Sunday, July 8, 2018

THE FAVORITE FOURSOME BLOGATHON: The Hi-Lo's


Hosted by MovieMovieBlogBlog, in celebration of that wonderful blog's fourth anniversary (cue the cheering and confetti) The Favorite Foursome Blogathon is underway.


Click HERE for the fun.




COOL TV was a Canadian specialty channel with a focus on music (jazz, blues, world) that operated from 2003 to 2008. COOL TV did not introduce me to The Hi-Lo's; I had long admired and enjoyed the close harmonies of this jazz vocal group. However, COOL TV brought The Hi-Lo's into my life in a big way.

During that decade I became something of a professional patient. A struggle with colorectal cancer involved radiation, two bouts of chemotherapy and numerous surgeries. Downtime was devoted to something referred to medically as recuperation. The most recuperative of my time was spent in my happy place in front of the television. The happiest of my happy places was at lunchtime when COOL TV showed The Rosemary Clooney Show.

A syndicated half-hour program of 40 episodes produced between 1956 and 1958, The Rosemary Clooney Show starred the popular singer with Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra, and "four guys called the Hi-Lo's". This was how the guys introduced the line-up, and themselves, not to mention "our very, very special guest (fill in the blank)". What guests! Everyone from Boris Karloff to Buster Keaton, Carol Channing to Charles Coburn, Dorothy Kirsten to Mel Torme, and more.

Gene Puerling, Bob Strasen, Clark Burroughs, Bob Morse

The Hi-Lo's were featured as a group, soloists, in duets with Rosie, and in skits. Vocalist and arranger Gene Puerling (1929-2008) formed the group in 1953. Our personnel that appeared on the program are Gene, Bob Morse (1923-2001), Bob Strassen (1928-1994), and Clark Burroughs.

As you can see from the picture above, the name of the group came not only from their sizes; Bob S. and Bob M. being tall and Gene and Clark on the shorter side, but also from their range with the Bobs baritones, Gene a bass-baritone, and Clark a tenor.

A sample of The Rosemary Clooney Show with guest star Boris Karloff.

Watching The Rosemary Clooney Show daily not only gave me a chance to enjoy great guest stars, and Rosie singing her hits and great standards arranged by Nelson Riddle, but it was an opportunity to see and hear The Hi-Lo's in their early prime stretching their vocal abilities and having fun. I'm sure it was good for my health. I should also mention that my Hi-Lo's album collection increased greatly during this time.


This is just a touch of their discography:

Listen to the Hi-Lo's
The Hi-Lo's I Presume
The Hi-Lo's Under Glass
Suddenly It's the Hi-Lo's
The Hi-Lo's and All That Jazz
The Hi-Lo's Broadway Playbill
The Hi-Lo's Happen to Folk Songs
Ring Around Rosie (with Rosemary Clooney)


Bob Strasen left the group in 1959, but they continued with the addition of Don Shelton. Later Don would be a part of the incredible recording group Sings Unlimited with Gene, Len Dresslar (1925-2005), and the magnificent Bonnie Herman. Above enjoy The Hi-Lo's in a clip from the 1964 comedy Good Neighbor Sam. Jack Lemmon is an ad man and Dave Ketchum is the beleaguered actor in the commercial being shot.


The Hi-Lo's parted ways in the mid-1960s but were reunited in the 1970s at the urging of the German label recording Singers Unlimited. The album The Hi-Lo's - Back Again was recorded in 1978 and for the next decade, they thrilled audiences at festivals and colleges.

The music of The Hi-Lo's and Gene Puerling's arrangements would influence many singers/musicians including The Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, The Gatlin Brothers, Take Six, and Manhattan Transfer. To this day students and jazz singers look to The Hi-Lo's for inspiration. Check out Toronto's own Danny Fong for some great new music.


I will leave you with The Hi-Lo's and the Gershwin's Fascinatin' Rhythm, trusting that you will now be lost in YouTube Heaven for the next hour or three.












12 comments:

  1. Charming post! I confess I'd never heard of the group until now, but I can easily see (and hear) their appeal for you. Thanks so much for contributing this to the blogathon!

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    1. Thank you. When you announced the topic they came to mind immediately. I've told my family I want The Hi Lo's version of Swing Low Sweet Chariot played at my funeral or I'll haunt them!

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  2. A few months ago I met a dude who was in a barbershop quartet. He even tried to teach me how to vocalize the way those singers do. It was a very basic lesson; what I did couldn't even count as singing, really, more like harmonizing. Don't know if this is the same as what the Hi-Los did, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.

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    1. Harmonizing properly takes a lot of skill. It is one of the great arts of singing. Ask any chorister! For me, there is nothing more thrilling that combining your voice with others and making a great sound. Have you considered following up on the barber shop bit?

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    2. Funny you should mention that... Virginia invited me to a choral singing workshop in Massachusetts next month. I doubt there'll be any barbershop stuff there, though. I figure it's something to do - and we'll be together for it, so why not?

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    3. Definitely. Chorale work includes big time harmony, it is simply that there are different songs involved. The two of you will have a wonderful time together. Time spent with folks making music is time well spent.

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  6. You have introduced me to Cool TV and the Hi-Lo's...both which were new to me. I checked out their peppy "Misty" on YouTube and loved it. (By the way, I'm watching a Canadian TV show now called "Endgame"...but only 13 episodes!)

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    1. I'm so happy to be your host to the world of the Hi-Lo's.

      Good to see some Canuck shows getting a wider audience. Look for the Canadian sitcom Kim's Convenience to show up on Netflix. I love it.

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  7. I'm a bit embarrassed to say I've never heard of the HI-Lo's before, but I looked them up on YouTube after perusing the clips you've posted. They're marvelous! I'm a new fan!

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