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The Four Freshmen
Capitol Collectors Series
CDP 7 93197 2
1. It’s A Blue World
(B. Wright / C. Forrest) 2:53
ABC Music Corp. Administered by Bourne Co. (ASCAP)
Master #7826 – Take 13, Recorded 6/29/51, Released 7/52
(Capitol 2152) Charted 8/23/52, Reached #30.
2. The Day Isn’t Long Enough
(B. Carey / G. Howard) 2:52
Fischer-Carey Music Co./Carey Music (BMI)
Master#10644 – Take 5, Recorded 9/29/52, Released 11/17/52
3. Poinciana (Song Of The Tree)
(N. Simon / B. Bernier) 3:05
Master# 10818 – Take 4, Recorded 10/18/52, Released 3/16/53
4. It Happened Once Before
(Bobby Troup) 2:25
Londontown Music, Inc., (ASCAP)
Master #20170 – Take 16, Recorded 7/15/53, Released 8/31/53
(Capitol 2564) Charted 9/26/53, Reached #29
5. Please Remember
(W. Gross / B. Troup) 2:49
Interlude Music, Inc., (ASCAP)
Master #12326 – Take 15, Recorded 2/10/54, Released 6/14/55
6. We’ll Be Together Again
(C. Fischer / F. Laine) 5:08
Marmor Music, Inc. (BMI)
Master #12347 – Take 18, Recorded 2/19/54, Released 8/23/54
7. Mood Indigo
Mills Music, Inc., (ASCAP)
Master #12329 – Take 19, Recorded 2/16/54, Released 10/25/54
(Capitol 2961) Charted 11/27/54, Reached #24
8. It Never Occurred To Me
(Persons / Oken / Coleman) 3:02
Marmor Music, Inc., (BMI)
Master #13520 – Take 7, Recorded 1/19/55, Released 3/14/55
9. Day by Day
(Stordahl / Cahn / Weston) 1:55
Hanover Music, Corp. / Famous Music Corp. (ASCAP)
Master #13650 – Take 39, Recorded 5/18/55, Released 6/13/55
10. How Can I Tell Her
(J. Livingston / R. Evans) 2:34
Famous Music Corporation (ASCAP)
Master #13519 – Take 4, Recorded 1/19/55, Released 6/13/55
(E. Rapee / L. Pollack) 2:14
EMI Miller Catalog Inc., (ASCAP)
Master #14653 – Take 15, Recorded 10/18/55, Released 11/21/55
12. In This Whole World
(G. Roland / J. Cascales) 2:30
Neil Music, Inc., Administered by Benton Publications (BMI)
Master #14656 – Take 14, Recorded 10/18/55, Released 11/21/55
13. Angel Eyes
(M. Dennis / E. Brent) 3:33
Dorsey Bros. Music Corp. A Division of Music Sales Corp. (ASCAP)
Master 14338 – Take 8, Recorded 8/22/55, Released 2/27/56
14. Love Is Just Around The Corner
(L. Gensler / L. Robin) 1:59
Famous Music Corporation (ASCAP)
Master #14305 – Take 14, Recorded 3/27/56, Released 4/23/56
15. Graduation Day
(J. Sherman / N. Sherman) 3:01
Erasmus Music (BMI)
Master #15285 – Take 8, Recorded 3/27/56, Released 4/23/56
16. Whistle Me Some Blues
(Parker / Denison / Holiday) 2:16
Eddie Shaw Music Corp (ASCAP)
Master #18202 – Take 7, Recorded 1/14/58, Released 3/3/58
17. It Could Happen To You
(J. Van Heusen / J. Burke) 3:23
Famous Music Corp. (ASCAP)
Master 19639 – Take 10, Recorded 7/15/58, Released 10/6/58
(Capitol LP ST-1073 “Voices In Love”) LP Charted 11/3/58, Reached #11
(Kramer / David / Whitney) 2:13
Kramer-Whitney, Inc., / Harry Von Tilzer Music Publishing (ASCAP)
Master #32362 – Take 13, Recorded 9/10/59, Released 2/15/60
19. (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66
(Bobby Troup) 2:45
Londontown Music, Inc. (ASCAP)
Master #32379 – Take 16, Recorded 9/11/59, Released 2/15/60
20. Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring
(Bobby Troup) 2:41
Londontown Music, Inc., (ASCAP)
Master #34229 – Take 37, Recorded 7/22/60 Released 1/3/61
(Capitol LP ST-1458 “The Freshmen Year”)
21. And So It’s Over
(Ross Barbour) 2:53
Kenbob Music Company, Inc., (ASCAP)
Master #3862A – Take 2, Recorded 3/12/63
(Previously Unreleased Studio Version)
Tracks 1-9, and 18-20 Produced by Voyle Gilmore.
