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The Andrews Sisters

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The Andrews SistersThe Andrews SistersThe Andrews SistersThe Andrews SistersThe Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters

(Inducted 1998)

The Andrews Sisters were by far the most successful female group of the pre-rock era.  Patty (1920), Maxene (1917), and LaVerne (1915) grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Patty was only 11 when the trio caught the show business bug following a nervous first performance in a 1931 singing contest.  LaVerne was especially hooked and convinced her sisters to leave school and travel the vaudeville circuit.  Inspired by the harmonies and sound of the Boswell Sisters, the Andrews girls began as imitators but eventually developed their own clean, fresh, and unique vocal sound.


In the fall of 1933, while performing in a Minneapolis kiddie revue, the trio came to the attention of bandleader Larry Rich, who took them on the road to perform in a vaudeville show.  Though none of the sisters could read music, their collective ears were so well tuned they could pick up a song just by hearing one or two plays.  This expertise earned them a dollar a day from Rich (for all three girls).  The group stayed with Rich for 18 months before moving on to Joey Howard’s troupe for seven months.  Then, in rapid succession, they played with Ted Mack’s band, Murray Sherman’s orchestra (who paid them the enormous sum of $35 a week), and Leon Blasco’s band in 1936.  The tour ended when the Mayfair Club in Kansas City burned to the ground, sending their arrangements and costumes up in smoke.  Blasco went to New York for new charts and costumes; he returned with Vic Schoen, who would become the trio’s orchestra leader and arranger for decades to come.  The band continued to tour, returning to New York in 1937, where it played the New Yorker Hotel until Blasco disbanded the outfit.

Returning to Minneapolis, the sisters had barely unpacked when the desire hit them again to make a go of it in New York.  But this time their parents disapproved, so a bargain was struck in which the girls could go ion the condition that if they didn’t make it by the end of the summer they’d return home to stay.

Once back in New York they met a music publisher named Bernie Pollack of Mills Music at the New Yorker Hotel, who let them use his office to rehearse their act.  (The New Yorker was one of numerous hotels where music publishers plied their latest songs.  If a bandleader liked a tune and played it on one of the many radio shows broadcast from hotels like the New Yorker, the song could earn vast sums of money in airplay performance and subsequent sheet music sales.)

Along with Mama Andrews’ blessings came a 15 cent a day allowance for food, which was almost always spent at Hector’s Cafeteria.  That King’s ransom bought the girls a sandwich and coffee that they split three ways.

The summer deadline was approaching, and work opportunities were scarce.  One day, while the girls were rehearsing at Pollack’s office, Vic Schoen arrived with the news that he was now working with the Billy Swanson Band at the Edison Hotel.  He convinced Swanson to listen to the girls, but after one chorus of “Sleepytime Down South” Swanson told them he wasn’t interested.  Dismayed and upset, the girls began to leave the Edison Hotel through the dining room when a woman sitting in a booth noticed their distress and asked what happened.  The lady was on Maria Cramer, and after hearing the girls’ story she confronted Swanson, asking why he wouldn’t give the girls a chance to sing on his radio show.  Swanson said he couldn’t afford them, but Miss Cramer pressed on, asking ”Well what can you afford?”  The beleaguered bandleader said $15, $5 each, to which Maxene responded, “We’ll take it!”  Swanson was stuck.  After all, Maria Cramer was the owner of the Edison Hotel.

When the trio showed up that Saturday to perform, they found that their staunch ally, Mrs. Cramer, had been called back to Brazil to be with her ailing husband.  Left in the hands of Billy Swanson, they were lucky to get to sing the one song they performed on radio that night (“Sleepytime Down South” once again) before being unceremoniously canned.  Meanwhile across town, Decca Records president Dave Kapp was riding home in a cab, listening with interest to the Andrews clan’s radio debut.

On Sunday the girls returned to the Edison to bid farewell to Vic Schoen; the Cinderella sisters’ carriage of dreams was to turn into a pumpkin the next day, the deadline for the return home.  Suddenly a young man burst into the soda fountain area where the girls and Vic were perched on stools.  He asked Vic is he knew the names of those girls who sang on the radio the previous night, because Decca’s Dave Kapp wanted to audition them.  The trio whirled around on their stools as if in a Busby Berkeley musical and announced “We’re the girls!”

