Open Access Articles- Top Results for The Four Freshmen

The Four Freshmen

For the Irish showband, see The Freshmen (band)

The Four Freshmen
Origin Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Genres Jazz, classic pop, barbershop
Years active 1948–present
Labels Capitol, Liberty, Pausa Records, Coronet, Stylist, Creative World, Kahoots, Phonorama, Pickwick, Sunset, Crystal, Four Freshmen Society
Members Tommy Boynton
Stein Malvey
Curtis Calderon
Bob Ferreira
Past members Ross Barbour
Don Barbour
Hal Kratzsch
Bob Flanigan
Ken Errair
Bill Comstock
Ken Albers
Ray Brown
Autie Goodman
Dennis Grillo
Mike Beisner
Rod Henley
Dave Jennings
Newton Graber
Kirk Marcy
Gary Lee Rosenberg
Greg Stegeman
Kevin Stout
Alan MacIntosh
Vince Johnson
Brian Eichenberger

The Four Freshmen is an American male vocal band quartet that blends open-harmonic jazz arrangements with the big band vocal group sounds of The Modernaires (Glenn Miller), The Pied Pipers (Tommy Dorsey), and The Mel-Tones (Artie Shaw), founded in the barbershop tradition. The Four Freshmen is considered a vocal band because the singers accompany themselves on guitar, horns, bass, and drums, among other instrumental configurations.

The last original member retired in 1993,[1] but the group still tours internationally to sold-out audiences and has recorded jazz harmonies since its late 1940s founding in the halls of the Jordan School of Music at Butler University (Indianapolis).[2]

Beginnings and early success

In early 1948, brothers Ross and Don Barbour, then at Butler University's Arthur Jordan Conservatory in Indianapolis, Indiana, formed a barbershop quartet called Hal's Harmonizers. The Harmonizers also included Marvin Pruitt—soon replaced by Ross and Don's cousin Bob Flanigan—and Hal Kratzsch (1925–70), replaced in 1953 by Ken Errair. The quartet soon adopted a more jazz-oriented repertoire and renamed itself the Toppers. At first, they were influenced by Glenn Miller's The Modernaires and Mel Tormé's Mel-Tones, but soon developed their own style of improvised vocal harmony. In September 1948, the quartet went on the road as The Four Freshmen, and soon drew the admiration of jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie and Woody Herman.

On March 21, 1950, The Four Freshmen got a break when band leader Stan Kenton heard the quartet in Dayton, Ohio's, Esquire Lounge. He "had been told at his own show earlier that night about a quartet in town that sounded like his 43-piece ensemble",[3] and was sufficiently impressed that he arranged for an audition with his label, Capitol Records, which signed them later that year. The demo included "Laura", "Basin' Street Blues", "Dry Bones" and two other songs.[3]

Later in 1950, they released a single, "Mr. B's Blues", and appeared in their first and only film, Rich, Young and Pretty.[3]

The Freshmen released another single in 1951, '"Now You Know", which was not a commercial success. Later in the year Capitol rejected their proposed next single, "It's a Blue World", and dropped them from the label. In May of the following year, a furious Stan Kenton demanded that the record company send them the demo tapes so that they could promote the song themselves.[3] They managed to get the song onto the radio, and in 1952, "It's a Blue World" became their first charted single, and Capitol re-signed the group in July of the same year.[3]

In 1953, Hal Kratzsch, tired of touring, asked the group to replace him, and they selected Ken Errair. Their single to chart was "It Happened Once Before", and the year ended with them winning the Down Beat poll as Best Jazz Vocal Group of 1953.[3]

In 1954, the Freshmen recorded their first album, Voices in Modern; "Mood Indigo", a single from this album, charted.[3] The following year, they released "How Can I Tell Her" and "Charmaine", followed by "Graduation Day" in 1956.[3]

Their album Four Freshmen and 5 Trombones "set the standard for modern jazz vocal groups" and reached number 6.[3]

After only a short time with the group, Ken Errair left the band to get married, and was replaced by Ken Albers.[3] Around this time, the group also started playing at college auditoriums and pursuing a younger audience.[3]

In 1960, the Freshmen recorded "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring", a song which, with different lyrics, later became The Beach Boys' "A Young Man Is Gone"[3] in 1963.