Tracks 10-17 Produced by Lee Gillette.
Track 21 Produced by Bill Miller.
All songs recorded at Capitol Recording Studios, Hollywood except #4 “It Happened Once Before” – recorded at Universal Sound Studios, Chicago.
Executive Producer of the Capitol Collectors Series: Wayne Watkins.
Compilation Produced and Researched by Ron Furmanek.
Compiled by Dennis Diken.
Annotation by Dennis Diken and Ron Furmanek.
Liner Notes by Scott Shea.
Digitally Remastered by Bob Norberg at Capitol Recording Studios, September 1989.
Special Thanks to Bob Flanigan, Ross Barbour, Ken Albers, Scott Shea, Jack Wagner, Peter DiBella, Bob Furmanek, Paul Surratt, Robin Callot and Vicki Arkoff.
This compilation was mastered from the original full track mono, and 3 track master session tapes. Track 1-16 are mono “AAD”, tracks 17-21 are stereo “ADD” , songs remixed by Bob Norberg, and Ron Furmanek.
Chart information courtesy of Billboard and Joel Whitburn.
Components coordinated by Kim Niemi.
Selections 1-20 previously released on various Capitol singles and albums. Track 21 previously unreleased studio version.
Art Direction: Tommy Steele.
Tinting: Ron Larson.
Innerspread Photography: Larry Dupont.
Design: Andy Engel.
Photo Research: Brad Benedict.
Now you have a Freshmen album in this greatly advanced form – a shiny circle called a “CD”. Maybe your first Four Freshman record was a brittle 10-inch 78 RPM or a 45 RPM with a big hole in the middle.
Through the years you have heard Duophonic, Hi-Fi, Stereo, and Quadrophonic. The sounds improved. Capitol Records had given this state-of-the-art reproduction as much of the music as they can, all in a crystal clear atmosphere. But you played these arrangements on scratchy 78’s or 45’s and they would not have become proven favorites if you had not surrounded our sound with your fondness.
We recorded this music with a lot of love, but we couldn’t put fondness in there. We had to leave that important part to you, and you did it. For that we thank you with all our hearts.
So ---- this album has top fidelity, a lot of love, and your fondness going for it. May it bring you three dimensional pleasure.
I have been looking forward to the release of our CD. I feel the songs included are a good cross-section of the Freshmen recordings from 1952 till our departure from Capitol some 16 years later. Because of Stan Kenton’s influence and the freedom Capitol gave us, we had the opportunity to record some of the greatest song of all time. I sincerely hope you enjoy “The Four Freshmen CD”.
The Four Freshmen
In the world of jazz, the Four Freshmen hold many distinctions. They were the first successful recording vocal jazz group to play their own instruments; they were the first four-part group to sing sophisticated jazz arrangements, redefining vocal harmonies; they were among the first artists to use the long-playing album to express a consistent musical theme. Their legacy can be heard in practically every vocal group to come after them, from the HiLo’s to the Beach Boys to the Manhattan Transfer.
