Sound of Illinois (Bloomington)
The Bloomington Chapter’s first meeting was April 27, 1942, at the American Legion Building at the invitation of B. Paul Jefferson and L. Earl Bach. Paul became first president, John Hanson of Peoria was hired as director on May 18, and the Illinois Hotel became the rehearsal site that year.
Other founding members (in addition to Jefferson and Bach): K.R. Ward, secretary-treasurer; Joe Bunting; Otto G. Beich; L. Earl Bach; Dave Ward; Hugh A. Henry; Floyd Dana; Art Kane; Dan Carmody. (See later section for founder biographies.)
- 1 Hotbed of Harmony
- 2 Activities
- 3 Key Dates
- 4 The Chorus Name
- 5 The Barber Post Becomes The Newsletter
- 6 Bloomington’s District Champion Quartets
- 7 Corn Belt Chorus
- 8 Directors
- 9 Venues
- 10 The Founders: Who Were These Guys?
- 11 International Competition
- 12 District Competition
- 13 Presidents, Shows
- 14 Bloomington’s Favorite Sons
- 15 Youth In Harmony (YIH)
- 16 Local MUSIC MAN Connection
- 17 Wrigley Field Appearances
- 18 Community Outreach
- 19 Lucca Grill Connection
- 20 State Farm Connection
- 21 Daily Pantagraph Connection
- 22 WJBC Radio Connection
- 23 Conklin Connection
- 24 People of Note
- 25 Bits & Pieces
- 26 External Links
Hotbed of Harmony
From the international board of directors, to the teaching and arranging of barber shop music, to the growth of chapters, Bloomington was truly a hotbed of harmony.
Names such as John Hanson Media:John Hanson.jpg, Bloomington’s first director, and Floyd Connett Media:Connett Headshot.jpg, second director, were widely known across the Society in the formative years. Founder Otto Beich Media:Otto Beich Formal.jpg served several years on the international board. Hanson became known because of his Corn Belt Chorus project and was the first Society emcee to hold the title. Connett was hired in 1957 as the Society's first field man Media:Connett003.jpg to travel the country spreading the barbershop craft to chapters, and he produced the Just Plain Barbershopping book of arrangements, most of which were his.
There are others. Loren Bogart ABE 1973 Loren Bogart.png, international stage presence judge and district president. And Bob Lindley Media:Bob Lindley.jpg, long-time Bloomington show emcee, who is the only chapter member to hold a quartet gold medal from international competition (baritone of The Vikings who won in 1953). And Sam Anliker Media:Anliker.jpg, former SOI director and founder of Bloomington High School Barbershoppers, a pioneer group in the Society’s Youth In Harmony program. And Dwayne Cooper Media:Dwayne Cooper.jpg, a product of the Bloomington High program who is Society treasurer and past president of the Southwestern District. And John Krizek Media:Krizek3.jpg Media:Krizek Lucca.JPG, former Far Western District president and international board member, and co-founder of the college quartet competition that is now part of international conventions.
Competition: The Bloomington chorus appearance in Nashville, Tenn., in July 2016 marked the ninth consecutive year (12th overall) that Bloomington has represented Illinois in the “olympics” of barbershop chorus competition. The chorus placed 21st (see photo) after placing 12th in Pittsburgh in 2015 and 14th in 2014 in Las Vegas. (Here are links to the two songs SOI sang in Pittsburgh: Old Man River: http://youtu.be/mIwBYUut6uw Here Comes The Showboat: https://youtu.be/NKZ7QNUomMY) The chorus placed third in 1957 Media:Kountry Kernels L.A. 1957 (2).jpg, fourth in 1960 Media:1960 Contest Dallas - 4th Place.jpg and tenth in 1977 Media:Philadelphia77.jpg. Here are photos from more recent years: Media:2008 SOI Nashville.jpg Media:soi-2009.jpg Media:soi-2010.jpg Media:2011Intl.jpg Media:Image 2(1).jpg Media:2013Intl.jpg Media:2014Intl.jpg
Performances for charity: March of Dimes Radio Auction (later the Children’s Health Services Radio Auction) Media:WJBC Auction 1.jpg, WJBC Radio Brotherhood Tree (Christmas gifts for needy McLean County, IL, families), Habitat for Humanity fund-raising concerts Media:Habitat 2009.jpg, Brokaw (Hospital) Follies fund-raising programs.
