Land of 10,000 Stories: Remembering the Andrews Sisters

3:19 PM, Dec 19, 2012   |    comments
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MOUND, Minn. - The sound track of the 1940s was played in three part harmony.

It was also born in Minnesota, under the names Patty, Maxine, and LaVerne Andrews.

From the first place finish at a Minneapolis talent show that launched their careers, it's hard to overstate the Andrews Sisters' musical influence in the era of the Second World War.

"My favorite statistic is they had more top ten hits than either Elvis Presley or the Beatles," says Tom Rockvam, who should know. The Mound resident has made it his mission to create a lasting legacy for the Andrews Sisters in their home state and city.

Though raised in north Minneapolis, the Andrews Sisters spent summers with their two uncles in Mound, returning for annual visits even after reaching superstar status.

At their peak, the Andrews sisters hosted a long-running national radio show, appeared in 17 Hollywood films and laid the groundwork for record sales of more than 90 million, ranking them among the most successful female recording acts in history.

As memories of the Andrews Sisters and their Mound connection faded over the decades, something gnawed at Rockvam, who remembers listening to Andrews Sisters music as a boy.

"I thought, maybe this is my job," he finally concluded.

In 2010 Rockvam successfully pushed for the Andrews Sisters' admission into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame.

He authored a book he self-published, after striking up a phone friendship with Patty Andrews, the only surviving sister.

And after half-a-dozen appearances at city hall, in 2006, Rockvam, finally convinced the Mound City Council to name a municipal hiking trail after the Andrews Sisters.

"I asked them, 'When can I order the signs?' Rockvam recalls.

They said, 'As soon as you pay for half of them.'"

Rockvam quickly obliged, writing out a check for $2000. He reckoned, "As hard as they worked, their lives deserve some attention, some permanent ongoing recognition in the town."

Patty Andrews sent her thanks in the form of a signed photo of the sisters, "To Tom, thanks for being a friend," she wrote. "Love, from Patty Andrews."

Rockvam says it's been months since he's spoken to Patty Andrews, now age 94, due to her advancing years and declining health.

He continues to add to his already voluminous collection of Andrews Sisters albums and memorabilia, while seeking his ultimate goal of an Andrews Sisters museum in Mound.

Note: The History Theatre in St. Paul is currently staging an Andrews Sisters production called "Christmas of Swing." More information on performances and tickets is available by clicking here.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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