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August 24, 2011

Ross Barbour, a Founding ‘Freshman,’ Dies at 82

New York Times:

In 1947, Ross Barbour (photo left) and three other freshmen decided to take a year’s break from college to take their barbershop quartet on the road. They soon morphed into the Four Freshmen, a close-harmony, jazz-inflected vocal group that is still going strong — albeit with performers who were not even born at the inception.

Mr. Barbour, who never managed to make it back to school, died at 82 on Saturday at his home in Simi Valley, Calif., as the last of the founding members of the Four Freshmen. Dina Roth, a manager of the group, said the cause was lung cancer. Instead of studying, the Four Freshmen ended up teaching a fresh approach to close harmony, influencing the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, the Lettermen, the Manhattan Transfer and other groups. Their sound was characterized by long, lush chords — Mr. Barbour called them “purple chords” — and an improvisational style that made four voices seem like five or six. Each of the singers also played at least one instrument.

Brian Wilson, the genius behind the sound of the Beach Boys, was inspired by seeing the Four Freshmen when he was 15 at the Coconut Grove in Hollywood in 1958. He called them his “harmonic education.”

The others in the original group were Mr. Barbour’s brother Don, who was killed in a car accident in 1961; Hal Kratzsch, who died of cancer in 1970; and Bob Flanigan, who died in May.

The group has been widely described as the longest continuously performing vocal quartet of its kind in the United States, an accomplishment made possible by the constant matriculations of new freshmen. There have been a total of 23. Current members are Brian Eichenberger, Curtis Calderon, Vince Johnson and Bob Ferreira. Read more.

"It will be a blue world without you"

Posted by acapnews at August 24, 2011 8:49 PM

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