From The Vault:

Volume 4 Number 2 – Spring 2024

A NOTE FROM YOUR DISTRICT HISTORIAN

Greetings friends of the Illinois District!

As we settle into spring and a new website, I hope you find these issues easier to navigate.  Thanks to our webmaster, Daniel Woodman, who has been tutoring me on how to enter information into the website, these issues now are faster to get from me to you!  Thanks Dan!

In this issue, we look back to an icon from Central Illinois, honor a Chicagoland district champion quartet celebrating its 60th anniversary, uncover a super rare recording of The Four Renegades, and examine the first official district newsletter as our featured artifact.  If that wasn’t enough, we highlight a popular youth quartet from the 1970s and share a special audio recording of a beloved district quartet.  

Thanks to the following individuals who made this issue possible – Bob Squires (of course), Jim Stahly, Tom Noble, Tom Felgen, and Mark Keever.

I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Rich Hansen

ILL Dist. Historian 

Don Summers

Barbershop Icon

Photo of Don Summers

(Adapted from an interview of Don Summers with Jim Stahly in 2009)

Donald Summers was born into a musical family on June 21, 1927 in Peoria, IL.   Don and his siblings sang along with their father, who also used to play the fiddle at square dances.  Growing up, Don was very active in school productions and served as a class officer at Peoria Woodruff High School.  An avid golfer and bowler, he earned a collection of numerous awards for both.  

After high school, Don served in the U.S. Navy from 1945-1946.  During that time, he received recognition for entertaining the troops, and eventually served in the Pacific on the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill.    Following his term of service, Don returned to Peoria and married his sweetheart, Gertrude (“Trudy”) Burns while beginning a career as a lithographer at Logan Printing Co. in Peoria – a job he would hold for over fifty years.  

Having a father who loved to attend barbershop shows, Don was no stranger to the hobby, and took a membership with the Society in 1948, joining the local Peoria chapter.  It wasn’t long before Don began singing in quartets, the first being The Local VocalsDuring the 1950s, Don sang and competed with The Light Chords and in the 1960s sang with The Midwesternaires with fellow Woodruff alumnus and Peoria chapter director Glenn Perdue (See FTV – Winter 2022 Issue).  In the 1970s, Don sang with a group called Grandpa and the Boys.   

Besides singing with Peoria, Don also joined the Pekin Chapter and earned one silver and two gold medals at International competitions in 1959, 1962, and 1963.  It was around that same time that Don became very active on the administrative side of things.  Besides serving as show chairman and chapter president for Peoria, Don became a candidate judge for Voice Expression in 1958 and served as an International judge in that category from 1960-1970.   In that position (which no longer exists), it was a judge’s job to review the interpretation of songs as delivered by competitors, including dynamics, diction, as well as attacks and releases.  Don served the district as a vice-president (in an office known as “Extension”) from 1959-1960 and from 1961-63, was the Illinois District president.  In 1964, Don began a two-year term as a member of the International Board of Directors.  He adjudicated three International contests as well as many other district contests, including some for Sweet Adelines.  During the nearly 40 years that the district conventions remained in Peoria for both spring and fall, Don was instrumental in coordinating much of the behind-the-scenes work to ensure smooth conventions.  

For his efforts, Don was named the district’s Central Division Barbershopper of the Year in 1974 and one year later, captured the coveted ABE (Award for Barbershop Excellence).  Don’s numerous awards were a part of his “barbershop basement room” which he treasured.  Lined with photographs and memorabilia, Don’s collection was so unique it was even featured in the May/June 1984 issue of The Harmonizer.   

Don lived out his final days in Oklahoma with family, and passed away on December 3, 2013.  Few men have had a greater impact on the Illinois District than Don Summers.  He devoted most of his life to the hobby and was a tireless servant for other barbershoppers.  Perhaps this sentiment is best seen in an interview with a local newspaper in 1976, in which Don began by saying, “If there are three others and they need a bass, I’ll be there.” 

 

QCA Spotlight

The Gold Coast Four

(Adapted from recollections written by Tom Noble, baritone of the Gold Coast Four)

In this issue, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of our 1964 District Quartet Champions, the Gold Coast Four!  Representing the North Shore Chapter, the members included Dick Soderberg on tenor, Tom Parrish on lead, Tom Noble on baritone, and Wayne Drury on bass.

The story of the Gold Coast Four starts in June of 1964.  The group got together when Tom Parrish was eager to resume singing after his previous quartet, The Imperial Four, disbanded following the International contest in 1962.  He recruited Tom, Wayne, and Dick.  All were members of the North Shore Chapter.  

Tom Noble and Wayne Drury had previously been members of The Noblemen quartet, which included Tom’s brother Phil and father Tom Sr.  In early 1962, the quartet had won the County Line Novice Quartet Contest, but went through some personnel and voice part changes.  Eventually, the group decided to dissolve the quartet, leaving Tom Jr. and Wayne available.  

