THE ANDREWS SISTERS WERE OFF KEY DURING THEIR 13 WEEKS WITH GLENN MILLER
I DON'T DISCUSS THE SALACIOUS ON MY MAKE BELIEVE BALLROOM RADIO SHOW BUT THE ERA HAD ITS SHARE, EVEN WHEN IT CAME TO THE "SWEET" ANDREWS SISTERS!
Just as both the Glenn Miller Orchestra and the Andrews Sisters were on the verge of becoming true icons of the Big Band era they appeared together on a three-time a week radio program sponsored by Chesterfield cigarettes.
Miller’s Chesterfield broadcasts hit the airwaves on December 27th, 1939. After several years of struggles to gain popularity, the Miller band finally broke through that summer and was now one of the top orchestras in the country with “In the Mood” topping the charts. Yet there were some doubts as to how well the Miller band would carry a radio program, so producers hedged their bets and added the Andrews Sisters, who had already proven themselves as a popular act.
The program was heard Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 to 10:15 pm over the CBS Radio Network. Musically, the partnership served the Andrews well because the Miller band gave them a strong 4/4 swing accompaniment as opposed to the old-fashioned, two-beat Dixie feel of so many of their commercial Decca records.
The teaming of the Miller band and the Andrews Sisters was not a match made in heaven though.
The Chesterfield radio shows were only fifteen minutes long, which, with commercials and everything else, left only about twelve minutes for music. The Andrews Sisters refused to cut their arrangements and insisted they be performed exactly as recorded. The sisters were infamous for not getting along well with others and after a few weeks into the radio program, they weren’t even talking to each other! Miller and the show’s producers had a hard time figuring out what they wanted to sing.
Apparently the Andrews Sisters weren’t like the battling Dorsey Brothers. Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey had an intense rivalry that sometimes deteriorated into physical fights, but according to those who knew them, there was still love and respect. Patty and Maxene Andrews seem to have truly hated each other; it was only LaVerne who held them all together.
Adding to the fights they had among themselves were the conflicts they had with their father. When the Chesterfield show began, the sisters were living with their parents in a suite at the Picadilly Hotel. Their father, Peter, wasn’t happy with the men 24-year-old Maxene and nearly 22-year-old Patty were dating. The sisters moved out on January 28th and two days later there was a serious family fight in the Andrews’ suite that left Peter Andrews spending the night in jail. Only Patty showed up for the January 30th Chesterfield broadcast.
As the weeks went on, it was obvious that twelve minutes was just not enough time to satisfy both Miller and Andrews Sister fans. The battling among LaVerne, Maxene, and Patty only added to the friction and tension and their thirteen-week contract wasn’t renewed. Glenn Miller continued without them and quickly proved that his band didn’t need the sisters to help carry the show.
Jeff Bressler - August 2020