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Four Freshmen to perform at OCCC

The vocal group is celebrating its 65th anniversary with a new album and tour.
BY GENE TRIPLETT etriplett@opubco.com Published: November 13, 2012
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They are Brian Wilson's favorite live act and there wouldn't have been a Beach Boys without them.

Longtime “CBS Sunday Morning” anchor Charles Osgood once declared that they've “endured for the simple reason that they are tops in their class.”

And Downbeat Magazine has honored them with its prestigious Best Vocal Group award seven times since 1953. Jazz Times bestowed the same title upon them in 2003 and 2005.

On Tuesday at Oklahoma City Community College, the 22nd version of the Four Freshmen will demonstrate the handsome four-part harmonies that have earned them all of these honors and adulation throughout 65 years of continuous performing.

“Well, I've never seen the Beach Boys except for when Brian Wilson has come to see our show,” said senior Freshmen member Bob Ferreira in a recent phone interview from his Las Vegas home.

“Yeah, there's no denying the Beach Boys' sound is just great,” he said. “We all love the Beach Boys, and the fact of what they have done to inspire generations of musicians with their style of music. It's great to know that what we do actually inspired them.”

Of course, the Four Freshmen don't sing about surfboards, T-Birds or good vibrations. They're all about jazz and pop standards dating from the recent past back to the pre-rock 'n' roll days.

Brothers Ross and Don Barbour were attending Butler University's Arthur Jordan Conservatory in Indianapolis in early 1948 when they formed a barbershop quartet called Hal's Harmonizers with Hal Kratzsch and the Barbour's cousin, Bob Flanigan.

The quartet soon adopted a more jazz-oriented style, at first influenced by Glenn Miller's Modernaires and Mel Torme's Mel-Tones, but gradually developed their own style of improvised vocal harmony.

“Actually, the funny thing is that when they first came up with the sound, they would all sit around a guitar and they would go through, chord by chord, and just kind of develop this sound,” Ferreira said. “They didn't have any written arrangements, they didn't have arrangers who wrote for them. With songs like ‘Poinciana' they created it chord by chord. Which explains why you actually have a lot of these hits songs like ‘It's a Blue World' and ‘Poinciana' with all these long, sustained harmonies, these sustained chords that just hold on for a couple of bars, mainly because they didn't want to disrupt the flow. They'd rather have the chord ring, and in developing that sound it was sort of a simplistic idea, but a very complex sound came out of it.”

The quartet went on the road as the Four Freshmen in September 1948, and in 1950 their big break came when band leader Stan Kenton heard the quartet and set up an audition with Capitol Records, which signed the group.

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IN CONCERT

The Four Freshmen

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Oklahoma City Community College Theatre, 7777 S May Ave.

Information: 682-7579; occc.edu/cas/

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