Community performances: Annual shows (every year since inception) for local patrons featuring the best barber shop quartets and the Bloomington chorus; Sounds of Christmas, a free holiday program that features local community talent (SOI is the only group selected every year) Media:Sounds of Christmas3.jpg; Christmas at the Courthouse, a day-long program of local performers at the McLean County Museum of History Media:SOI Valentine Quartet.jpg; Community Players four productions since the 1960s of The Music Man play, featuring quartets from SOI (see separate section); concerts as featured group with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra Media:BNSymphony.JPG; Singing Valentines Media:HH Valentine.jpg, a service of songs and flowers to local patrons; national anthem for local events Media:Isu anthem.jpg Media:2011 Sound Opportunity sings national anthem at KC Royals game.jpg; local church services Media:2PC Sing.JPG Media:Gospel 2011.jpg; various civic events Media:1953 Korean War Welcome Home.jpg.
Society Recognition: In 2011, the Bloomington Chapter was recognized by the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) as the Society's third best chapter, judged on a range of activities considered important to success: membership, community outreach, chapter management, contest involvement, member fulfillment.
Grants: The Sound of Illinois Chorus is a respected member of the Central Illinois arts community, acknowledged by grants from Central Illinois Arts Council, Town of Normal Harmon Arts Grants, Good Neighbor Grants from State Farm Companies Foundation, Wells-Fargo. Media:Imgp6189.jpg
May 5, 1941 – Bloomington’s Paul Jefferson wrote a letter to Paul Wodicka, Society board member from St. Louis, Mo., inquiring about the steps necessary to organize an SPEBSQSA chapter in Bloomington. They had met Sunday, April 20, 1941, when Wodicka attended a state board meeting in Bloomington.
Feb. 22, 1942 – A carload of 6 Bloomington men (Otto Beich, Earl Bach, Paul Jefferson, Joe Bunting, Kay Ward and Dave Ward) went to Springfield for a meeting sponsored by the Illinois Harmony Club on the second floor of St. John’s Union Hall. Singers from Springfield, Canton, Peoria, Pawnee, Jacksonville, Decatur, St. Louis (probably more) attended. Quartets performed: Harmony Kings, Capitol City Four, Morgan County Four, Mound City Four. The Peoria Chorus sang, directed by John Hanson. This was the Bloomington men’s first introduction to Hanson.
March 26, 1942 – About 20 Bloomington men and wives returned to Springfield to hear the Southernaires, nationally-famous Negro quartet. It was after this meeting that the Bloomington men aggressively pursued organization.
Sunday, April 12 –The men gathered at the Illinois Hotel during the state meeting of SPEBSQSA with organization details in hand. The Bloomington group elected Paul Jefferson president and Kay Ward secretary-treasurer. The group received its charter from the Society.
Monday, April 27, 1942 – Notices were mailed to many local men, urging them to attend the first regular meeting at the American Legion Building in Bloomington at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 27, 1942. Newspaper coverage indicates more than 100 men attended.
Monday, May 4, 1942 – Second meeting. No record of what happened!
Monday, May 18, 1942 – Peoria Director John Hanson agreed to meet and direct the Bloomington chorus at 7:30 p.m. at the Illinois Hotel.
Monday, May 25, 1942 – John Hanson agreed to continue directing the Bloomington group until it was fully organized. He directed Bloomington 10 years. Hanson also was the SPEBSQSA organization’s first official emcee.
