LOS ANGELES — Patty Andrews, the last surviving member of the singing Andrews Sisters trio whose hits such as the rollicking "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" and the poignant "I Can Dream, Can't I?" captured the home-front spirit of World War II, died Wednesday. She was 94.
Andrews died of natural causes at her home in the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge, said family spokesman Alan Eichler in a statement.
Patty was the Andrews in the middle, the lead singer and chief clown, whose raucous jitterbugging delighted American servicemen abroad and audiences at home.
She could also deliver sentimental ballads like "I'll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time" with a sincerity that caused hardened GIs far from home to weep.
"When I was a kid, I only had two records and one of them was the Andrews Sisters. They were remarkable. Their sound, so pure," said Bette Midler, who had a hit cover of "Bugle Boy" in 1973. "Everything they did for our nation was more than we could have asked for. This is the last of the trio, and I hope the trumpets ushering (Patty) into heaven with her sisters are playing "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."
From the late 1930s through the 1940s, the Andrews Sisters produced one hit record after another, beginning with "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen" in 1937 and continuing with "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar," `'Rum and Coca-Cola" and more. They recorded more than 400 songs and sold over 80 million records, several of them going gold.
Other sisters, notably the Boswells, had become famous as singing acts, but mostly they huddled before a microphone in close harmony. The Andrews Sisters – LaVerne, Maxene and Patty – added a new dimension. During breaks in their singing, they cavorted about the stage in rhythm to the music.
Their voices combined with perfect synergy. As Patty remarked in 1971: "There were just three girls in the family. LaVerne had a very low voice. Maxene's was kind of high, and I was between. It was like God had given us voices to fit our parts."
Kathy Daris of the singing Lennon Sisters recalled on Facebook late Wednesday that the Andrews Sisters "were the first singing sister act that we tried to copy. We loved their rendition of songs, their high spirit, their fabulous harmony."
The Andrews Sisters' rise coincided with the advent of swing music, and their style fit perfectly into the new craze. They aimed at reproducing the sound of three harmonizing trumpets.
"I was listening to Benny Goodman and to all the bands," Patty once remarked. "I was into the feel, so that would go into my own musical ability. I was into swing. I loved the brass section."
Unlike other singing acts, the sisters recorded with popular bands of the `40s, fitting neatly into the styles of Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, Bob Crosby, Woody Herman, Guy Lombardo, Desi Arnaz and Russ Morgan. They sang dozens of songs on records with Bing Crosby, including the million-seller "Don't Fence Me In." They also recorded with Dick Haymes, Carmen Miranda, Danny Kaye, Al Jolson, Jimmy Durante and Red Foley.
The Andrews' popularity led to a contract with Universal Pictures, where they made a dozen low-budget musical comedies between 1940 and 1944. In 1947, they appeared in "The Road to Rio" with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.
The trio continued until LaVerne's death in 1967. By that time the close harmony had turned to discord, and the sisters had been openly feuding.
Midler's cover of "Bugle Boy" revived interest in the trio. The two survivors joined in 1974 for a Broadway show, "Over Here!" It ran for more than a year, but disputes with the producers led to the cancellation of the national tour of the show, and the sisters did not perform together again.
Patty continued on her own, finding success in Las Vegas and on TV variety shows. Her sister also toured solo until her death in 1995.
Her father, Peter Andrews, was a Greek immigrant who anglicized his name of Andreus when he arrived in America; his wife, Olga, was a Norwegian with a love of music. LaVerne was born in 1911, Maxine (later Maxene) in 1916, Patricia (later Patty, sometimes Patti) in 1918.
All three sisters were born and raised in the Minneapolis area, spending summers in Mound, Minn., on the western shores of Lake Minnetonka, about 20 miles west of Minneapolis.
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, Olga, 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 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 bigtime.
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 from Company B."
In 1947, Patty married Martin Melcher, an agent who represented the sisters as well as Doris Day, then at the beginning of her film career. Patty divorced Melcher in 1949 and soon he became Day's husband, manager and producer.
Patty married Walter Weschler, pianist for the sisters, in 1952. He became their manager and demanded more pay for himself and for Patty. 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," Patty 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."
Patty Andrews is survived by her foster daughter, Pam DuBois, a niece and several cousins. Weschler died in 2010.
A memorial service is planned in Los Angeles, with the date to be determined.
Related on HuffPost:
L'Wren Scott, fashion designer and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger's longtime girlfriend, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/17/lwren-scott-dead_n_4979957.html" target="_blank">was found dead in NYC on March 17, 2014</a> of an apparent suicide.
David Brenner, the lanky, toothy-grinned "Tonight Show" favorite whose brand of observational comedy became a staple for other standups, including Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser, died on March 15, 2014. He was 78.