At nine a.m. Monday they auditioned with seven songs (including, yet again, “Sleepytime Down South”) and won Dave Kapp over.  Now, instead of returning home, they were signed to Decca for $50 a record.  (The young man Kapp had sent to find the sisters was theatrical agent Lou Levy, whose keen ear for hit songs would play an important part in the trio’s development.)

The Andrew’s first single was “Why Talk About Love” (1937), which received little public attention.  Then Lou dug up a song from the 1933 Yiddish musical I Would If I Could.  The song went by the unlikely title of “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon,” and its January 1938 Decca release proved Levy to be a crafty song plugger: it went to number one on the Best Seller charts.  And if that weren’t enough to make Lou and the girls a team, his marriage to Maxene certainly was.

Their next single, “Nice Work If You Can Get It” (#12) from A Damsel in Distress, hit the charts on January 8th, just one week after “Bei Mir,” and it was the first one of their many releases of associated with films.  In all, they had nine chart singles in 1938.  As if their hits weren’t keeping them busy enough, they performed on WBBM radio in Chicago five days a week and then flew to New York to record each weekend.

By the end on 1938 the sisters were earning $1,000 a week at the New York Paramount doing seven shows a day. In 1939 they had six chart records, including “Hold Tight Hold Tight” (#2).  Their hits ran the gamut of international melodies in those first recording years, including Yiddish (“Joseph Joseph,”  # 18, 1938), Latin American (Say SiSi,” #4, 1940), Italian (The Woodpecker Song,” # 6, 1940), Russian (Pross-Tchai Goodbye,”  #15, 1939) and even Czechoslovakian (Beer Barrel Polka,” #4 1939).

Late in that year they began an association that became a career within a career: the girls had the first of 23 singles credited to Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters. 

In 1940 they racked up seven more hits under their own name, including their second number one record, “Ferryboat Serenade.” 

When war broke out The Andrews Sisters joined the star-laden victory caravan traveling via special train to entertain the soldiers.  The three “jive bombers,”  as they were affectionately described by servicemen, played more army, navy marine and air force bases than any other vocal group. They also sang on a variety of Armed Forces Radio shows and made many special recordings sent directly to U.S. forces overseas. Signed to Universal Film Studios, the girls performed in a number of wartime musicals including Follow the Boys, Private Buckaroo, Buck Privates in the Navy and Swing Time Johnny.

They also appeared in the film Hollywood Canteen, singing their 1944 hit “Don’t Fence Me In” with Bing Crosby (which followed “A Hot Time in the Town of Berlin,” also with Bing and also a number one record). During the war years the Andrews racked up an incredible 38 Billboard best-sellers, including nine with Crosby.

Though not their biggest hit, the singers’ best remembered work is the frantically paced 1941 pop-jazz classic “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (#6), it’s fame due in part to an excellent hit remake (#8) by Bette Midler some 32 years later. 

By the end of the war, the Andrews trio had sold over 30 million records and were back playing the New York Paramount, only this time around they were earning $20,000 a week. They continued to record for six more years, issuing head-turning titles such as “Strip Poker” (#6), “Is You or Is You Ain’t My Baby: (#2), “Get Your Kicks On Route 66” (#14, “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the  Bar” (#2), and “Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat” (#10). The postwar years were good to The Andrews Sisters: they hit the Billboard Best Seller list with 51 additional 78s between 1946 and 1951, including 12 more Crosby collaborations. Bing, however, wasn’t the only vocalist the girls supported on record. They also backed up Danny Kaye (Civilization,” 3), Dick Haymes (“Theresa,” #21), Burl Ives (Blue Tail Fly,” #12), Earnest Tubb (“I’m Bitin’ My Fingernails and Thinkin’ of You,” #30), and others.

Even the musicians’ union problems of the mid to late ‘40s didn’t put a halt to Andrews Sisters recordings.  When they couldn’t get the musicians they needed the girls recorded the “Sabre Dance” in the spring of 1948 with Harmoni-Cats (harmonica players weren’t considered serious musicians, at least until the girls circumvented the union by using them).