The Chorus Name
The Bloomington Chorus has had four names over the years. Founded in 1942, Founder Joe Bunting's 20-year history identifies the first name as The Bloomington Harmony Club. The chapter adopted the Corn Belt Chorus at the 1943 Society convention in Grand Rapids, site of the first chorus contest. When members of Bloomington and surrounding chapters sang together in the hotel lobby, someone asked: “What’s the name of that bunch?” Bunting shouted back: “The Corn Belt Chorus.”
That name stuck until 1956 when the chorus won the right to compete in the Society’s fifth chorus competition. That's when the chorus won third place in Los Angeles (1957) and was known as the Kountry Kernels. No one recorded who came up with the name, but the bib overalls and red bandanas carried out the theme.
In 1973, a contest to find a new name resulted in Sound of Illinois, submitted by Loren Bogart. New gold suits were introduced at the Ladies’ Night dinner at Williams Town Hall, along with Bogart’s winning name. “I was quite honored the chorus finally accepted one of my suggestions after 27 years of offering ideas,” joked Bogart, according to The Barber Post.
The Barber Post Becomes The Newsletter
In January, 1961, Bloomington Chapter president was Charlie Driver (photo at left), managing editor of The Daily Pantagraph. No surprise, then, that he took editorship of the The Bloomington Barbershopper, a temporary title assigned to a new weekly newsletter mailed to members.
On April 27, 1961, after a contest of several months, the one-page mailer became The Barber Post, a name thought up by Charlie Kirkpatrick Media:Charlie Kirkpatrick.jpg and suggested by Ed Cooke (both non-singing members). The name has stuck, even though the printed version evolved to an electronic version in 2004.
Prior to 1961, John Armstrong produced Megaphone Media:Megaphone.png, a periodic newsletter. The only issue preserved is dated Sept. 2, 1958. It cites current quartets as: The Rogues Media:the rogues.jpg, Drop Chords Media:drop chords.png, The 4 Barons Media:Four Barons, 1960 Ill. Champs.jpg and The Pied Typers Media:Pied Typers 2.jpg.
Bloomington’s District Champion Quartets
Eight quartets with Bloomington members have won the gold medal in Illinois quartet competition since 1960.
The first was The Four Barons in 1960. Members were Jerry Girard, tenor; Bob Park, lead; Bob Potts, baritone; Chuck Lewis, bass. All are deceased except for Bob.
In 1970, The Ideals won the title with these members: Jim Stahly, tenor; Jack Aldridge, lead; Al Draper, baritone; Chuck Lewis, bass. All are deceased except for Jim.
In 1977, The Candidates were champions. Lead Dean Ramga (deceased) was a Bloomington member and chorus director. Others were Steve Burkhart, tenor; Tim McEvilly, baritone; Ed Chapman, bass.
Beginning in 2010, Bloomington quartets won four of the next five titles.
After Hours won in 2010. Members (all from Bloomington chapter) were Tim Beutel, tenor; Ben Harding, lead; Kevin McClelland, baritone; Dan Wessler, bass. They began singing together as Bradley University students and competed in the BHS collegiate college competition.
In 2011, The Waldorf Hair Company was champion. Members were Terry Ludwig, tenor; Tim Pashon, lead; Craig Ahlgrim, baritone; Bret Reinthaler, bass. All but Ahlgrim are Bloomington members.
In 2013, Chronicle won the the state title. Two members were Bloomington members: John Davis, lead, and Donovan Davis, bass. Others were Steve Davis, tenor, and Don Deegan, baritone.
In 2014, the champion was Drive Time. Bloomington members include Tim Pashon, lead, and Rich Hansen, baritone. Other members are Tim Mahannah, tenor, and Andy Isbell, bass.
In 2015, Union Station won the title with Bloomington member John Davis (left) singing baritone. The others, from left, are from Northbrook: Jay Giallombardo, bass; Oliver Merrill, lead; Steve Davis, tenor.
In 2016, The Committee won the title with Bloomington members, from left: Kevin McClelland, baritone; Brett Mulford, bass; Matt Carlen, lead; Mike Lietke, tenor.