Decline and later existence

The group eventually lost their mainstream following with the advent of the rock bands of the 1960s, even as one of those bands, the Beach Boys, cited the Four Freshmen as one of their main influences.[4]

The next Freshman to leave was Don Barbour, who left in 1960 and was replaced by Bill Comstock.[3] In 1965 the group left Capitol, and began a number of brief stints at other labels.[3] Over the course of the 70s and 80s, most of the original and near-original Freshmen left the group.[3]

The group did not disband, however, even after the last original member, Bob Flanigan, retired in 1993. After his retirement Flanigan managed the group and owned the rights to The Four Freshmen name. He died on May 15, 2011 at the age of 84 from congestive heart failure. Ross Barbour died on August 20, 2011 from cancer at the age of 82.[5]

During its long history, The Four Freshmen had twenty-four different line-ups among twenty-five different members. The Four Freshmen lineup of Tommy Boynton (1st part, bass), Stein Malvey (2nd part, guitar), Curtis Calderon (3rd part, trumpet), and Bob Ferreira (4th part, drums) was first established in 2015.


<timeline> ImageSize = width:900 height:auto barincrement:20 PlotArea = left:120 bottom:60 top:0 right:20 Alignbars = justify DateFormat = dd/mm/yyyy Period = from:01/01/1948 till:31/12/2015 TimeAxis = orientation:horizontal format:yyyy

Colors =

 id:voice1   value:red         legend:1st_Voice
 id:voice2   value:orange      legend:2nd_Voice
 id:voice3   value:green       legend:3rd_Voice
 id:voice4   value:blue        legend:4th_Voice

Legend = orientation:vertical position:bottom columns:1 ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:10 start:1950 ScaleMinor = unit:year increment:2 start:1948

BarData =

 bar:BobFlanigan           text:Bob Flanigan
 bar:DonBarbour            text:Don Barbour
 bar:RossBarbour           text:Ross Barbour
 bar:HalKratzsch           text:Hal Kratzsch
 bar:KenErrair             text:Ken Errair
 bar:KenAlbers             text:Ken Albers
 bar:BillComstock          text:Bill Comstock
 bar:RayBrown              text:Ray Brown
 bar:AutieGoodman          text:Autie Goodman
 bar:DennisGrillo          text:Dennis Grillo
 bar:MikeBeisner           text:Mike Beisner
 bar:RodHenley             text:Rod Henley
 bar:DaveJennings          text:Dave Jennings
 bar:NewtonGraber          text:Newton Graber
 bar:KirkMarcy             text:Kirk Marcy
 bar:GaryLeeRosenberg      text:Gary Lee Rosenberg
 bar:GregStegeman          text:Greg Stegeman
 bar:KevinStout            text:Kevin Stout
 bar:BobFerreira           text:Bob Ferreira
 bar:AlanMacIntosh         text:Alan MacIntosh
 bar:BrianEichenberger     text:Brian Eichenberger
 bar:VinceJohnson          text:Vince Johnson
 bar:CurtisCalderon        text:Curtis Calderon
 bar:SteinMalvey           text:Stein Malvey
 bar:TommyBoynton          text:Tommy Boynton