After forming, the quartet began to rehearse at the Michigan Shores Club in Wilmette, IL.  They recorded their sessions and liked what they heard.  In choosing a name, they honored the relative prosperity of the communities on Chicago’s North Shore: to some extent Evanston, but much more so Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, Northbrook, and Glenview – which in totality were considered to be Chicago’s “Gold Coast.”  Since the guys were members of Evanston’s North Shore Chapter, they chose the name Gold Coast Four 

At the fall 1964 contest held in Rock Island, IL, the quartet captured the gold their first time out.  The North Shore Notes stated, “In a field of 19 quartets, our Gold Coast Four took the Illinois District by surprise and storm to capture the coveted District Quartet Championship…Their excellence in the contest was evident to all as soon as the preliminaries had been completed, and they sang in the finals as the popular favorites.”  Heady words, for a contest that included foursomes like the Barbersharps, the Valley Four-gers, the Sundowners, the Someday Funnies, and more.

Following their championship, the quartet kept busy with many performances.  High points of the quartet’s activities were the performance on the North Shore Harmonizers’ Show in May of 1965, appearing with the Roaring Twenties and the Mid-States Four.  Additional highlights included a quick appearance in the Illinois District hospitality room at the International convention in Boston that summer, as well as a set of TV appearances on WCIU-TV (Channel 26).  

In mid-1965, Tom Noble took a job that required him to move to New York City.  Bill Brander was recruited to fill in the baritone slot, and the quartet had a few appearances in the following months and years before disbanding.  However, the original group reunited briefly for a day in March of 1967 to sing a few songs at Tom’s wedding reception in the Chicago area.  In 2007, surviving members Drury, Parrish, and Noble attended the Illinois District Spring Convention and decided to sing together once again, this time with Tom’s wife June filling in on tenor, as Dick Soderberg had passed by that time.  In 2014, Tom Noble appeared on stage at the district convention to represent the quartet on the 50th anniversary of their championship.  

Despite being a short-lived quartet, we look back on the good times and wonderful chords created that rang to the rafters, and ring in our memories still.  Congratulations to our 1964 (once and always) district quartet champions, The Gold Coast Four!

The Four Renegades & "BUB"

The Four Renegades have certainly made their mark on the barbershop world since becoming International Champions back in 1965.  They appeared on hundreds of shows around the country, took part in a USO Tour of the Far East in the late 1960s, and audiences today can still hear their arrangements being sung by quartets on stage.  They remain one of the most popular quartets in Barbershop Harmony Society history, but did you know they were almost featured in a Broadway musical?

The story goes back to 1963, when lyricist George Church came up with the idea of writing an a cappella musical entitled “BUB” based on the true story of Deborah Sampson, a relatively unknown hero of the American Revolutionary War.   Born in 1760 and raised in Middleborough, Massachusetts, the self-educated teacher and weaver Sampson disguised herself as a man and joined the Patriot forces in 1782.  Assuming the persona of “Robert Shurtleff” (nicknamed “BUB”), Sampson joined the Fourth Massachusetts regiment.  In June of 1782, Sampson led an expedition of infantrymen in a confrontation with Tories, which resulted in the capture of fifteen men. 

Sampson was able to keep her identity a secret for over two years.  She was eventually discovered in Philadelphia after an illness caused her to lose consciousness and she was taken to a hospital for treatment.  She received an honorable discharge on October 23, 1783 and returned to Massachusetts, where she married Benjamin Gannett and raised their three children.  She later toured the country and spoke of her experiences, sometimes dressed in military regalia.  She died at age 66 in 1827 and was the only woman to receive a full military pension for participating in the Revolutionary War.  She was lauded by the U.S. Congress for “female heroism, fidelity, and courage.”  

Legendary arranger Walter Latzko was asked to provide the music for the upcoming production.  The musical was to debut over the 1967/68 season and was financially backed by the Westinghouse Corporation.  The Four Renegades, whose popularity at the time was at its peak, was contacted to appear in the show.  Whereas the prospect appealed to lead Ben Williams and bass Tom Felgen, baritone Jim Foley and tenor Buzz Haeger were both reluctant to commit because of job demands.  Nevertheless, the quartet agreed to do a demo recording of Latzko’s arrangements, one of which involved whistling in four-part harmony!   

Unfortunately, the show was forced to cancel plans for production.  Not much is known as to the reasons behind the decision, however within the archives of the Illinois District resides those few recordings, which include “In Middleborough Corners” as sung by The Four Renegades and can be enjoyed here as it is a rare recording which does not appear on any of the quartet’s albums.  

 

First issue of Attacks & Releases

"Attacks & Releases" - First Issue!

Way back when…before the internet and social media, barbershoppers in the Illinois District kept up with district goings-on via a regular newsletter mailed to them called Attacks & Releases.  The first “official” issue dates back to July, 1948 and is this issue’s featured artifact.  