Comedy legend <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/24/harold-ramis-dead-dies_n_4847853.html" target="_blank">Harold Ramis died on Feb. 24, 2014</a>. He was 69.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/12/sid-caesar-dead-dies_n_4775892.html" target="_blank">The comedy legend died on Feb. 12, 2014</a>. He was 91.
Shirley Temple Black, iconic child star and former U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/11/shirley-temple-dead-child-star-ambassador-dies_n_4765333.html?1392116282&ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009" target="_blank">died on Feb. 10, 2014 in California</a>, The Associated Press reported. Her cause of death was not released. She was 85.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/02/philip-seymour-hoffman-dead-dies_n_4713623.html" target="_blank">Hoffman was found dead of an apparent heroin overdose</a> on Feb. 2, 2014 in New York City. He was 46 years old.
The American troubadour, folk singer and activist Seeger died Jan. 27, 2014, at age 94.
Avery died at the age of 68 from complications following open heart surgery in a Los Angeles suburb hospital on Dec. 31, 2013
Price died on Dec. 16, 2013 at his Texas home after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 87.
The legendary actor of the stage and screen died on Dec. 14, 2013 following a long illness. He was 81.
After suffering from a prolonged respiratory infection, Mandela died on Dec. 5, 2013 at the age of 95.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/30/paul-walker-dead_n_4366214.html?utm_hp_ref=celebrity" target="_blank">Walker died in a car crash on Nov. 30, 2013</a>, his rep confirmed. He was 40.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/27/lou-reed-dead_n_4167976.html" target="_blank">Reed died of a "liver-related ailment"</a> on Oct. 27, 2013 at the age of 71.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/26/maria-wallace-dead-simpsons_n_4166343.html" target="_blank">Wallace died of complications due to pneumonia</a> on Oct. 25, 2013 at the age of 70.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/16/ed-lauter-dead-dies_n_4111710.html" target="_blank">Veteran character actor Lauter died of mesothelioma</a>, a rare form of cancer most commonly caused by asbestos exposure, on Oct. 16, 2013. He was 74.
Choreographer and dance instructor Patsy Swayze, the mother of late actor Patrick Swayze, died Sept. 16, 2013. She was 86. No cause of death was given.
Jackie Lomax, a singer-songwriter who worked with The Beatles and enjoyed a long solo career, died Sept. 15, 2013 following a brief illness. He was 69.
Lee Thompson Young
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/19/lee-thompson-young-dead_n_3780781.html?ref=topbar" target="_blank">"The Famous Jett Jackson" star was found dead</a> in his apartment by his landlord in Los Angeles on Aug. 19, 2013. Young's rep confirmed that he took his own life. He was 29.
Lisa Robin Kelly
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/15/lisa-robin-kelly-dead_n_3763163.html" target="_blank">The former "That '70s Show" actress died</a> at the age of 43 on Aug. 14, 2013. According to TMZ, Kelly died in her sleep at a rehab facility in California.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/14/gia-allemand-dead_n_3756940.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular" target="_blank">"The Bachelor" star died from an apparent suicide</a> on Aug. 14, 2013. She was 29.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/02/michael-ansara-dead-dies_n_3697009.html" target="_blank">The "Star Trek" actor died</a> on July 31, 2013 at the age of 91.
Radio personality <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/28/kidd-kraddick-dead_n_3665417.html" target="_blank">David "Kidd" Kraddick died July 27, 2013</a> at age 53.
Cale, the singer-songwriter and producer known as the main architect of the Tulsa Sound, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/27/jj-cale-dead-dies_n_3664256.html" target="_blank">died on July 26, 2013</a>. His manager, Mike Kappus, said he died of a heart attack. He was 74.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/22/dennis-farina-dead_n_3635587.html" target="_blank">The "Law & Order" star died on July 22, 2013 at the age of 69</a> after suffering a blood clot in his lung.
Cory Allan Michael Monteith, a Canadian actor best known for playing Finn Hudson on the hit Fox TV show "Glee," was found dead on July 13, 2013 in a Vancouver hotel room. He was 31.
James Gandolfini, best known for his role on "The Sopranos," died in Italy on June 19, 2013 after suffering from a heart attack.
The high-pitched country singer who sold millions of records through ever-present TV ads in the 1980s and 1990s and whose song saved the world in the film comedy "Mars Attacks!," died June 19, 2013 at a Florida hospital. He was 90.
Jeanne Cooper, who played Katherine Chancellor on the daytime soap opera "The Young and the Restless," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/08/jeanne-cooper-dead-dies_n_3239218.html" target="_blank">died on May 8, 2013</a>. She was 84.
Hanneman, a founding member of Slayer, died May 1, 2013 of liver failure. He was 49.