1951 Champion Baritone Became Bloomington Member Later
Former Bloomington member Bob Lindley (second from left) sang baritone in the 1951 state champions, The Vikings, although prior to his move to Bloomington. He is the only remaining member alive.
Corn Belt Chorus
Bloomington’s first director, John Hanson, also led choruses in other Central Illinois communities. He told Society Founder O.C. Cash in a recorded letter (circa 1944) his dream was to someday put a thousand men on stage at the same time, all singing songs he had taught them at their individual chapter meetings.
At that time, he admitted, there wasn’t a venue large enough to hold such a group, so the most that had gathered for one singout was about 300. The concept took shape in 1946 with choruses in 9 cities participating: Bloomington, Decatur, Monmouth, Canton, Jacksonville, Peoria, Rock Island, Galesburg and Lincoln. It died in 1953 when John Hanson retired from directing (he died July 17, 1954). At that time, six cities were involved (Bloomington, Decatur, Champaign, Dwight, Peoria, and Gibson City).
The name was the result of an impromptu response by Founder Joe Bunting, who coined the name at Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1953. Men from Central Illinois chapters were attending the international convention and were heard singing in the hotel lobby.
Someone shouted: “Who are you guys?” Bunting responded: “The Corn Belt Chorus.” The name stuck.
Bloomington and Decatur choruses were involved all eight years of the Corn Belt Chorus.
On Feb. 29 and March 1, 1992, to honor Bloomington’s 50th anniversary, the Corn Belt Chorus was recreated on Bloomington’s show. More than 130 members from 10 Central Illinois choruses performed seven songs on Illinois State University’s Braden Auditorium stage as part of the Heritage of Harmony show. Quartets on the show were The Naturals from Ohio, plus Bloomington quartets The Ideals and Interstate Junction.
Number of Corn Belt Chorus cities by year:
1946 – 9 cities
1947 – 7 cities
1948 – 10 cities
1949 – 8 cities
1950 – 4 cities
1951 – 5 cities
1952 – 6 cities
1953 – 6 cities
Community Involvment by year:
Community No. of Years Years
Bloomington 8 1946-53
Decatur 8 1946-53
Champaign 6 1948-53
Monmouth 5 1946-50
Canton 4 1946-49
Jacksonville 4 1946-49
Dwight 3 1951-53
Peoria 3 1946, 1952-53
Rock Island 3 1946-47, 1949
Galesburg 2 1946, 1948
Mattoon 2 1947-48
Burlington, IA 1 1949
Cambridge 1 1947
Charleston 1 1948
Gibson City 1 1953
Lincoln 1 1946
Princeton 1 1948
Springfield 1 1951
Urbana 1 1952
Chorus Director: 1942-1953
Born: June 24, 1895, in Peoria, IL
Died: July 17, 1954, in Bloomington
Burial: Park Hill Cemetery, Bloomington.
John Hanson was first director of Bloomington Chapter No. 1 from its inception in April 1942 until 1953. A graduate of Peoria Manual Training High School, John was a former semi-pro baseball player and an early associate of radio’s Fibber McGee (Jim Jordan) in vaudeville. (Jordan sand lead in Hanson’s first quartet, The Templeton Four) Media: Templeton Quartet0001.jpg. John was instrumental in spreading barber shop singing in Central Illinois from his home in Peoria. At age 39, he was asked to help put on a minstrel show at a Peoria high school and he asked friends from communities around Peoria to participate. About 40 responded and produced a very respectable show of quartets, soloists and a chorus.
The men decided to stay together and formed the Klose Harmony Klub Media:Klose Harmony Klub - Hanson.jpg. In 1941, after learning about the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, Inc. (SPEBSQSA), the group organized as the Peoria Chapter with 54 members. In April 1942, Bloomington organized its chapter and named John Hanson its director.
As many as 10 communities were led by John in the Forties, and he taught them all the same songs by rote. These communities joined for performances as the Corn Belt Chorus. When a Corn Belt Chorus chapter put on a show, the entire chorus was invited. A May 6, 1946, photo in the Peoria Journal Star chronicled a 325-man chorus singing at the Peoria show.