The Four Freshmen had their star in rural Indiana during the Depression. Bob Flanigan and the Barbour brothers, Don and Ross, were cousins. The Barbours lived on a farm in Columbus, Indiana. Don took up the ukulele as a child and switched to guitar. He developed a powerful voice with a wide range. Younger brother Ross fell in love with the trumpet in the eighth grade, and played in the dance band, marching band and orchestra during his high school days.
The Flanigans lived 90 miles north of Columbus in Greencastle. Bob Flanigan recalls learning to play harmonica at age five, and guitar a year later. Bob taught himself trombone while still in elementary school. He played in high school bands, sang in a capella choir, and even found time to put his six feel plus height to use on the school basketball team.
In the summer of 1947, Bob went to Hollywood, Florida and took a job moving freight. By night he played trombone with a six-piece jazz band. Don decided to join Ross as a freshman at Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music in Indianapolis. Early in the semester they met another freshman in their music theory class named Hal Kratzsch. Hal was from Warsaw, Indiana, had been in the Navy, and played trumpet, mellophone and bass. Hal convinced Don and Ross that they could make money during the school year by forming a barbershop quartet.
Hal would sing the fourth part. Next up would be Ross, with Don singing above him. To sing first voice, the three brothers recruited Marvin Pruitt, another student in the theory class. Together they formed “Hal’s Harmonizers”, replete with armbands, waiter’s aprons and false moustaches.
Their act was popular, but the Harmonizers were restless. The harmonies of barbershop were confining. There was no room for improvisation or experimentation. They decided to sing songs in “open” harmony, to spread their four notes over the area a five-part group would over, and they adopted a jazz approach to their phrasing. To distinguish this new sound from the Harmonizers, the foursome took the name “The Toppers”.
Both groups gained popularity throughout the school year in relation to the group’s falling grade averages. As a result, in the Spring of 1948 Marvin withdrew from the group.
Hal, Ross and Don contacted Bob in Florida. It did not take much to persuade him to quit his Railroad Express job and enroll for the summer at Arthur Jordan. Bob’s distinctive vocal phrasing, pitch and musical ear immediately impressed the others. The group had, unknowingly, found its lead voice.
The four were vocally inspired by Mel Torme’s Mel-Tones and The Pastels, a group which worked with Stan Kenton. Each group featured open-harmonies but were five-part groups with female leads. “We just decided that we would sing these wide open, five-note chords with four voices, which meant that we would just leave out one of the obvious notes,” says Ross.
All summer they rehearsed, and by August had assembled a repertoire of songs to showcase this new sound. It was understood that they would take a year off of school to try their luck as professional musicians. They were finally signed by the McConkee Agency, a small operation that booked second-rate acts into third-rate clubs.
Their new agent, Dick Sheldon, suggested a name change. He knew that the foursome had, until recently, all been freshman at Arthur Jordan, so he suggested the “Freshmen Four.” Hal, Don, Ross and Bob turned it around, and the new moniker stuck.
The Four Freshmen debuted at the 113 Club in Ft. Wayne, Indiana on September 20, 1948. it was not an auspicious or promising opening. “The manager of the place called Dick Sheldon and told him to get rid of us, that we were terrible,” recalls Bob. “He would have fired us, but he allowed us to stay the week because his daughter had a crush on Hal!”
Their first break came in September 1949, when the Freshmen showed up all at an all-night jam session at the High Note Club in Chicago. For fun the Freshmen sang backup behind Woody Herman’s singer, Mary Ann McCall. Herman liked what he heard, and later asked them to play in his band, and each night to sing a few numbers.
But before this could happen, they got a second break. It occurred on March 21, 1950, when the Freshmen were appearing at the Esquire Lounge in Dayton, Ohio. Hal, Don, and Ross were seated at the counter of an adjacent diner between shows that night, when Bob burst through the door. His eyes were wide open, when he said, “You’re not going to believe who’s in there for the next show….Stan Kenton!” The guys knew Bob could be a put-on artist, so they said, “Oh, sure, Stan’s gonna come see us.” Pretty soon they realized that Bob wasn’t kidding.
