16-2-1918 - 30-1-2013
By ADAM BERNSTEIN
PATTY Andrews, the youngest and last surviving member of the Andrews Sisters vocal trio whose music was a defining sound of the homefront during World War II, has died at her home in Northridge, California. She was 94.
Andrews was lead singer in the sister act, which included the eldest LaVerne and second-born Maxene. Their recordings - including Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me), Rum and Coca-Cola - helped propel them to the top of the pop charts in the 1940s.
Their songs varied from sentimental ballads to rollicking, jitterbuggable jazz, and they developed a slapstick stage persona that emanated from their early days in vaudeville.
Promoted as the "Sweethearts of the Armed Forces Radio Service", they also toured extensively to raise money for war bonds and appeared in combat zones to raise morale.
The Andrews Sisters played with the most popular big bands of the 1940s, including those of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Jimmy Dorsey. They were credited with selling tens of millions of records, and they influenced countless other harmony groups.
Many of their songs were covered by entertainers as varied as Bette Midler, Christina Aguilera and the Manhattan Transfer, and their clothing style was widely imitated as well by groups seeking to evoke the spirit of 1940s pop music. The Andrews Sisters were among the initial inductees into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.
Patricia Marie Andrews was born in Mound, Minnesota, to a Greek immigrant father who had anglicised his surname and a Norwegian American mother. The sisters began singing as children and performed professionally from an early age.
They modelled themselves on the Boswell Sisters, a major recording and radio singing group, but they also perfected a harmonising style deeply influenced by the trumpet section of a big band, Patty Andrews once said.
They toured in vaudeville and eventually broke through on radio and had their first hit record in 1937 with a raucously jazzy version of a Yiddish tune, Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen. "We decided to sing a Yiddish song because we were Greek," Patty Andrews said in 1990. "We wanted to break into the Jewish resort circuit in the Catskill Mountains. We figured Greek girls singing Yiddish would knock 'em dead."
A series of hit records led them to a Hollywood contract and a flurry of movie roles in comedies such as In the Navy, Private Buckaroo and Follow the Boys. The sisters, who had accompanied Bing Crosby on his million-dollar seller Don't Fence Me In, appeared as themselves opposite Crosby and Bob Hope in the comedy Road to Rio (1947).
They broke up in 1951 when Patty Andrews left to join another group. The relationships dissolved into a morass of lawsuits.
Patty Andrews reunited with her sisters in the mid-1950s. Despite family tensions, they continued to record and perform together until LaVerne died of cancer in 1967.
Patty Andrews' first marriage, to agent Marty Melcher, ended in divorce, and he subsequently married singer Doris Day. In 1951, Andrews married Andrews Sisters pianist Walter Weschler. He died in 2010. She had no immediate survivors.