Patty's decision in a professional way. Maxene was furious to learn about Patty's career choice from the tabloids and they did not speak for two years. Patty signed a contract with Capitol Records but her solo style was too similar to that of the Andrews Sisters and did not really get a chance to develop her unique voice. The trio reformed in 1956, releasing a dozen singles with Capitol. Their songs during this time were only average and the Sisters relocated to Dot Records in 1962.

Between 1962 and 1964 the Andrews Sisters released an array of new hits including I Left My Heart In San Francisco, Still, The End of the World, Sailor and Satin Doll. They toured in many countries but 1967 saw the death of LaVerne. She had struggled with cancer for a year, often needing to be replaced in some shows. While Patty and Maxene tried to perform as a duo, they found it difficult. These two sisters had never quite seen eye to eye.

 

 

The Andrews Sisters and The Supremes Switch Songs

Annex_-_Andrews_Sisters_The_01When Bette Midler released a cover of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy in 1973, the sisters' music saw a new surge in popularity. Patty and Maxene co-starred in the Broadway play Over Here!, a World War II musical by the Sherman Brothers. The play was a huge success and launched the careers of John Travolta, Marilu Henner and Ann Reinking. After the show's run, Patty and Maxene again grew apart. They would only reunite once more when receiving stars on Hollywood Boulevard in 1987. There was an earthquake that same morning, and Patty joked it had been the result of a telephone conversation between her and Maxene. Maxene became sick with heart problems and Patty continued to sing alone. She appeared frequently on panel show The Gong Show. Maxene rustled up the strength to tour as a cabaret soloist but eventually died of a heart attack in 1995.

Patty and her husband Walter adopted a foster child, Pam Dubois. They lived together in Los Angeles until Patty's natural death in 2013. All three sisters were buried close to their parents in Glendale, California. They left behind them an unbelievable legacy of music that would inspire countless bands, be referenced in television and movies for years, and they would forever be remembered as musical innovators. The Andrews Sisters sold over 75 million records throughout their lives. A BBC documentary on their achievements and lives was premiered in 2009 in Mound, Minnesota. It was where the sisters spent many summers, in love with the town that made them feel like normal children in a life otherwise so passionately focused around their career.

The Sisters get their Hollywood Star

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Sunday, 16 February 2014
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