 By the time they called it quits as a trio in 1951 The Andrews Sisters had amassed a phenomenal 113 chart singles, sold 75 million records, and recorded ore than 1800 songs earning them 19 gold records and eight number ones. By the 1950s, they had appeared in 22 films.  Their last number one was “I Want To Be Loved: in the summer of 1950, and the Decca label read just Patty Andrews, although Maxene an LaVerne backed her up. 

With the trio disbanded, Maxene taught theatre at a college in Lake Tahoe and formed an organization to help wayward children and drug addicts.

In the mid-‘60s the trio began performing again on television, but activity halted in 1967 when LaVerne died. In 1974 Patty and Maxene appeared before audiences in the nostalgia-packed Broadway hit Over There. Maxene did her first and only solo album in 1985 on Bainbridge Records simply titles Maxene of The Andrews Sisters. 

For their professionalism, sound quality, and success, The Andrews Sisters ruled pop music of the ‘30s and ‘40s.    

 - Jay Warner

External Links
The Andrews Sisters Official Website

Soundtrack - Filmography

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) (performer: "Oh Johnny Oh, Johnny Oh!")
    ... aka The Chronicles of Narnia (International: English title: short title)
  2. Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) (performer: "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon (Means That You're Grand)")
  3. No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005) (performer: "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive")
  4. Wah-Wah (2005) (performer: "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen", "The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy")
  5. The Polar Express (2004) (performer: "Winter Wonderland", "Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane))
    ... aka The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience (USA: IMAX version)
  6. Being Julia (2004) (performer: "Bei Mir bist Du Schon")
    ... aka Csodálatos Júlia (Hungary)
  7. Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) (performer: "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" (1934))
  8. American Splendor (2003) (performer: "I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time")
  9. Chain of Fools (2000) (performer: "Down to This")
  10. My Dog Skip (2000) (performer: "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Town of Berlin")
  11. Jakob the Liar (1999) (performer: "Beer Barrel Polka (Roll Out The Barrel)")
    ... aka Jakob le menteur (France)
  12. In Dreams (1999) (performer: "DON'T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE")
  13. The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998) (performer: "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen")
  14. Zacharia Farted (1998) (performer: "STARDUST", "WOODPECKER SONG")
  15. The Man Who Drove with Mandela (1998) (performer: "Civilization (Bongo Bongo Bongo)")
  16. Lolita (1997) (performer: "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree)
    ... aka Lolita (France)
  17. Lust och fägring stor (1995) (performer: "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy")
    ... aka All Things Fair
    ... aka Lærerinden (Denmark)
    ... aka Love Lessons
  18. Murder in the First (1995) (performer: "Tuxedo Junction")
    ... aka Meurtre à Alcatraz (France)
  19. Harlem Nights (1989) (performer: "Long Time No See")
  20. Radio Days (1987) (performer: "Pistol Packin Mama")
  21. Maria's Lovers (1984) (performer: "(I'LL BE WITH YOU) IN APPLE BLOSSOM TIME")
  22. A Christmas Story (1983) (performer: "Jingle Bells", "Santa Claus is Coming to Town")
  23. 1941 (1979) (performer: "Down By The Ohio", "Daddy")
  24. F.I.S.T (1978) (performer: "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town")
  25. The Execution of Private Slovik (1974) (TV) (performer: "Drum Boogie")
  26. Carol for Another Christmas (1964) (TV) ("Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree")
  27. Melody Time (1948) (performer: "Little Toot")
  28. Road to Rio (1947) (performer: "YOU DON'T HAVE TO KNOW THE LANGUAGE")
  29. Make Mine Music (1946) (performer: "Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet")
  30. Hollywood Canteen (1944) (performer: "Gettin' Corns For My Country")
  31. Swingtime Johnny (1943) (performer: "I May Be Wrong But I Think You're Wonderful", "Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train", "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B")
  32. How's About It (1943) (performer: "Going Up", "East of the Rockies", "Don't Mind the Rain", "Take It and Git", "Here Comes the Navy")
  33. Give Out, Sisters (1942) (performer: "Pennsylvania Polka", "You're Just a Flower From An Old Bouquet", "Who Do You Think You're Fooling?", "The New Generation")
  34. Private Buckaroo (1942) (performer: "Three Little Sisters", "Six Jerks in a Jeep", "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree", "James Session", "Steppin' Out Tonight", "Johnny Get Your Gun Again", "We've Got a Job To Do")
  35. Screen Snapshots Series 21, No. 1 (1941) (performer: "In Apple Blossom Time")
  36. Buck Privates (1941) (performer: "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy", "Bounce Me Brother With a Solid Four", "You're a Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith", "I'll Be With You When It's Apple Blossom Time" (1935))

    Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database.

