We have Bette Midler to thank for a lot of things, but for the moment, covering “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (of Company B)” will suffice.
Midler’s 1973 No. 8 cover of the Andrews Sisters’ 1941 No. 6 hit, which ranks No. 6 on the "Songs of the Century" listing compiled by the Recording Industry Association of America, National Endowment for the Arts, and Scholastic Inc. (the list cites songs that promote a better understanding of America’s musical and cultural heritage), connected the great trio of LaVerne, Maxene and Patty Andrews with a new generation.
Lead singer Patty Andrews, the last surviving Andrews Sister, died Wednesday at 94. The siblings had scores of World War II/swing band era hits, also including chart-toppers like "Don't Fence Me In" (with Bing Crosby) and "Rum And Coca Cola."
“The Andrews Sisters were the first singing sister act that we tried to copy,” wrote the Lennon Sisters' Kathy Lennon on that sister group’s Facebook page. “We loved their rendition of songs, their high spirit, their fabulous harmony.”
Yesterday Lennon spoke further on the impact and influence of Patty and her Andrews sisters.
“We absolutely loved them!” she said. “We heard them when we were children and Dad played them for us to listen to their harmonies and great spirit. We loved to copy them, and in Lennon Sisters concerts now we tribute them with ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.’ We admired them so much.”
There’s “nothing like that family [harmony] blend,” continued Lennon. “We said, ‘Boy. Could we do that?’ They were so marvelous in their recordings and movies, and being sisters ourselves, it was always so great to hear their sound.”
John Alexander used Andrews Sisters recordings regularly in assembling various music compilations for Readers Digest.
“Any collection of ‘War Years’ hits or songs from the ‘40s had to include the Andrews Sisters,” he says.
A “huge Abott & Costello fan,” Alexander adds that when Midler released her version of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," he already knew the song from the 1941 Budd Abbot and Lou Costello comedy/World War II movie classic Buck Privates, which the Andrews Sisters appeared and performed in.
“I guess the thing that strikes me about the Andrews Sisters is that most people think of them as this spirited, fun-loving girl group who recorded songs like ‘Bugle Boy’ and ‘Rum And Coca Cola,’ but the songs I love the best are their ballads,” notes Alexander. "'I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time’ is one of the most evocative songs from the war years. It was a huge hit for them in 1941 and remains one of the most poignant songs from that era.”
As lead singer, Patty Andrews had “an incredible voice,” adds Alexander, also citing her beautiful solo version of Gogi Grant’s 1955 hit "Suddenly There's A Valley."
“We always sing ‘Sugartime’ in honor of the McGuire Sisters, and ‘Old Cape Cod’ in honor of Patti Page,” says Lennon, who performs with her sisters at Williams’ Moon River Theatre in Branson, Mo. “With the passing of our dear, dear, dear friend Andy Williams, we do a wonderful medley of his hits.”
“Now with our ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,’ we honor these great artists we admired as children and grew up to meet and work with and tribute in our concerts--as time goes on," Lennon concludes.
"People love that we do it, and it always touches our hearts and makes us do our songs even better. It’s fortunate that we still feel young enough and are continuing, but we’re another generation away from these artists—and that’s the difference.”
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