Maxene Andrews, one third of the Andrews Sisters who cheered Americans during World War II with “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and a string of other swing hits, has died. She was 79.
Andrews of Auburn, Calif., died early Saturday at Cape Cod Hospital after suffering a heart attack while one vacation. She had bypass surgery in 1982.
She and her sisters, Patty and Laverne, were one of the most successful women’s singing groups ever, with 19 gold records and sales of nearly 100 million recordings.
From their rolled hairdos and slim suits to their perfectly blended voices and the syncopated, jitterbugging rhythm of their music, the Andrews Sisters offered a vision of America’s pursuit of pleasure during World War II and the years thereafter.
Their memorable harmonies included “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar,” “Winter Wonderland” (with Vince Lombardo), and “Rum and Coca-Cola.”
Laverne Andrews died in 1967, and Maxene and Patty broke up the act the following year.
Maxene Andrews went on to teach speech and drama, took to the stage with her sister in 1974, then launched a solo career a few years later, after Bette Midler’s 1973 cover of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” revived interest in the trio.
The sisters’ bouncy “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” became a World War II favorite along with the likes of Vera Lynn’s more romantic “White Cliffs of Dover” and “We’ll Meet Again.”
Thousands of veterans in Honolulu to mark the 50th anniversary of V-J Day earlier this year heard Maxene Andrews sing “America the Beautiful.”
Many of those veterans had mobbed the Andrews Sisters when they performed at military posts and hospitals in Africa and Europe during the war.
Andrews was recognized for her service in 1987 with the Pentagon’s highest civilian honor, the Medal for Distinguished Public Service.
At the height of their popularity in the 1940s, the Andrews Sisters appeared in 16 films, including “Buck Privates” and “In the Navy,” with Abbot & Costello, “Hollywood Canteen,” with a host of stars from Jack Benny to Joan Crawford to Sidney Greenstreet, and “Road to Rio,” with Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. They also had their own radio show, “Eight-to-the-Bar Ranch.”
Born in Minneapolis, Maxene Andrews went on the road with older and younger sisters in the early 1930s. They scored their first hit, “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” in 1937.
After the act broke up, Andrews became dean of women and an instructor in speech and drama at Tahoe Paradise College in Lake Tahoe, Calif. She was later promoted to vice president.
In addition to Patty Andrews, Maxene Andrews’ survivors include daughter Aleda Levy Andrews Hunt and son Peter Todd Andrews Levy.