Thursday, January 31, 2013

R.I.P. Patty Andrews of the Andrews Sisters - The End of an Era

Because I am the son of parents who were both born in the 1920's - and my father was also a WWII veteran - the era of the 1940's was always around me as I was growing up. Though my older brothers and sisters played the current hits of the day (The Beatles, Rolling Stones, et al), my mother and father still listened to a lot of the music from the Big Band era, thus I heard Glenn Miller (my dad's favorite), Benny Goodman, the Dorsey Brothers, Sinatra, and, of course, the Andrews Sisters.
Don't get me wrong, my mom loved the contemporary Country music of the time along with such contemporary soft pop singers as Engelbert Humperdinck, Perry Como, and Andy Williams, she still listened to her favorite music from when she was a teenager in the 1940's.
And my father absolutely loved to listen to the old radio shows on Sunday nights that one of the radio stations would play, and we would listen to these old shows on the way home from the cottage every week.
So I got my fill of the 1940's, and even the 1930's, while I was growing up. As I wrote HERE:
Due to our parent's, aunt's, and uncle's stories, their music, and the classic movies we grew up hearing and watching, those of us who are the children of WWII parents - baby boomers is what they call us, right? - almost feel as if we, too, lived through that era as well, don't we? I mean, it literally surrounded us as children, didn't it? And until the counter-culture revolution of the early 1970's, we also held most of the same values and mores of our parent's time as well.
I guess what I am trying to say is that the life I lived growing up in the 1960's and early 1970's was much closer to the 1940's style of living when compared to the 21st century way of life of today filled with smart phones, home computers, Blue Ray, CD's, DVR, ipads, GPS's, and satellite or cable TV.  

And I learned to really like the music and whole period of the '40's. Almost in a nostalgic way, I suppose.
Well, just yesterday (as this post is being written on January 31, 2013), we lost a prime player in that wonderful era of WWII entertainment, Patty Andrews.
We now will turn to the Detroit News dated January 30, 2013 for further information:

Patty Andrews of Andrews Sisters dies at 94

Los Angeles — Patty Andrews, the last surviving member of the singing Andrews Sisters trio, whose hits such as the rollicking "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" and the poignant "I Can Dream, Can't I?" captured the home-front spirit of World War II, died Wednesday. She was 94.
Andrews died of natural causes at her home in the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge, said family spokesman Alan Eichler in a statement.
Patty was the Andrews in the middle, the lead singer and chief clown, whose raucous jitterbugging delighted American servicemen abroad and audiences at home.
She could also deliver sentimental ballads like "I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time" with a sincerity that caused hardened GIs far from home to weep.
From the late 1930s through the 1940s, the Andrews Sisters produced one hit record after another, beginning with "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" in 1937 and continuing with "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar," "Rum and Coca-Cola" and more. They recorded more than 400 songs and sold over 80 million records, several of them gold (over a million copies).
Other sisters, notably the Boswells, had become famous as singing acts, but mostly they huddled before a microphone in close harmony. The Andrews Sisters — LaVerne, Maxene and Patty — added a new dimension. During breaks in their singing, they cavorted about the stage in rhythm to the music.
Their voices combined with perfect synergy. As Patty remarked in 1971: "There were just three girls in the family. LaVerne had a very low voice. Maxene's was kind of high, and I was between. It was like God had given us voices to fit our parts."
The Andrews' rise coincided with the advent of swing music, and their style fit perfectly into the new craze. They aimed at reproducing the sound of three harmonizing trumpets.
"I was listening to Benny Goodman and to all the bands," Patty once remarked. "I was into the feel, so that would go into my own musical ability. I was into swing. I loved the brass section."
Unlike other singing acts, the sisters recorded with popular bands of the '40s, fitting neatly into the styles of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Bob Crosby, Woody Herman, Guy Lombardo, Desi Arnaz and Russ Morgan. They sang dozens of songs on records with Bing Crosby, including the million-seller "Don't Fence Me In." They also recorded with Dick Haymes, Carmen Miranda, Danny Kaye, Al Jolson, Jimmy Durante and Red Foley.
The Andrews' popularity led to a contract with Universal Pictures, where they made a dozen low-budget musical comedies between 1940 and 1944. In 1947, they appeared in "The Road to Rio" with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.
The trio continued until LaVerne's death in 1967. By that time the close harmony had turned to discord, and the sisters had been openly feuding.
Bette Midler's 1973 cover of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" revived interest in the trio. The two survivors joined in 1974 for a Broadway show, "Over Here!" It ran for more than a year, but disputes with the producers led to the cancellation of the national tour of the show, and the sisters did not perform together again.
Patty continued as a single, finding success in Las Vegas and on TV variety shows. Her sister also toured as a single until her death in 1995.
Her father, Peter Andrews, was a Greek immigrant who anglicized his name of Andreus when he arrived in America; his wife, Olga, was a Norwegian with a love of music. LaVerne was born in 1911, Maxine (later Maxene) in 1916, Patricia (later Patty, sometimes Patti) in 1918, though some sources say 1920.
Listening to the Boswell Sisters on radio, LaVerne played the piano and taught her sisters to sing in harmony; neither Maxene nor Patty ever learned to read music. All three studied singers at the vaudeville house near their father's restaurant. As their skills developed, they moved from amateur shows to vaudeville and singing with bands.
After Peter Andrews moved the family to New York in 1937, his wife, Olga, sought singing dates for the girls. They were often turned down with comments such as: "They sing too loud and they move too much." Olga persisted, and the sisters sang on radio with a hotel band at $15 a week. The broadcasts landed them a contract with Decca Records.
They recorded a few songs, and then came "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen," an old Yiddish song for which Sammy Cahn and Saul Kaplan wrote English lyrics. (The title means, "To Me You Are Beautiful.") It was a smash hit, and the Andrews Sisters were launched into the big time.
Their only disappointment was the movies. Universal was a penny-pinching studio that ground out product to fit the lower half of a double bill. The sisters were seldom involved in the plots, being used for musical interludes in film with titles such as "Private Buckaroo," "Swingtime Johnny" and "Moonlight and Cactus."
Their only hit was "Buck Privates," which made stars of Abbott and Costello and included the trio's blockbuster "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B."
In 1947, Patty married Martin Melcher, an agent who represented the sisters as well as Doris Day, then at the beginning of her film career. Patty divorced Melcher in 1949 and soon he became Day's husband, manager and producer.
Patty married Walter Weschler, pianist for the sisters, in 1952. He became their manager and demanded more pay for himself and for Patty. The two other sisters rebelled, and their differences with Patty became public. Lawsuits were filed between the two camps.
"We had been together nearly all our lives," Patty explained in 1971. "Then in one year our dream world ended. Our mother died and then our father. All three of us were upset, and we were at each other's throats all the time."

With Patty Andrews passing, it truly is the end of an era.
She will be missed.

 And let's play this video together with another most memorable performer and hit song of the WWII era:

Below here are links for you to purchase this fine music, should the desire arise. The first is a great double CD of original recordings of the Andrews Sisters called Their All-Time Greatest Hits
or, if you prefer a single hits collection, try their 50th Anniversary disc.
Who can forget the great recording the sisters made with Bing Crosby? Every recording they made with each other (including out takes) are in this Complete Recordings Collection.
And for a fine collection of Glenn Miller/Andrews Sisters music together, check out The Chesterfield Broadcasts.
Patty's sister, Maxene, wrote a first-hand account of the Andrews Sisters adventures from their beginnings right up to the days of their tenure as queens of WWII musical entertainment: Over Here, over There: The Andrews Sisters and the Uso Stars in World War II.

I own all four listed as well as the book and recommend each highly.


Betsy said...

I was actually surprised to hear this, as I hadn't known she had lived this long and thought she had passed a while ago. It's fascinating to me that we still have so many (all things considered) stars from that era still with us, Mickey Rooney, Joan Fontaine, Olivia deHaviiland, to name a few. Life is so different now it almost seems an anomaly that they're still here, if that makes any kind of sense. My preferred music these days is 30's and 40's swing and the Andrews Sisters is in heavy rotation on my oldies station today.

Historical Ken said...

Your comment of "life is so different now it almost seems an anomaly that they're still here" makes perfect sense and really hit the nail on the head.
Thanks for the comment.