In 1941, John sang bass with the Capitol City Four of Springfield when they placed fifth in the national contest. He sang bass for several years with the Gipps-Amberlin Four of Peoria Media:Gipps Amberlin Four0001.jpg, placing fourth in the 1944 national contest and literally stopping the show with its rendition of “Shine.”
John was an international board member 1942-43 and was the Society’s first designated Master of Ceremonies for national conventions. He lived in Bloomington his final five years. His late daughter, Betty Hanson Oliver, sang tenor with the international champion Sweet Adelines quartet The Pitchpipers Media:Hanson with Pitchpipers (daughter Betty with hand to mouth).jpg.
Chorus Director: 1953-1957
Born: April 3, 1915, in Peoria.
Died: Sept. 21, 1963, in Peoria.
Burial: Park View Cemetery, Peoria.
Floyd Connett became Bloomington’s second director in 1953. A real-life barber in Peoria Media:Connett Shop.png, Floyd took up the profession after attending Peoria Barber College and marrying Maxine Talbot in 1937. They had a daughter, Linda (Keutzer), and a son, Steve, and the family often sang together. “Any one of the Connett Quartet sings any part, except me,” said Floyd in his barber shop resume. “The kids say, ‘You just haven’t got it, Dad!’”
In 1953, Floyd had been directing the Peoria Belles Sweet Adelines chorus for five years. In just three years, he took the Bloomington chorus to the state title, which qualified the Kountry Kernels (the name adopted in 1956) for the international competition in Los Angeles in 1957. Connett and the chorus, dressed in bib overalls, straw hats, red bandanas and work boots, placed third, its highest finish ever Media:Kountry Kernels L.A. 1957 (2).jpg.
At the contest, Floyd’s prowess (he was certified judge in all five contest categories) made him a popular coach for many quartets who sought his help. It also was a showcase for Floyd, who was hired that same year to be the Society’s first field representative. He traveled the country by car, visiting chapters and teaching the craft of blending and harmonizing with thousands of members. In 1961, he left that job to become national educational director of Sweet Adelines.
Floyd was an accomplished arranger, with many of his works still among those published by the Society. Most of the songs performed by Bloomington in the Fifties and early Sixties were Connett arrangements. He coached many quartets on their way to winning gold medals, and he also worked with The Buffalo Bills as the quartet prepared for its role in Meredith Willson’s The Music Man on Broadway. Introduced to the barber shop chord by John Hanson, Bloomington’s first director, Floyd acknowledged how thankful he was to have served his apprenticeship under John. A Hanson arrangement of My Hometown, updated by Floyd, became a successful contest tune for the Kountry Kernels.
The Tuesday prior to the 1963 state convention, Floyd was coaching the Bloomington chorus (directed by his protégé, Glenn Perdue) as it prepared for competition the coming weekend. It was the following Saturday, Sept. 21, while pulling weeds at his barber shop property, he succumbed to a heart attack at age 48.
On that Tuesday, Floyd was reminiscing with Charlie Driver and Harold Coffman about his first night as Bloomington director. He recalls that he came over “to really show the boys his stuff.” He taught the chorus a song by rote by 9 p.m. and was ready to add the tag. But President Coffman interrupted and said it was time for a break. Floyd protested but Harold insisted. All through the business meeting, Connett said he was fuming. “Who’s this guy Coffman who thinks he can tell me what to do?” he muttered to himself. He grew more perturbed when a couple of quartets sang. About 9:30, Harold turned to Floyd and said: “Now it’s all yours. How about teaching us that tag?”
Connett taught the tag, then led the entire song which went without a hitch. The 40 guys spontaneously jumped to their feet and gave the blushing Connett a sincere, prolonged ovation. According to Floyd, he felt about 10 inches tall. It was the first time, he said, he understood a chorus should be run by the members and the director should concentrate on directing. This anecdote about separation of powers – this distinction between chapter and chorus – became a theme of his comments to chapters during his time as Society field representative.