The Freshmen knew that Kenton and his band were performing in Dayton that night; in fact, they had asked for the night off to catch Kenton’s show, but the Esquire’s manager refused. Instead, following his own show, Kenton was brought to the Esquire by Gene Barry, a local disc jockey and Freshmen fan. Kenton was impressed. He stayed through both late shows, then he started making plans for their future.
On April 14, 1950, the Freshmen auditioned for Capitol Records in New York City, with Pete Rugolo (formerly Kenton’s arranger) producing. Rugolo sent the tape to Kenton in Los Angeles. Bob elaborates, “On May 15th, Stan sent us a letter, which said we should come out to Los Angeles and see Glenn Wallichs at Capitol.”
The group was stunned by the sudden change in its fortunes, thanks in no small part to Kenton. He promoted the group to Capitol executives and allowed the Freshmen to use his name in their advertising. Capitol promptly signed the Freshmen. Fast forward to 1953: the stress of life on the road was taking its toll on the Freshman who was the most eager in the beginning, Hal. Now married, the prospect of returning to Warsaw and settling down was too great. He announced to the others that his intention to leave as soon as a replacement was found.
Spring 1953 found the Freshmen back in Detroit at the Crest Lounge. They spread the word that they were looking for a replacement. A Crest patron, Sammy Carlisi, suggested that the group audition a friend of his, Ken Errair. A tool and die maker by day, Ken spent his nights playing “society music” with several bands in the area. He had a booming, deep voice and a good ear for harmony.
Ken came to the Crest and rehearsed a few numbers with the quartet. From the way he handled himself they could see he was a winner. Ken picked up Hal’s trumpet and mellophone parts and quickly learned the bass. He replaced Hal as a full-time Freshman in May 1953.
Soon after the group’s second album, Four Freshmen Five Trombones, the group underwent another personnel change. Life on the road lost its appear for Ken, he missed his time away from Jane Withers and their home in California. He informed the others of his decision to leave, but he recommended a replacement, a singer/composer named Ken Albers.
In 1955 Ken was working with The Stuarts, a vocal and instrumental group more commercially-oriented than the Freshmen. The Freshmen caught the Stuarts’ show in Canada and were impressed. (Ken Albers can be heard for the first time in this collection on “Whistle Me Some Blues.”)
Don had not been happy with the direction the group had been taking with its material, which was away from the blues and saloon numbers and more toward mainstream pop. Don left the group on amicable terms to go solo in September 1960.
The Freshmen got very lucky in finding a replacement for Don. Bill Comstock was a former bandmate with Ken Albers in The Stuarts. (Bill is heard on the last track in this collection, “And So It’s Over.” The song served as the group’s closing theme in live performances.)
Bill Comstock left in 1972. Founding member Ross Barbour left in August of 1977. Ken Albers retired in 1982, after a 26-year stint. Both Ross and Ken left music to run businesses in Simi Valley, California.
Following his departure from the Freshmen. Hal Kratzsch joined another group, The Signatures, and afterwards achieved success as an innovator in the prosthetics industry. He died of cancer on November 18, 1970.
Ken Errair released an album on Capitol in 1957, Solo Session, before retiring from music to become a successful real estate developer in California. He died in a light plane crash on June 14, 1968.
Don Barbour’s solo career never came to pass. Don was killed in an automobile accident in Hollywood on October 5, 1961. Capitol released The Solo Voice of Don Barbour posthumously in 1962.
Bob Flanigan remains the last original member of the group.
He says that “as long as it stays fun,” he has no plans to retire.
Now in their fifth decade of musical adventure, the Four Freshmen continue to perform for their legions of fans worldwide, who acknowledge the group’s influence on jazz and popular music in the 20th century.
Liner Notes written by Scott Shea.
For more information on the Four Freshmen, please write:
The Four Freshmen Appreciation Society
Oshkosh, Wisconsin, 54901-4649.