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September 20, 2004

Boston Herald

After more than 50 years of song, you'd think the Four Freshmen would have graduated by now. Or at least aged: You don't expect a group formed in 1948 to feature such a fresh-faced quartet. But the Four Freshmen have discovered the key to the Fountain of Youth -- just keep replacing members, but use a lot of quality control. After all, this is a group known as one of the greatest jazz vocal quartets of all time, not Menudo.

"We've had 22 different people in the group," said Bob Flanagan, 78, one of the original Four Freshmen and the group's owner. "And of the groups that have been performing all these years -- I think I can honestly say this is the best Freshmen group that we've had. Your ears will be pleasantly surprised."

Charlie Messier of Shrewsbury, who handles the group's bookings in Massachusetts, has been a fan of the group since the 1950s, when the original quartet played the Crystal Room in Milford. The music has held up well over the years, he said. "Nobody else sounds like the Four Freshmen," Messier said. "They have such a distinct sound." That "sound" is as distinct as the Beach Boys, Flanagan said. Singing groups at the time the Four Freshmen were formed had the lead voice in the middle of the chord. The Freshmen were the first male group to put the lead voice at the top of the chord, leading to distinctive arrangements in "open" harmony, with the four voices spreading over the area that normally would require a five-part group to cover. "The group is probably the most copied singing group of all time," Flanagan said. "And that's all over the world. We don't do vibrato, which most singers do, and we do play our own instruments. These are musicians."

Posted by acapnews at September 20, 2004 9:58 PM