Chorus Director: 1957-1971
Born: April 21, 1925 at Peoria, Ill.
Died: March 28, 2017 at Peoria, Ill.
Glenn Perdue became Bloomington’s third director in 1957, when his mentor, Floyd Connett, left to become the Society’s first field man. Glenn sang baritone in the Kountry Kernels in 1957 and was Floyd’s assistant director. Glenn also directed the Peoria Chapter 18 years, many times leading both groups in the same competition.
Glenn comes from a musical family, which moved to Abingdon soon after he was born and returned when he was eight. At five, Glenn and his brother Bob, 3, would go with their father as he played piano at clubs. After playing Maple Leaf Rag, for example, Glenn says his father would have the two boys sing a couple of songs. “Then Bob and I would pass the hat. We collected and they (Dad and the banjo player) made the money!” The boys also sang on radio. Guy (Glenn’s father) learned to play by putting his fingers on the keys while a player piano operated. Glenn was the only brother who had lessons. Youngest brother Don played by ear. The Perdues sang in a family quartet back in the Fifties Media:Perdue Quartet - Bob, Don, Guy, Glenn.jpg.
After graduating from Peoria Woodruff High School in 1939 where he excelled in all sports, Glenn served in W.W. II on the Intrepid (he attended a ship reunion in Boston in 2009). Glenn returned to Peoria and married Mary Lou on Jan. 1, 1945. Following his father’s profession, Glenn became a piano tuner. The Perdues have a son, three daughters, 10 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. Glenn joined the Society in 1951 in Peoria. He became Bloomington’s assistant director in 1953 under Floyd Connett and took the reins in 1957. Glenn sang baritone under Floyd’s direction when the chorus won 3rd place in 1957 Media:Kountry Kernels L.A. 1957 (2).jpg; Floyd sang baritone with the chorus under Glenn’s direction when the chorus won 4th place in 1960 Media:1960 Contest Dallas - 4th Place.jpg. As fate would have it, Glenn’s appendix required removal about a month before the contest. Rather than forego the chance to direct, he lay prone in the back of Connett’s station wagon for the drive to Texas.
In Peoria, Glenn found himself filling in occasionally for John Hanson, first director of Bloomington and Peoria. As did Hanson and Connett before him, Glenn taught his singers by rote. That meant he had to have all four parts committed to memory. Glenn took Peoria to international competition in 1967 and placed 7th. During his career, he has also directed choruses in Springfield (men’s and women’s 5 years), Decatur (men 9 years), Farmington (2 years), Bloomington (women 2 years) and Peoria (women 6 years) Media: Belles - Perdue0001.jpg.
Quartets have always been a part of Glenn’s barber shop life. He sang baritone with the Heart of Illinois Four Media:HOI20001.jpg, a top-20 finisher in the 1957 international competition in 1957. His brother Bob sang lead. The Midwesternaires Media:Midwesternaires10001.jpg organized in 1961 with Glenn on lead. Placing as high as 3rd in Illinois, the quartet continues to sing most every month for its own pleasure. Glenn sings baritone and lead.
Now in his 90s, Glenn won the Peoria Seniors Men’s City championship in 1997 and 1989.
Chorus Director: 1971-77
Sam Anliker came to the Bloomington Chapter soon after joining Bloomington High School as head of the choral music program. Born in Bloomington, Sam grew up in Eureka and enrolled at Illinois Wesleyan University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in music in 1961 and his master’s in choral conducting in 1966. At Wesleyan, Sam was four-year accompanist for The Apollo Quartet Media:Apollo001.jpg, which appeared several times on Bloomington shows in the early Sixties. Sam was choral director in Roanoke-Benson before assuming Bloomington High’s choral position in 1971.