Discography - A Side / B Side
Label / Cat No.
Just A Simple Melody / Why Talk About Love
Bei Mir Bist Du Schon / Nice Work If You Can Get It
It’s Easier Said Than Done / Joseph! Joseph!
Ti-Pi-Tin / Where Have We Met Before
Ooooo-Oh Boom / Shortenin’ Bread
Oh! Ma-Ma (The Butcher Boy) / Pagan Love Song
Oh! Faithless Maid / Says My Heart
From The Land Of The Sky Blue / I Married An Angel
Sha-Sha* / Tu-Li-Tulip Time*
Love Is Where You Find It / When A Prince Of A Fella
Lullaby To A Little Jitterbug / Pross Tchai (Goodbye Goodbye)
Billy Boy* / Hold Tight
Begin The Beguine / Long Time To See 
Rock Rock-A-Bye Baby / You Don’t Know How Much You
Beer Barrel Polka / Well, All Right
Chico’s Love Song / The Jumpin’ Jive (Jim Jam Jump)
Ciribiribin** / Yodelin’ Jive**
Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny, Oh! / South American Way
Let’s Have Another One / Say “Si Si”
Down By The Ohio / The Woodpecker Song
Rhumboogie / Tuxedo Junction
The Crooked Mayor Of Kaunakak / Let’s Pack Our  Things
I Want My Mama / Oh He Loves Me
Ferryboat Serenade / Hit The Road
Beat Me Daddy / Pennsylvania 6-5000
Mean To Me / Sweet Molly Malone
Johnny Peddler / Scrub Me Mama With A Boogie Beat
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy / Bounce Me Brother
Yes, My Darling Daughter / You’re A Luck Fellow
I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi / I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom
Aurora / Music Makers
Daddy / Sleepy Serenade
Sonny Boy / Gimme Some Skin, My Friend
The Booglie Wooglie Piggy / The Nickel Serenade
Why Don’t We Do This More Often
Elmer’s Tune / Honey
Jealous / Rancho Pillow
Any Bonds Today?
Chattanooga Choo Choo / For All We Know
Jack Of All Trades / The Shrine Of Saint Cecilia
He Said-She Said / I’ll Pray For You
What To Do / A Zoot Suit For My Sunday Gal
Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree / At Sonya’s Cafe
(Toy Balloon) Boolee Boolee Boo / Three Little Sisters
Pennsylvania Polka / That’s The Moon, My Son
The Humming Bird / I’ve Got A Gal In Kalamazoo
Mister Five By Five / Strip Polka
Here Comes The Navy / Massachusetts
East Of The Rockies / When Johnny Comes Marching Home
Ehelena / I Love You Much Too Much
Pistol Packin’ Mama** / Vic’try Polka** 
Jingle Bells** / Santa Claus Is Coming To Town**
Sing A Tropical Song / There’ll Be A Jubilee
Straighten Up And Fly Right / Tico Toco
Hot Time In The Town Of Berlin** / Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t**
Don’t Fence Me In** / The Three Caballeros**
Corns For My Country / I’m In A Jam (With Baby)
Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive** / There’s A Fellow Waiting**
Great Day / Pack Up Your Troubles
Along The Navajo Trail** / Good, Good, Good**
The Blond Sailor / Lily Belle
Put The Ring On My  Fingers / The Welcome Song
Johnny Fedora And Alice Blue+ / Money Is The Root Of All Evil
Patience And Fortitude / Red River Valley
Don’t Fence Me In** / Pistol Packin’ Mama**
Atlanta G.A. / Coax Me A Little Bit
Avocado / Her Bathing Suit
Azusa / I Don’t Know Why (I Just Do)
Get Your Kicks On Route 66 / South America Take It Away
Bei Mir Bist Du Schon (Means) / Joseph! Joseph!
Hold Tight* / Well, All Right* 
