Listening to the Boswell Sisters on radio, LaVerne played the piano and taught her sisters to sing in harmony; neither Maxene nor Patty ever learned to read music. All three studied singers at the vaudeville house near their father’s restaurant. As their skills developed, they moved from amateur shows to vaudeville and singing with bands.
After Peter Andrews moved the family to New York in 1937, his wife sought singing dates for the girls. They were often turned down with comments such as: “They sing too loud and they move too much.” Olga Andrews persisted, and the sisters sang on radio with a hotel band at $15 a week. The broadcasts landed them a contract with Decca Records.
They recorded a few songs, and then came “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” an old Yiddish song for which Sammy Cahn and Saul Kaplan wrote English lyrics. (The title means, “To Me You Are Beautiful.”) It was a smash hit, and the Andrews Sisters were launched into the big time.
Their only disappointment was the movies. Universal was a penny-pinching studio that ground out product to fit the lower half of a double bill. The sisters were seldom involved in the plots, being used for musical interludes in film with titles such as “Private Buckaroo,” ”Swingtime Johnny” and “Moonlight and Cactus.”
Their only hit was “Buck Privates,” which made stars of Abbott and Costello and included the trio’s blockbuster “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
In 1947, Patty Andrews married Martin Melcher, an agent who represented the sisters as well as Doris Day, then at the beginning of her film career. Miss Andresws divorced Melcher in 1949, and soon he became Miss Day’s husband, manager and producer.
Miss Andrews married Walter Weschler, pianist for the sisters, in 1952. He became their manager and demanded more pay for himself and for Miss Andrews. The two other sisters rebelled, and their differences with Patty became public. Lawsuits were filed between the two camps.
“We had been together nearly all our lives,” Miss Andrews explained in 1971. “Then in one year our dream world ended. Our mother died and then our father. All three of us were upset, and we were at each other’s throats all the time.”
By James A. Lyons
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