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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.