Monday, December 3, 2012

The Andrew Sisters

La Verne, Patti, Maxine
The world famous musical trio were born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to a Greek restaurant owner and his Norwegian-born wife. There were La Verne, 1915, Maxine, 1917, and Patti, 1920. when Patti was only six years old they all began singing together at amateur nights in local theaters and on radio stations. mr. Andrews disapproved but there mother encouraged the girls so that they would have a mutual interest and would cease their quarreling. They would race home from school each day to hear the Boswell sisters sing on Bign Crosby's radio program. "Music is the one thing we had in common. We never agreed on hair styles or clothes but we were always together when we chose material and arrangements," said Maxine in the 1960's during an interview. Maxine was always the rebel in the family.

After "starving for seven years" with such bands as Leon Belasco and Larry Rich, the girls sang one night in 1937 on a radio broadcast from the Hotel Edison in New York. When Dave Kapp heard them on a cab radio he set up a recording session for them at Decca Records, which was run by his brother Jack. They cut "Nice Work If You Can Get It" as the hit side backed by "Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen." It was the second side that took off and sold over a million copies. For that effort they were paid the flat sum of fifty dollars, with no royalties. Therefore Decca gave them a new contract that paid them a five-cent royalty on every record sold, something tat only Big Crosby had been able to command until then. A few of the hits that followed were "The Hut Sut song,"  Rum and Coca-Cola," and "Beer Barrel Polka."

Although they never matched their idols, the Boswells, for perfect rhythm and harmony, the andrewses became much more famous and made for more money. Maxine's husband, Lou Levy, was their manager and saw to it that the girls had the best arrangers in the business as well as the first pick of new material. no one did more to swing the sound of the late thirties and forties than these three girls, who with all of their movie appearances, they couldn't complain about the huge fees they collected for the. A few are Argentine Nights in 1940, In the Navy, 1941, follow the boys, 1944. In a number of films they worked with Bing Crosby, as they did on records and on his radio program.
Maxine, Patti, La Verne

In 1948 their mother died, followed shortly by their father, and in 1950 Maxine and Lou Levy were divorced. 

"Everything seemed to catch up with us at once," said Maxine. In 1954, Pattie filed suit over her mother's estate, and by this time the girls had agreed to go their separate ways. They were reunited a few times but it was never the same. They began wearing different clothes and coiffures in their club act in Vegas and elsewhere during the sixties. But it was their vastly different temperments that caused the real clashes.
The break was permanent in 1967. La Verne died of cancer. Patti, who never left show business, remained available as a singer and comedienne. In 1970 she made a guest appearance on the Lucille Ball television show and had a cameo part in the movie Phynx that same year. She and her pianist-conductor husband, Walter Weschler were married for over 20 years by the time Patti was off on her own show business career. They never had children. They lived in Encino, California with their two dogs.

Throughout the remainder of their lives Patti and Maxine spoke on the phone regularly, but seldom saw each other. When they did, they never discussed their professional interests. Maxine was for two years beginning in 1968 dean of women at Paradise College in Lake Tahoe, California. After teaching speech and drama there she became interested in group therapy and has formed a foundation to work with drug addicts and delinquents, using encounter method. Of her own life, she says: "I always felt oppressed except when I was singing. Now I don't sing and I never feel anything but free. My kids, Aleda and Peter, and I have gone through a lot together, and now I can say that we are really friends. I don't miss the act for one minutes. I no longer need it. I'm free."

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