Conceived by the district secretary at the time, Charley Ward, the newsletter’s purpose was to keep the membership updated on both international and district news as well as advertise upcoming events.   Ward’s “tongue-in-cheek” attitude is evident in the first few lines, when he asks, “How do you like the new title?  If you don’t like it, get used to it, will ya?”  He even referred to himself as “Ye Olde Editor.” At first, Attacks & Releases was sent as a monthly publication, but time constraints and printing costs caused the district to release it on a quarterly basis instead.  

Featured in the first issue was a recap of the recent International convention held in Oklahoma City and the newly crowned champs, The Pittsburghers.  Also making the news was the creation of two new Chicagoland chapters (Palos and Lombard) bringing the total number of chapters in the district to 55!  The newsletter went on to laud the participation of ten choruses in what was the first ever chorus competition in the district, held at La Salle, IL on June 26, 1948.  News from various chapters were included and a reminder of the upcoming district convention to be held at Macomb in October was mentioned.

Attacks & Releases continued as a quarterly publication for the next half century, and ended production in hard-copy form in the early 2000s.  For the next ten years, the newsletter was provided to members electronically.  Due to the growing popularity of social media by that time, and the retirement of longtime editor Craig Rigg, the publication halted.  District news was subsequently provided on the new website, sent via email, and/or pushed out on Facebook.  It made a brief return as a semi-annual hard-copy newsletter from 2015-16 and recent issues can be accessed on the district website.  

Junior Edition

Junior Edition Quartet

Formed in late 1969, the Junior Edition was a youth quartet that took the district by storm!  Just six months after forming, the group won the Youth Quartet Contest sponsored by the Chicagoland Association of Barbershop Chapters (CABC) and quickly became one of Chicagoland’s most popular quartets, attracting the attention of barbershoppers across the district. The quartet competed three times at the district level, placing as high as third in the fall of 1971.  

The quartet was made up of both high school and college students, including Jeff Flynn (age 17) on lead from Homewood-Flossmoor H.S., Steve Kipley (age 19) on tenor from Thornton Community College, Mark Keever (age 17) on baritone from Thornridge H.S., and Mark Baumgartner (age 15) on bass from Rich Central H.S.  All of the guys were members of the South Cook Chapter, which also included the famed Sundowners quartet (See FTV – Winter 2022 Issue).  It was being around the Sundowners that inspired these young men to follow in the footsteps of their “heroes” and even adopt the name given to them by lead Jeff’s dad, who claimed that these young men were the “junior edition” of the famed district champs.

Baritone Mark Keever recalls that the quartet’s proximity to the barbershop headquarters (Kenosha, WI at the time) and connections through Jeff’s high school music teacher, allowed the quartet to get more exposure.   One of the highlights of the quartet’s brief tenure was an opportunity to sing for the 1970 National Music Education Association’s National Conference (MENC).  The Barbershop Society covered the expense for the quartet to travel to the conference, held in Atlantic City, NJ that year.  On stage, they had the opportunity to perform with the Dapper Dans of Harmony Chorus from West Caldwell, NJ.  

Later, the boys got an invitation to travel with the American Youth Chorale and perform in Russia.  Initially, the boys accepted and began fund-raising.  A disagreement later ensued among Steve and the others regarding traveling to Russia, which was under a communist regime.  Not only were the plans to travel abroad scrapped, but the quartet found itself without a tenor.  The guys briefly sang with a young barbershopper named Bill Blue from the Collinsville area.  However, college schedules got in the way of the group progressing and it was decided to disband.  

Following the breakup, Keever recalls that he and his best friend, lead Jeff Flynn, started up a brief “duo” performing act, in the same vein as the Wright Brothers – fellow South Cook members, Larry and Greg Wright.  The pair bought an old van, which was used to haul their equipment and called themselves “Friends,” and even painted the name on the van.    While the performing act didn’t last, the name did – as Mark used it with a future quartet, made up of himself, along with Rick Anthoney, Doug Smith, and Dick Kingdon (See FTV Fall 2022 Issue).  At one of their first rehearsals, the guys saw the name on the van and thought that would be an excellent title for their new quartet – they were right.  

As Paul Harvey would say, now you know “the rest of the story…”

 

The Scholastics (1973)

For this issue, we feature a 1970s recording of a song by the Scholastics Quartet.  Representing the Champaign-Urbana Chapter, this quartet was a district favorite at both competitions and on various chapter shows throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

The group was made up of tenor Harold Longworth, lead Jim Clark, baritone Jim Kraatz, and bass Jim Beck.  They were known for their showmanship and crazy antics on stage.  They had a signature sound with the booming voice of lead Jim Clark, who acted as the group’s emcee for shows.  

Always entertaining and never forgotten, the Scholastics remain one of the most popular district quartets to ever grace the stage and it is a pleasure to share a recording of “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” by the legendary Scholastics!  

Scholastics Quartet

Next Issue: Coming Summer 2024

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