The Andrews Sisters
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.)
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
|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
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