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Last surviving member of the Andrews Sisters dies at 94

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 31st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The unofficial songstresses of America's World War II years, The Andrew Sisters buoyed U.S. morale with such classics as "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" through rationing and the fearful news emanating from Europe and the Pacific. The last member of that celebrated trio, Patty Andrews has died at the age of 94.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It was Patty Andrews who announced the end of the war in 1945 to 5,000 soldiers in Italy who were fixing to head to the Pacific Theater to join in the expected invasion of Japan.

Her sister Maxene Andrews said, "At first there was dead silence. Then Patty repeated the message, 'This really is true,' she told them, and then she started to cry. Suddenly there was a roar. They knew they would be going home, and they did."

Patty Andrews was both the youngest and the group's lead singer. Just seven years old, she began singing with sisters LaVerne and Maxene. They won the talent contest at Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre, starting the group's career.

"Patty was the fun one of the group, the clown who kept us laughing during those endless periods of backstage boredom," Maxene said.

It's not possible to think of America's involvement in the Great War without hearing The Andrews Sisters, with such songs as the 1941 hits "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time," and 1942's "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree."

Selling more than 80 million records, AllMusic.com calls them "the most successful female vocal group of the first half of the 20th century in the U.S." They recorded nearly 50 songs with crooner Bing Crosby, including a famed 1944 collaboration on "Don't Fence Me In," a song Crosby had reportedly never heard before the day of the recording.

They also appeared in the 1941 Abbott and Costello comedies "Buck Privates," "In the Navy" and "Hold That Ghost."

The Andrew Sister allayed themselves with the war effort unintentionally when their Yiddish song "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön," was banned in Nazi Germany during the war.

It became so closely associated with the group that when they appeared on guess-the-guest game show "What's My Line?" in 1959, the blindfolded panel burst into the song when correctly guessing the singers' identities. "I've got news for you, they do a better job of it than we do," Patty cracked.

The group retired in 1953 but came out of retirement before the end of the decade. Patty later pursued a solo career. LaVerne died in 1967 at age 55 and Maxene in 1995 at age 78. After LaVerne's death, Patty and Maxene starred in the World War II-themed musical "Over Here!" Patty Andrews also performed on cruise ships later in life.

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