Side Street Ramblers
- Lead: Bill Thornton
- Lead: Jim Law
- Lead: Jim Casey
Represented the Southwestern District.
- 1976 1st
- Side Street Ramblers
- Seems Like Yesterday
Also appear on
- Here's to The Winners with the Vocal Majority
Side Street Ramblers
written and researched by Grady Kerr
taken from Golden Memories - The History of the Southwestern District - pub 1996
One night in late 1975, a six foot five inch bass named Earl Hagn walked into a Dallas Vocal Majority rehearsal. He was soon approached by many three-man quartets. Three members of the final version (and recently disbanded) Stage Door Four talked him into joining them. Earl made the fourth with Keith Houts (tenor), Jim Law (lead) and Dennis Malone (bari) and they decided on the name “Side Street Ramblers”. So new to Barbershopping, Hagn originally thought “International” was a truck.
They qualified for District, and in San Antonio the Ramblers won the audience and the contest with "Gotta Be on My Way". Being named district quartet champions only 90 days after forming made them an "overnight success". They are perhaps the only district champion to win the title of novice champs in the same contest.
They qualified for the 1977 International in Philadelphia but placed a disappointing 28th place.
Lead Jim Law decided to retire from his law practice and moved to New Mexico. A talented artist, Jim went on to create the sculpture now seen on the current International Quartet Trophy. In a move that would become a Ramblers tradition, in stepped their coach, Bill Thornton, lead of the 1973 Dealer's Choice.
In Minneapolis at the 1979 International, they won chorus gold medals with the Vocal Majority, and placed seventh in the quartet contest.
In 1980 at the Salt Lake City International the Ramblers decided to try something unique. They carried a theme throughout all three sets. They staged different phases of the Civil War. The Ramblers placed 7th once again. Thornton attacking the mic didn’t help.
Bill moved to Oklahoma and, in keeping with tradition (and proving they can make ANY lead sound good) - in stepped their coach Brian Beck, Bari of the 1973 Dealer's Choice. The Ramblers were gaining popularity around the country as an excellent show quartet. They sang on countless shows in the States and abroad.
At the 1981 Detroit International, despite Earl having both arms in slings from a biking accident, they moved up to THIRD.
They placed THIRD again at the 1982 International contest in Pittsburgh.
Seattle, 1983, would finally be their city and their year.
A screenplay writer couldn't have placed the Ramblers in a more dramatic position. They were chosen to sing LAST in the Top Ten final session. They just happened to have a surprise ending planned. They ended the entire contest with a special "killer" TAG. This received the only standing ovation of the entire quartet contest.
They soon appeared on the Phil Donahue Show.
The next six years included recordings and world travels. They performed at Mid-Winter in Hawaii, traveled to Switzerland, Italy, Singapore, Austria, Australia and New Zealand, England's 1988 BABS convention and even a cruise from LA to Acapulco.
The Ramblers give credit to their coaches, legendary Don Clause and John and Tom Sommer of Columbus, Ohio.
The Ramblers recorded two fine albums, the first in 1982 entitled creatively enough, “Side Street Ramblers” and then “Seems Like Yesterday” in 1985. Both were re-released on ENCORE!
In 1988, Brian left to rejoin the reunited Dealer's Choice, so in stepped their coach and super lead #4 - Jim Casey for their last year. They retired following the 1989 AIC show. Sadly, we lost Jim Casey on May 5, 2007 and Earl Hagn January 16, 2006. Their last appearance together on stage was during Earl Hagn’s induction into the SWD Hall of Fame October 22nd, 2005.
Few champs have been better goodwill ambassadors for barbershopping and the Society. The Ramblers made many friends and fans worldwide. All still remember them as gold medal performers and gold medal guys.