Championship Quartet(s)

1966 Thermal-aires

Other Awards:

Will Winn

Singing in church from a very early age and coming from a father who put himself through Bible College by singing in gospel quartets, I had not sung with any groups but choirs and choruses, though not in High school. In community college, 1963, I was taking pre-engineering courses which put me in the class of a professor who was very involved in barbershopping and was always talking about the "physics" of sound and the times when part men's harmony produces incredible notes/tones that could be heard in addition to the four guys singing. I had never sung any barbershop before but at the invitation of this professor, Don Poole, went to a Bakersfield chapter meeting. After singing in the chorus and getting my feet wet, "Mr. Poole" told me that they had just lost the bass in their quartet and were auditioning to fill the spot. That was when I had my first experience with tags. It seemed very natural to me because I've always loved close and challenging harmony and now I was hearing those extra notes with the tingle and hair-raising zing and the subtle adjustment needed to lock a chord I was hooked, and Don invited me over to his home where he played (for hours) old Championship LPs, giving me an incredible audio history of Barbershop Harmony and Quartets. In the Fall of 1963 the district contest was in San Jose. We only had a couple of months to prep, barely put together a blazer and saddle oxford uniform and essentially learned 2 songs (I don't remember the first one, but the second was "Boy of Mine.") We made the night show and ended up 10th which hadn't been accomplished by a Bakersfield Quartet for years (although Dick Blackhurst was tenor of the 1952 district champs, The Verdugo Dons , not from Bako). The District at Sacramento 1964 we placed 3rd with a new bari, Dan Hall, behind the incredible Western Continentals and their encore reprise after winning, "Gonna Build a Mountain." The roof came off! 1965 we placed behind the upstart Bunsters who introduced the pizzazz of tap. In the next year everything went upside down. I was sent a notice to report for a draft physical in Fresno, and, by some fluke I flunked! It gave me the oportunity to join the Navy Reserve which postponed the inevitable. We determined that we would sing in the 1966 Fall District convention, but it was hard for me because I knew I would have to bow out depending on what Uncle Sam decided. However. one interesting thing happened to the Thermal-Aires and that was a very different song we were given that, in those days was a pretty cutting-edge song never done before in contest. "I'll Take Care of Your Cares." As fate would have it, we had a great morning session, and the quartet expected to win the District, The Far Westerners (a super quartet with a great bass, my buddy Bill Merry)had one of those disastrous days. They came back solid in the evening session, but we were also solid and I think mesmerized the judges. One comment the next morning was, "I don't know whether that song was legal ... better not sing it again! Through those few years we had the priviledge of singing on shows with great quartets including the Pasadena Show that featured the Golden Staters and the reigning International champs, The Four Statesmen ("You Only Want Me When You're Lonesome" one of my all time simple favorite ballads) Got to step in to sing with them. Shortly after that I was headed fomy active duty requirement and things never worked out for me to rejoin the Thermal-Aires.