The last surviving singer of the beloved Andrews Sisters group, Patty Andrews, has died at age 94, her lawyer, Richard Rosenthal, confirmed to NBC News.
Patty Andrews was the youngest and the group's lead singer. She was just 7 when she began singing with sisters LaVerne and Maxene, and 12 when they won the talent contest at Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre, starting the groups career.
Sister Maxene once said of Patty, "Patty was the fun one of the group, the clown who kept us laughing during those endless periods of backstage boredom."
The Andrews Sisters, Minnesota natives, will forever be associated with World War II and the U.S.O. for such songs as the 1941 hits "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time," and 1942's "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree."
The L.A. Times reports that it was Patty Andrews who announced the end of the war in 1945 to 5,000 soldiers in Italy who were preparing to head to the Pacific Theater to join in an expected invasion of Japan.
The Times quotes Maxene Andrews saying, "At first there was dead silence. Then Patty repeated the message, 'This really is true,' she told them, and then she started to cry. Suddenly there was a roar. They knew they would be going home, and they did."
The group sold more than 80 million records, and AllMusic.com calls them "the most successful female vocal group of the first half of the 20th century in the U.S." They recorded nearly 50 songs with crooner Bing Crosby, including a famed 1944 collaboration on "Don't Fence Me In," a song Crosby had reportedly never heard before the day of the recording.
The sisters also acted in movies, including the 1941 Abbott and Costello comedies "Buck Privates," "In the Navy" and "Hold That Ghost."
The group's first major hit was "Bei Mir Bist Du Schön," a Yiddish song they sang in English, which was banned in Nazi Germany during the war. It became so associated with the group that when they appeared on guess-the-guest game show "What's My Line?" in 1959, the blindfolded panel burst into the song when correctly guessing the singers' identities. "I've got news for you, they do a better job of it than we do," Patty cracked.
The group retired in 1953 but came out of retirement before the end of the decade, and Patty later pursued a solo career. LaVerne died in 1967 at age 55 and Maxene in 1995 at age 78. After LaVerne's death, Patty and Maxene starred in the World War II-themed musical "Over Here!" Patty Andrews also performed on cruise ships later in life.
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