THE ANDREWS SISTERS Hit The Road
Original 1938-1944 Recordings
Between the two World Wars a trend for syncopatedclose-harmony vocalising flourished. Deeply rooted in barbershop and further back still in Negro minstrelsyits more recent precursors had included the Revelers, the Comedy Harmonists,the Mills Brothers and, among the girls, the Boswell Sisters, the AndrewsSisters' closest role-models. TheAndrews had their own characteristic style, however, allied to a rhythmicincisiveness which makes them still for many the Number One favouriteclose-harmony group, a partisanship borne out by record sales exceeding 60million - making them the biggest girl-group success in popular recordinghistory. Like Glenn Miller andVera Lynn, their sound is the very essence of wartime nostalgia.
The Sisters, who all hailed from Minneapolis, Minnesota, ofpart-Norwegian, part-Greek parentage, comprised Laverne (1915-1967), Maxene(1918-1995) and lead-singer Patricia (aka Patti or Patty, born 1920). The girls began vocalising as atrio at a very early age and from local radio slots they progressed withprofessional determination, via vaudeville and nightclubs, to eventualstardom. After winning a juveniletalent contest at the Minneapolis Orpheum, in 1931 they toured the RKO theatrecircuit and by the following year were touring with the Larry Rich orchestraand later worked in vaudeville and Chicago nightclubs. They made their New York debut withLeon Belasco's New York Hotel Edison Orchestra and in March 1937, at the heightof the Swing Era, while still in residence with the band they cut their firstrecords - four sides for Brunswick (in actual fact two Patti solo vocals, andtwo trios) - and in October they were 'discovered' by Jack Kapp, then Presidentof the US Branch of the English Decca Record Company, and signed to a contract. With their second Decca master, \Beimir bist du schon", a rehash of a 1932 tune by Jewish musicals composer SholemSeconda, the girls struck gold. The equivalent of US No.1 in 1938 (the charts as we now know them werenot set up until 1940), the song provided a lasting signature tune and theirfirst million-selling record, thus kick-starting one of the most prolific, ifoften stormy, of partnerships in popular music history.
The Andrews Sisters' popularity soon reached a peak on radioand the golden spring of the US Cold War was soon to give rise to some earlyAndrews Sisters boogie-style indispensables, including (in 1938) "Nice Work IfYou Can Get It" (from the 1937 RKO musical A Damsel In Distress), "Joseph,Joseph", "Short'nin' Bread", "Tu-Li-Tulip Time", "'Sha-Sha", "Lullaby To AJitterbug", Says My Heart (cover of the Burton Lane-Frank Loesser hit from theParamount musical comedy Cocoanut Grove), Love Is Where You Find It (aDubin-Warren-Mercer collaboration from 1938 Warner Brothers musical Garden OfThe Moon) and Maria Grever's Ti-Pi-Tin.
In 1939 their list of hits included "Hold Tight, Hold Tight(I Want The Seafood, Mama)", "Beer Barrel Polka" and Chico's Love Song and thefollowing year their Silver Screen baptism (between 1940 and 1947 they were toappear in twenty-odd light-musicals, invariably as themselves) began when theywere paired by Universal with the Ritz Brothers in Argentine Nights. From this moderate box-office successcame the two Don Raye songs Rhumboogie (US No.11) and Hit The Road (US No.27)while among their other 1940 record best-sellers were "Ferryboat Serenade"(their first US No.1 hit), "Beat Me Daddy, Eight To The Bar" (US No.2), "Say'Si, si'" (US No.4), "The Woodpecker Song" (US No.6) and Down By The O-Hi-O (USNo.21).
Viewed essentially as escapist fodder to the propagandistsbehind the US war-effort, the Sisters were soon in demand to make morelow-budget movies (all for Universal). First, in 1941, came Buck Privates (featuring their revival of the 1920Albert Von Tilzer standard I'll Be With You In Apple-Blossom Time, US No.5) andits follow-up In The Navy and Hold That Ghost (in this last, a classic of theAbbott and Costello comedies, the Sisters sang "Aurora" (US No.10) and "SleepySerenade" - US No.22) while their record hit-list for that year included "ScrubMe, Mama, With A Boogie Beat" (US No.10), "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" (US No.6),"The Nickel Serenade" (US No.22), a US No.22 revival of the 1928 Al Jolson song"Sonny Boy" and a No.11 cover-version of Harry Warren's I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi(created by Carmen Miranda in the 1941 20th Century Fox musical That Night InRio).
In 1942 the Sisters made three more movies: What's Cookin',Private Buckaroo (another military farce, this aired their hits "Three LittleSisters" (US No.8), "That's The Moon, My Son" (US No.18) and "Don't Sit UnderThe Apple Tree" - US No.16) and Give Out, Sisters (this last, in which thegirls were rather unusually for reasons of plot cast as rich old maids,featured Pennsylvania Polka, US No.17) and among their other hits were "StripPolka" (US No.6) and "Mister Five-By-Five" (US No.14). Their partnership on disc with "Ol'Groaner" Bing Crosby, which began in 1939 and lasted until 1947, was also toproduce several sizeable hits, and some perennially popular non-hits, such asthis 1943 cover-version of Al Dexter's C&W favourite Pistol Packin' Mama.
From 1943 and 1944 come a range of other classic AndrewsSisters tracks, including their US No.1 (their second) Shoo Shoo Baby,cover-versions of Tico-Tico (US No.24 - a Latin-American standard which was abigger hit for rhythm pianist Ethel Smith) Nat 'King' Cole and Irving Mills'Straighten Up And Fly Right (US No.8) and Rum And Coca-Cola (based on aTrinidadian melody of 1906 vintage entitled "L'annee passee", this was toprovide the Andrews Sisters with their third US No.1 hit, in January 1945, andnominally their second million-selling record - or their fourth, counting twoothers meanwhile with Bing Crosby).
Peter Dempsey, 2003