PlotData =

 width:10 textcolor:black align:left anchor:from shift:(10,-4)
 bar:BobFlanigan       from:01/01/1948    till:28/02/1990    color:voice1
 bar:BobFlanigan       from:01/11/1990    till:30/06/1992    color:voice1
 bar:DonBarbour        from:01/01/1948    till:30/06/1960    color:voice2
 bar:RossBarbour       from:01/01/1948    till:30/06/1977    color:voice3
 bar:HalKratzsch       from:01/01/1948    till:30/06/1953    color:voice4
 bar:KenErrair         from:01/07/1953    till:30/06/1956    color:voice4
 bar:KenAlbers         from:01/07/1956    till:28/02/1982    color:voice4
 bar:BillComstock      from:01/07/1960    till:30/06/1973    color:voice2
 bar:RayBrown          from:01/07/1973    till:30/06/1977    color:voice2
 bar:AutieGoodman      from:01/07/1977    till:30/06/1992    color:voice2
 bar:DennisGrillo      from:01/07/1977    till:28/02/1982    color:voice3
 bar:DennisGrillo      from:01/03/1982    till:31/10/1982    color:voice4
 bar:MikeBeisner       from:01/03/1982    till:30/06/1989    color:voice3
 bar:MikeBeisner       from:01/03/1990    till:31/10/1990    color:voice3
 bar:MikeBeisner       from:01/07/1991    till:30/06/1992    color:voice4
 bar:MikeBeisner       from:01/07/1992    till:30/06/1994    color:voice2
 bar:RodHenley         from:01/11/1982    till:30/06/1986    color:voice4
 bar:RodHenley         from:01/07/1987    till:31/10/1987    color:voice4
 bar:DaveJennings      from:01/07/1986    till:28/02/1987    color:voice4
 bar:NewtonGraber      from:01/03/1987    till:30/06/1987    color:voice4
 bar:KirkMarcy         from:01/11/1987    till:30/06/1988    color:voice4
 bar:GaryLeeRosenberg  from:01/07/1988    till:30/06/1991    color:voice4
 bar:GregStegeman      from:01/07/1989    till:28/02/1990    color:voice3
 bar:GregStegeman      from:01/03/1990    till:31/10/1990    color:voice1
 bar:GregStegeman      from:01/11/1990    till:30/06/1992    color:voice3
 bar:GregStegeman      from:01/07/1992    till:30/06/1999    color:voice1
 bar:GregStegeman      from:01/07/1999    till:30/06/2001    color:voice2
 bar:KevinStout        from:01/07/1992    till:30/06/1999    color:voice3
 bar:BobFerreira       from:01/07/1992    till:31/12/2015    color:voice4
 bar:AlanMacIntosh     from:01/07/1994    till:30/06/1996    color:voice2
 bar:BrianEichenberger from:01/07/1996    till:30/06/1999    color:voice2
 bar:BrianEichenberger from:01/07/1999    till:05/02/2015    color:voice1
 bar:VinceJohnson      from:01/07/1999    till:31/10/2013    color:voice3
 bar:CurtisCalderon    from:01/07/2001    till:31/10/2013    color:voice2
 bar:CurtisCalderon    from:01/11/2013    till:31/12/2015    color:voice3
 bar:SteinMalvey       from:01/11/2013    till:31/12/2015    color:voice2
 bar:TommyBoynton      from:05/02/2015    till:31/12/2015    color:voice1


Four Freshmen Society

The 21st International Four Freshmen Society Convention, "Back Home in Indiana", was held in Indianapolis, the home of Butler University, August 21–23, 2008. Six hundred of the approximately 3,000 Society members attended in honor of The Four Freshmen's 60th year of continual performance. Present were original Four Freshmen Barbour and Flanigan (now Butler honorary doctors) and the widow of Don Barbour. Former Four Freshmen Ray Brown (Group 5), Rod Henley (Groups 8 and 11), Kirk Marcy (Group 12), and Greg Stegeman (Groups 14-21) attended and performed along with then-current Four Freshmen Eichenberger, Calderon, Johnson, and Ferreira (Group 22).

The 22nd International Four Freshmen Society Convention was held August 20–22, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. It is known as the "Blue Moon" convention. Former Freshmen Ross Barbour, Bob Flanigan, Rod Henley, Ray Brown, Autie Goodman, and Greg Stegeman (by phone) participated along with over 400 fans.

The 23rd International Four Freshmen Society Convention was held in Annapolis, Maryland August 19–21, 2010.

The 24th International Four Freshmen Society Convention was held at The Park Inn Hotel in Toledo, Ohio September 8–10, 2011.

The 25th International Four Freshmen Society Convention was held at Harrah's Reno Hotel and Casino in Reno, Nevada, October 4–6, 2012.

