Remembering the Andrews Sisters

  • Article by: EDITORIAL , Chicago Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2013 - 5:02 PM

They helped nation find its rhythm. Was it the era that created them, or did they create the era?

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Maxene Andrews, left, with her sisters Patty and LaVerne

Somewhere in the middle of the last century, when people actually snapped their fingers to music and bounced their backsides all over the place jitterbugging, Patty Andrews was at the center of it all. She was easily the most fluid in one of the greatest girl groups of all times, the Andrews Sisters.

The group's lead singer, she died Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 94 years old.

The Andrews Sisters were not the first of the big girl groups. That would have been the Boswell Sisters out of New Orleans, who mixed harmony and syncopation in such grand measures that even today their recordings are a delight.

But hit the right spot on YouTube and you can still find Patty at the center of a signature piece -- with Maxene and LaVerne on either side -- that defines why the Andrews Sisters were so great. The clip is from the movie, "Buck Privates."

In the scene, Lou Costello is getting ready to box, but he needs some time to put on his trunks. A bugler opens the first bars of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," and the camera shifts to three girls at the bar, the only girls in the room, surrounded by dozens of soldiers. They put their sodas on the bar and dance into the scene. Patty is the one in the middle and gets a solo.

You can see it right away, she is an Andrews sister plus about 10 percent of something magical. Hands. Legs. Hips. Shoulders. Voice. All fluid, perfectly matched and here, seven decades later, still stunning to watch for music and dance lovers. Small wonder the trio had 90 hits and a bundle more with crooner Bing Crosby.

Was it the era that created them, or did they create the era? It was powerful, syncopated music at a time when the nation really needed to move its hips a bit. The Andrews Sisters are all dead now. Patty, the youngest, was the last to go.

Someone should at least pick up a bugle in her honor and play those first couple of bars of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," so we can remember what "hot" once meant.

 

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