Welcome to the Sisters of Swing photo gallery! This bright and lively musical at Sierra Rep Theatre in Sonora, California was one of the biggest hits of their 30 year history. It followed the lives and careers of arguably the most popular of all Swing Era groups - The Andrews Sisters. Their music and style are practically synonymous with WWII for many older people and their contribution to the war effort cannot be overestimated. They were even awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Sisters of Swing, running a brisk 90 minutes starred a cast of five performers and covered the sisters' life story AND an impressive list of hits that included Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree, Hold Tight, and Apple Blossom Time as well as many others. You may be saying to yourself, "Gee, how did they fit all of THAT into an hour and a half?" Well, it was tough work but that's OK. It was all "for the boys!"
Only after their discovery by Al Kapp of Decca Records do they, through the direction of genius musician/arranger Vic Schoen, develop the refined and rhythmic sound that helped to define the Swing era.
Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen was only the first of many ethnic songs that the Andrews Sisters popularized on the national level.
The famous combination of Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters is seen here. They are recording Ac-cen-tu-ate the Positive. They recorded 47 songs with the mellifluous crooner, topping the charts time and time again and appearing in movies with him as well. The team was one of the most successful pairings of acts in show biz history!
Here the girls are about to launch into Beer Barrel Polka. The song was originally composed by a Czech musician named Jaromir Vejvoda in 1927, though it was performed and recorded by a number of popular singers including the Andrews Sisters in 1939. The song rocketed to international popularity. During WWII many versions in other languages were created and it was a favorite song among soldiers.
The Sisters were second only to Bob Hope in their commitment to the American GIs during the war. They entertained servicemen in America as well as traveling overseas to Italy and Africa. They sang tirelessly to soldiers in hospitals, airplane hangars, mess halls – anywhere where there was a listening ear. All of their work for the war effort was volunteer labor.
The Andrews Sisters appeared in more films than any other singing group in history. They were in 15 Hollywood films altogether. This shot shows a reenactment of Six Jerks in a Jeep from “Private Buckaroo.” The movies were B grade for the most part but they were merely intended to entertain and lift morale during wartime and as you can see for yourself – there is frivolity abounding.
Here the girls have a final meal stateside at Mario's Restaurant before shipping overseas for a USO tour.
Here the girls perform Corns for my Country from the movie, “Hollywood Canteen.” The real Hollywood Canteen, a special club for servicemen in LA, was a favorite haunt of the sisters, who put in countless hours dancing, socializing and performing for soldiers, sailors and marines. As the song lyrics say - “I'm doin' my bit down here for Uncle Sam, I'm a patriotic jitterbug – yeah, yeah that's what I am!”
This colorful little number is the 1945 smash hit Rum and Coca Cola. Here the girls share the stage with a robust Carmen Miranda. This appealing calypso song was sung in innocence by the naïve sisters, though the lyrics actually describe Trinidadian prostitution. Maxene would say later in an interview: “We weren't as morally open as we are today and so a lot of stuff just went over our heads.”
Toward the end of "Sisters of Swing," V-E day is declared - the end of the war in Europe, and in jubilant celebration, the sisters sing their most beloved hit - Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
"Sisters of Swing" was wildly popular at Sierra Rep, particularly with seniors. We in the cast were touched by the notes we got from people who had lived during the war years and had their own recollections of the Andrews Sisters and the War Era. Nightly we saw on the faces of audience members expressions of recognition and great emotion. People would mouth the lyrics right along with us and beam from ear to ear. The cast decided to visit a group of people in a retirement home who were not mobile enough to get to the theatre. We gave them a short performance of our music and again we experienced such overwhelming gratitude and many more recollections and wonderful stories. What a valuable experience it was to bring a time back to life for people many decades after it had passed. Getting in touch with a time when service was not a favor but a given was a powerful experience for all of us in "Sisters of Swing!"