Patty Andrews, last remaining Andrews Sister, dead at 94
At Are You Ready for the Country, there are two things we love: close-harmonizing sibling acts, and tough old broads. And so, we're sad to report that Patty Andrews, the last surviving member of The Andrews Sisters, died on Wednesday at the age of 94.
Andrews was interviewed by City Pages' Lindsey Thomas for a 2006 feature story, and had an amazing rise to fame, bagging some groceries along the way.
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Many sibling acts are just that -- an act. But the brassy, sassy Andrews Sisters -- redheaded contralto LaVerne, brunette soprano Maxene, and blonde mezzo-soprano Patty -- actually shared a set of parents. Born in
Mound Minneapolis, Minnesota to a Greek immigrant father and Norwegian mother, lead singer Patty was the youngest of the girls, only seven years old when the trio formed, and aged 12 when they won first prize at a talent contest at Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre.
The family soon relocated to New York and then California, where they were active as a singing trio from 1925 until 1967, and during that time sold over 75 million records, making them the best-selling female vocal group of all time. During their tenure they clocked 113 Billboard appearances, and their 46 Top Ten singles beat out both Elvis and the Beatles.
These swing and boogie-woogie superstars were best known of course for their oft-covered (thanks Bette Midler, thanks high school swing choirs) 1941 hit "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," but also recorded a number of crossover hits, performing duets with the likes of Ernest Tubb and Red Foley. They appeared in a number of films, and no doubt helped amass their substantial following traveling military bases worldwide during WWII, as part of the "Hollywood Canteen."
Their look was pretty apple pie, but their feuds were notorious; when Merv Griffin asked Patty about her sisters' fights in a 1985 television interview, she replied, "the Andrews Sisters only had one big fight. Really. It started in 1937 and it's still going!" The three began fighting when their parents both passed away in the late 40s, and Patty had a brief falling out with her sisters in 1951 when she left the group for a time to join another act. They eventually reunited to play the Vegas circuit and record covers of popular contemporary songs. When sister LaVerne died of cancer in 1967, Maxene and Patty continued performing as a duo until they had another falling out in the 1970s - this one more or less stuck, and the two remained mostly estranged until Maxene's death.
Rest in peace, you unlikely badasses. Here's her obit in the Los Angeles Times.