The following is a guest post co-authored by Music Archivist Chris Hartten and Senior Music Specialist Mark Horowitz.
There is a history of women’s singing groups being representative of their eras: the Boswell Sisters in the ‘30s, Dianna Ross and the Supremes in the ‘60s, Destiny’s Child in the ‘90s. But no group seemed to epitomize their period more than the Andrews Sisters in the ‘40s – LaVerne, Maxine and Patty. During World War II, they were an upbeat tonic to the troubled times and forged a particular bond with servicemen, helping to found the Hollywood Canteen.
Their signature songs still evoke wide smiles and warm feelings: “Bei Mir Bist du Schön,” “Rum and Coca Cola,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” and of course, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Other groups may have employed similar close harmonies, but the Andrews Sisters had a raucous and enthusiastic quality (they talked of emulating three trumpets), incorporating aspects of big band, swing, and boogie-woogie into their songs and keeping listeners’ attention with their surprising syncopations. This infectious energy found its way into their films and live performances as well, where the trio came across as energetic, fun, and slightly goofy.
While the Music Division of the Library of Congress is interested in all things musical, we bring up the Andrews Sisters now because, sadly, Patty Andrews passed away last month on January 20th. And we have a particular bond with Patty because we acquired her papers in 2011. She had become the featured performer of the Andrews Sisters, was the last surviving member of the group, and had the longest and most varied career – on Broadway, as a soloist, and as a panelist on TV.
The Patty Andrews Papers document many aspects of her life and career. The collection includes music, photographs, scrapbooks, posters, and a significant number of sound recordings – including rehearsals, demos, and live performances. It is particularly at home here in the Music Division, as it relates to so many of our other collections, not only jazz and big band collections like Charlie Barnett and Joe Haymes, but also our surprising number of collections of female jazz vocalists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day, and Carmen McCrae, not to mention our collections of performers who helped lighten the war years for both those on the homefront and troops abroad, like Bob Hope and Danny Kaye.
We feel confident that, rather than mourn Patty’s passing, she would want us to celebrate the memory of that joyous musical legacy that was the Andrews Sisters. So have a Rum and Coca-Cola, put on an Andrews Sisters recording, and jitterbug along!