That’s when he was recruited by Jim Stahly (who sang in The Apollo Quartet) as Bloomington Chapter’s chorus director. Sam attended three Harmony College sessions and recalls working with Mac Huff and Dave Stephens. “That is where real learning came from,” according to Sam. “My master’s degree should have included those Harmony College classes! They were the best!”
After taking the reins of the chorus in 1971, Sam saw the potential of a high school barber shop program increasing male participation in his other choirs. “We were one of the very first high schools to institute the Young Men In Harmony program,” Sam recalls. After just two years, Sam had a group of 36 freshmen boys striving to become one of the 30 varsity barber shop singers. His success was the subject of a page of pictures and an article in the Society’s The Harmonizer (July-August 1973) Media:Scan0001.jpg.
Sam’s BHS Barbershoppers Media:Anliker - BHS Barbershoppers.jpg performed at many school and community programs, including the Bloomington Chapter’s annual shows. Other performances were at Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel, on a southern trip for President Carter, and at the Society’s Kenosha headquarters where an impromptu performance for Music Director Bob Johnson and other staffers planted the seed for the Society’s Young Men In Harmony program. The Kenosha performance led to Sam’s high school boys performing for a National Music Educator’s Conference in Chicago, where the high school presented Bob with a plaque to thank him for his idea of beginning the YMIH (now Youth In Harmony) Program.
“I remember my first rehearsal (with the Bloomington chapter),” Sam says. “I was a real choral director ‘out of water’ because I was used to a music stand to put my music on and look at while I directed the chorus. These (Bloomington Chapter) guys must have gasped!” But Sam’s personality and drive led to the chorus winning the state title in 1976, its first since 1959. That qualified The Sound of Illinois Chorus to compete in Philadelphia in 1977 where it placed 10th out of 16 choruses with 85 men on stage.
That fall, Sam left Bloomington and teaching to take a sales position, eventually relocating to North Carolina where he became an executive recruiter in 1993. He and his wife Joyce live in Indian Land, S.C., where Sam runs his own executive search service for the financial services sector. More than a few of Sam’s former students are barbershoppers, including several in The Sound of Illinois and others around the country. Former BHS singer Dwayne Cooper Media:Dwayne Cooper.jpg is Society treasurer and past president of the Southwestern District.
Chorus Director: 1977-79
Born: Aug. 28, 1946, Columbus, Ohio
Died: Sept. 24, 2011, Fishers, Ind.
Dean came to Bloomington in 1974 as a State Farm transfer from Newark, Ohio, where he had joined the Society in 1971, singing with the Land of Legend Chorus and The Chord Machine quartet. He became active in the music leadership of the Bloomington Chapter immediately as a lead and section leader.
After serving as assistant director, Dean took over the directorship in 1977 until he left Bloomington for Fishers, Ind., in 1979, where he sang with the Southern Gateway Chorus in Cincinnati, Ohio. Probably his most memorable show as director was the 1979 tribute to The Music Man, in which Dean led the chorus and portrayed Professor Harold Hill. He soloed on Trouble in front of the chorus. Dean sang lead in the 1977 Illinois district champion quartet, The Candidates Media:Candidates, 1977 Ill. Champs.jpg. Other members (from other chapters) include: Steve Burkhardt, tenor; Tim McEvilly, baritone; and Ed Chapman, bass. In Dayton, Dean also sang with the Dayton Philharmonic Chorus and the Dayton Bach Society. In 1989, he helped form Musica!, a semi-professional choral ensemble.
Dean died Sept. 24, 2011, at his home. Dean was vice president for finance at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, at the time of his death.
Chorus Director: 1979-1981
Born: 1948, Paris, Ill.
Byron joined the Sound of Illinois Chorus in 1974 and became assistant director in 1978. He was appointed the group’s sixth director in 1979 until 1991, then was co-director (with Jim Stahly) from 1991 until 1993 when he again assumed the lead role for two years (until 1994). He has been a member of the music team for most of his membership as section leader, assistant director, director, and/or music vice president. He sings baritone in the chorus.
A graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University where he earned his bachelor of music education degree in 1970, Byron was choral instructor for the Tri-Valley school system from 1970-77. He joined State Farm's systems department in 1977 and is retired.
Byron’s musical talent was cultivated beginning at six years old when he started piano lessons. He added the baritone horn in fourth grade and organ in seventh grade. While in high school, he was pianist in a five-piece dance band and organist at two churches.
While at Wesleyan, Byron was lured to the pit band by Chaunce Conklin’s Barn Theatre in Goodfield where he played piano for many years. He is the substitute organist for First Presbyterian Church in Normal.
Byron has been an active quartet singer during his years with the SOI. During the last half of the Seventies, he sang lead with Notoriety Society Media:Notoriety society.jpg. He sings baritone with Harmony Guaranteed Media:HG Valentine.jpg which formed in 1991. Byron was Illinois’ Central Division Barbershopper of the Year in 2007, recognizing his contributions to the Bloomington Chapter and Illinois District.
Chorus Director: 1982-1990
Born: May 10, 1940
Jim has been a Society member since 1957, all in the Bloomington Chapter (since 2005, he also is a member of the Naples, FL, Paradise Coastmen chorus). He arranged music for the chorus repertoire from 1965 to 1985, was assistant director under Glenn Perdue 1970-71, and became director in 1982. In 1990, he and Byron Blair shared duties for three years.
Chapter president in 1967, Jim has sung for every Bloomington chorus director except John Hanson, the first. He was a Society arrangement judge (1982-89), district marketing & PR vice president (1997-99), Jim sang tenor in the 1970 Illinois champion quartet, The Ideals (1966-72; 1990-94) Media:The Ideals (1970).jpg, and was its arranger. Other quartets include The Apollo Quartet (IWU group that toured the South Pacific for 2 months in 1962 to entertain U.S. troops), The HappyTimers (1963-65) Media:The HappyTimers.jpg, The Harmonic Plague (1981-85) Media:Harmonic Plague.jpg, Sound Design (1985-86) Media:Sound Design aka State Farm Four.jpg, The Formerlies (2006), Fifth Avenue (2008); Two Young, Too Old (2006) Media:Two Young and Too Old.jpg, and Seniors.com Media:Seniors.com with Stahly 2009.jpg(2009). He was tenor in all groups except Harmonic Plague and Fifth Avenue (a Naples quartet), in which he sang lead, Formerlies and Seniors.com (baritone).
The Bloomington chorus has appeared in international competition five times, and Jim has sung in all but the first (1957 in Los Angeles, where the chorus placed third). He was in the audience to witness that performance (his father sang bass). Jim also performed with The Ideals at the 1972 international competition in Atlanta, Ga.
Jim was Central Division Barbershopper of the Year (BOTY) in 1987 and received the 2011 Music Man Award from the Illinois Quartet Champions Association (QCA). His music background includes 8 years of piano, 4 years as tenor in Illinois Wesleyan University’s Collegiate Choir and 4 years as tenor in IWU’s Apollo Quartet.
You will find Jim in the baritone section of the Sound of Illinois or the lead section of The Paradise Coastmen (winter months).
Chorus Co-directors 1991-1993
Byron Blair and Jim Stahly
During the three-year period beginning in 1991, Byron Blair and Jim Stahly were co-directors of the chorus, sharing the teaching and conducting duties that included shows, contests and singouts. With a genuine respect for each other, and no egos to coddle, the chorus responded to the joint leadership with enthusiasm.
Chorus Director: 1994
Born: April 19, 1931
Died: Aug. 21, 1999
George Peters served the shortest term of any Bloomington chorus director, filling the position during 1994. As a nearby Interpretation judge, he had been a frequent coach of the chorus and agreed to takethe position upon his retirement from his job at ComEd in Naperville in 1992 after 43 years.
George joined the Society in 1961.He was a member of Southwest Suburban chapter and sang bass with the Rhythm Rogues and Treble Tones while there. He moved to Naperville and was hired as director of Chorus of DuPage. