Born: February 16, 1918; Died: January 30, 2013.
Patty Andrews, who has died aged 94, was the last survivor of the three singing Andrews Sisters whose biggest hit was the rollicking Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B. Their poignant song I Can Dream, Can't I? also captured the home-front spirit of the Second World War.
Patty was the Andrews sister 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 and throughout 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 more than 80 million records.
Other sisters 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 by cavorting around on stage during breaks in the singing.
Their parents were Peter Andrews, a Greek immigrant who anglicised his name of Andreus when he arrived in America and his wife Olga, a Norwegian. LaVerne was born in 1911, Maxine (later Maxene) in 1916 and Patricia in 1918. All three studied singing and as their skills developed, they moved from amateur shows to singing with bands and then stints on the radio, broadcasts that landed them a contract with Decca Records.
They recorded a few songs and then came Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen (To Me You Are Beautiful), an old Yiddish song for which Sammy Cahn and Saul Kaplan wrote English lyrics. It was a smash hit and the Andrews Sisters were launched into the big time. Their rise coincided with the advent of swing music and their style fitted perfectly into the new craze.
Unlike other singing acts, the sisters recorded with popular bands of the 1940s, fitting neatly into the styles of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Jimmy Dorsey. 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.
Their 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.
They also made Buck Privates, which made stars of Abbott and Costello and included the trio's blockbuster Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.
The trio continued performing 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 up 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 on her own, finding success in Las Vegas and on TV variety shows. Her sister also toured solo until her death in 1995.
In 1947 Patty married Martin Melcher, an agent who represented the sisters, as well as Doris Day. She divorced Melcher in 1949 and he went on to marry Day. Patty went on to marry Walter Weschler, who was pianist for the sisters, and they were married until her death.