Beat Me Daddy (Eight To The Bar) / Scrub Me Mama
With A Boogie Beat
The House Of Blue Lights / A Man Is A Brother
Rumors Are Flying / Them That Has Gets
Christmas Island+ / Winter Wonderland+
The Coffee Song / A Rainy Night In Rio
Lullaby Of Broadway / My Dearest Uncle Sam
His Feet Too Big For De Bed / Jack, Jack, Jack
Go West, Young Man** / Tallahassee**
Red River Valley
The Lady From 29 Palms / The Turntable Song
Anything You Can Do** / No Business Like Show  Business**
On The Avenue / Sweet Marie 
The Freedom Train**
How Lucky You Are / Near You
Sing A Tropical Song / South American Way
Aurora / Rum and Coca Cola
Begin The Beguine / Ti-Pi-Tin
Tico Tico
Bread And Butter Woman~ / Civilization~
Too Fat Polka / Your Red Wagon
Apalachicola, Fla.** / You Don’t Have To Know**
My Sin~ / Teresa~ 
Big Brass Band From Brazil / It’s A Quiet Town~
I Hate To Lose You / Toolie Oolitie Dollie
The Bride and Groom Polka / We Just Couldn’t Say Good-Bye
Don’t Blame Me / Run, Run, Run
Alexander’s Ragtime Band / I Want To Go Back To Michigan
Heat Wave / When The Midnight Choo Choo
How Many Times / Some Sunny Day
Jealous / Mean To Me
Put ‘Em In A Box Tie ‘Em With~ / The Woody Woodpecker~
Blue Tail Fly^ / I’m Going Down The Road^
Cuanto La Gusta# / The Matador#
At The Flying “W”** / A Hundred And Sixty Acres**
Underneath The Arches / You Call Everybody Darling
Bella Bella Marie / The Money Song
I’d Love To Call You My Sweet~~ / What Did I Do~~
Amelia Cordelia McHugh~ / Beatin’, Bangin’ ‘N Scratchin’~
Let A Smile Be Your Umbrella / More Beer!
Don’t Rob Another Man’s Castle## / I’m Bitin’ My Fingernails##
In The Good Old Summertime / Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Decca 1496
Decca 1562
Decca 1691
Decca 1703
Decca 1744
Decca 1859
Decca 1875
Decca 1912
Decca 1974
Decca 2016
Decca 2082
Decca 2214
Decca 2290
Decca 2414
Decca 2462
Decca 2756
Decca 2800
Decca 2840
Decca 3013
Decca 3065
Decca 3097
Decca 3245
Decca 3310
Decca 3328
Decca 3375
Decca 3440
Decca 3553
Decca 3598
Decca 3599
Decca 3622
Decca 3732
Decca 3821
Decca 3871
Decca 3960
Decca 3966
Decca 4008
Decca 4019
Decca 4044
Decca 4094
Decca 4097
Decca 4153
Decca 4182
Decca 18312
Decca 18319
Decca 18398
Decca 18464
Decca 18470
Decca 18497
Decca 18533
Decca 18563
Decca 23277
Decca 23281
Decca 18581
Decca 18606
Decca  23350
Decca 23364
Decca 18628
Decca 23379
Decca 23412
Decca 23437
Decca 18700
Decca 18726
Decca 23474
Decca 18780
Decca 23484
Decca 18833
Decca 18840
Decca 18899
Decca 23569
Decca 23605
Decca 23606

Decca 23607
Decca 23641
Decca 23656
MCA 65020
Decca 23740
Decca 23824
Decca 23860
Decca 23885
Decca 25149
Decca 23976
Decca 40039
Decca 24102
Decca 23999
Decca 24171
Decca 25095
Decca 25096
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Decca 25098
Decca 23940
Decca 24268
Decca 24282
Decca 24320
Decca 24361
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Decca 24406
Decca 23827
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Decca 25303
Decca 24462
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Decca 24479
Decca 24481
Decca 24490
Decca 24499
Decca 24504
Decca 24536
Decca 24548
Decca 24592
Decca 24605



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