The 26th International Four Freshmen Society Convention was held at the Grand Wayne Convention Center, Fort Wayne, Indiana, September 5–7, 2013. This convention honors 65 consecutive years of public performance by the Four Freshmen. The convention is on the site of the former "113 Club" where the Freshmen played their first professional gig on September 20, 1948.

The 27th International Four Freshmen Society Convention was held at the Doubletree Tampa Westshore Hotel, Tampa, Florida, October 2–4, 2014.

The 28th International Four Freshmen Society Convention will be held at the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk Hotel, San Antonio, Texas, September 17-19, 2015.


The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians says that, "The group represented a modernizing force in the sphere of close harmony quartets in American popular music, moving away from the barbershop style to introduce elements of jazz. In doing so, they influenced younger groups such as the Hi-Los and the Beach Boys." [6]

The Oxford Companion to Popular Music says "They sing with great variety, in quiet unison or full-throated harmony, using modern jazz harmonies and varied dynamics, a considerable advance on the typical close-harmony quartets that had preceded them."[7]


The Four Freshmen have been honored with the following designations: JazzTimes magazine's Readers Poll Best Vocal Group (multiple wins), Down Beat magazine's Readers Poll Best Vocal Group (multiple wins), and Down Beat magazine's Readers Poll Hall of Fame finals (multiple years).

Specifically, the Four Freshmen won Best Vocal Group of the Year in Down Beat magazine's Readers' Polls in 1953,[8] 1954,[9] 1955,[10] 1956,[11] 1958,[12] 2000,[13] and 2001.[14]

The Four Freshmen were nominated in the Grammy Vocal Group Performance category in 1958 for The Four Freshmen in Person (Capitol), 1961 for Voices in Fun (Capitol), 1962 for The Swingers (Capitol), 1964 for More Four Freshmen and Five Trombones (Capitol), and in 1986 for Fresh! (Pausa).[citation needed]

"In 1986 they received a Grammy nomination for their 41st LP Fresh in the category of Best Jazz Vocal Performance Duo or Group."[15]


The Four Freshmen were an important influence on Brian Wilson, beginning in the mid-50s. He listened to one of their albums, The Four Freshmen and the Five Trombones, and it "mesmerized" him, and he spoke very highly of it; "'It brings a feeling of love inside me.... That feeling of harmony.'"[16] Aside from listening to their music, the teenage Brian Wilson made a point of seeing the Four Freshmen perform live: "he made solitary pilgrimages to the resort hotels of Catalina Island to see the Four Freshmen"[17]



  1. ^ "A Visit with Bob Flanigan of The Four Freshmen" with Sun City Anthem's Channel 99's music editor, Yvonne Cloutier
  2. ^ Smith, William H. (2008-08-20). "A Vocal Group at the Top of Its Class". The Wall Street Journal. pp. D9. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "The Four Freshman - Inductees - The Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation". Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  4. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 20 – Forty Miles of Bad Road: Some of the best from rock 'n' roll's dark ages. [Part 1]" (AUDIO). Pop Chronicles. 
  5. ^ - accessed August 2011
  6. ^ The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Second Edition (2001), entry by Dave Laing, edited by Stanley Sadie, executive director John Tyrell, Grove: New York.
  7. ^ The Oxford Companion to Popular Music (1991), Peter Gammond, Oxford University Press: Oxford, New York.
  8. ^ "DownBeat Magazine". Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  9. ^ "DownBeat Magazine". Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "DownBeat Magazine". Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  11. ^ "DownBeat Magazine". Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  12. ^ "DownBeat Magazine". Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  13. ^ "DownBeat Magazine". Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  14. ^ "DownBeat Magazine". Retrieved 29 November 2014. 
  15. ^ In 1986 they received a Grammy nomination for their 41st LP Fresh in the category of Best Jazz Vocal Performance Duo or Group.
  16. ^ Carlin, Peter Ames (2006), "Catch A Wave: The Rise, Fall & Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson": Rodale. p. 39
  17. ^ Carlin, Peter Ames (2006), "Catch A Wave: The Rise, Fall & Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson": Rodale. p.43
  18. ^ "Four Freshmen, The – Voices In Modern". Retrieved 29 November 2014. 

External links