Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Andrews Sisters - The V Discs (1943-49)

Among the many records which I heard as a kid; and I mean like 3 and 4 years old; one of my favorites was “Rum and Coca-Cola” by the Andrews Sisters. This was another of the piles of 78 RPM’s which my mother had. They covered everything from opera to society bands. I think the tight harmonies of the Andrews Sisters drew me in because I had not heard anything like them on the other recordings; things like Frankie Laine’s “Lucky Old Sun”, or Theresa Brewer’s barrel house “The Nickelodeon Song”. These were some of the first records I ever heard, and I still listen to them today.
This collection of songs by the Andrews Sisters was released as “V” discs during the Second World War. The V stood for Victory and the recordings were made for free by the artists involved. The record companies even distributed the finished products to the various USO canteens and Armed Forces broadcasting stations throughout Europe and the Pacific from about 1943 through 1949.

Squeezing in time to make the recordings proved to be a problem in scheduling.  As a result many of the selections here were recorded in the wee hours after the clubs had closed and the performers were free to record.

“V” kits were shipped with about 20 recordings and 100 needles for the phonographs. Another thing to come out of the V disc program was the development of the vinyl record. Due to the high volume of breakage with the 78 RPM’s it was decided that another medium was needed.

Vinyl was in scarce supply; being used for life rafts and other war related items. But a Canadian laboratory had developed a composite they called Formvar. It had all the properties of the vinyl recordings which would replace the 78’s within the next decade, and it also had a superior sound.

On this disc the Andrews Sisters perform many of their greatest hits in a medley after doing some wonderful versions of 15 standards such as; “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”; “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”; “Lullaby of Broadway”; “Don’t Blame Me”; and a couple of western numbers like “Down in the Valley” and “Down in the Valley” for the guys from Texas.

Great little collection of songs from one of the best moral boosters we had during the Second World War. Only compliant is that they did not do “'Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen”. It was dropped from their act right after Pearl Harbor as being too German; much in the same way that sauerkraut became “Liberty cabbage” in World War One.

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