Chris Kelly, one-half of the 1990s rap duo Kris Kross, died May 1, 2013 of an apparent drug overdose. He was 34.
The country music legend died at 81 on April 26, 2013 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He was hospitalized April 18 with fever and irregular blood pressure.
The folk singer and guitarist, who was the first performer at Woodstock, died on April 22, 2013 at age 72. He died of a heart attack in New Jersey, his family said in a statement.
The raunchy lead singer of the Australian rock band Divinyls whose hit "I Touch Myself" brought her international fame in the early 1990s, died at her home in New York City on April 21, 2013. She was 53 years old. "Christine Joy Amphlett succumbed to the effects of breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, diseases she vigorously fought with exceptional bravery and dignity," her musician husband Charley Drayton said in a statement.
Character actor Richard LeParmentier, who as a young Death Star commander learned the hard way that Darth Vader brooks no disrespect, died April 16, 2013. He was 66.
The comedic film and TV actor died on April 11, 2013 at the age of 87. He passed away of natural causes, surrounded by friends and family.
Former child star Annette Funicello died on April 8, 2013 at the age of 70. The actress, who is best remembered for her time as a Mouseketeer on "The Mickey Mouse Club" from 1955 to 1957, died from complications related to multiple sclerosis, which she was diagnosed with more than 20 years ago.
Legendary film critic Roger Ebert died April 4, 2013, at the age of 70. Two days prior, Ebert revealed on his blog that his cancer had returned and that he would be reducing his reviewing duties at the Chicago Sun-Times.
The 21-year-old "Buckwild" star was found dead in a truck in Sissonville, W. Va., along with two other bodies, on April 1, 2013. It was later said Gandee had died of carbon monoxide poisoning while “mudding," or off-roading through mud, in his 1984 Ford Bronco.
A masterful Grammy Award-winning engineer, arranger and producer whose platinum touch included recordings with Ray Charles, Billy Joel and Paul Simon, Ramone died March 30, 2013 of complications stemming from heart surgery. He was 79.
One of the great British stage actors of his generation, also known for playing grumpy Uncle Vernon in the fantastical "Harry Potter" movies. Griffiths died March 28, 2013, from complications following heart surgery. He was 65.
Former Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr has died March 12, 2013. He was 56. Burr passed away in his sleep and had suffered poor heath for years after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
A country singer-songwriter and original member of the Louisiana Hayride, King was best known for the 1962 hit "Wolverton Mountain." He died on March 7, 2013, at 90 years of age.
Peter Banks, the original guitarist for the British band Yes, died on March 7, 2013, at the age of 65. A post on his official website stated that Banks died from heart failure and was found in his London home after he didn't show up to a recording session. <br> L-R: Peter Banks, Tony Kaye, Chris Squire, Bill Bruford, Jon Anderson - posed, group shot (Photo by Gilles Petard/Redferns)
The British rock guitarist and founder of the band "Ten Years After," who burst to stardom with a memorable Woodstock performance, died March 6, 2013. He was 68. A statement posted on Lee's official website said he died unexpectedly from complications following a routine surgical procedure. Lee's manager, Ron Rainey, said the guitarist died in Spain.
Bonnie Franklin, the pert, redheaded actress who won fame as a divorced mom on the long-running sitcom "One Day at a Time," has died March 1, 2013 due to complications from pancreatic cancer. She was 69.
DJ Ajax (Adrian Thomas)
Australian producer Adrian Thomas, better known as DJ Ajax, died on the day of his 42nd birthday, Feb. 28, 2013. The Sydney Morning Herald reported DJ Ajax died after he ran out onto a Melbourne road and was hit by an oncoming truck.
Former Motown vocalist Richard Street (top R), a member of the Temptations for 25 years, died on Feb. 27, 2013 at a hospital in Las Vegas after a short illness. He was 70.
Dale Robertson, an Oklahoma native who became a star of television and movie Westerns during the genre's heyday, died Feb. 26, 2013 Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif., following a brief illness. He was 89.
Former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dan Toler has died on Feb. 25, 2013, at the age of 65. He passed away in his sleep after a two-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.
Myers, the actor most known for playing Mr. Vernon Gaines on the NBC sitcom "A Different World," died on Feb. 19, 2013 at Charleston Medical Center in West Virginia after undergoing a heart-related emergency and falling into a coma. He was 76.
Harris (far right), a one-time member of legendary Motown group The Temptations, died on Feb. 18, 2013. According to the Baltimore Sun, Harris (born Otis Robert Harris, Jr.) lost his 14-year-long battle to prostate cancer after spending the last three months in the hospital. He was 62. Also in the photo: Richard Street, Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams and Dennis Edwards in 1972.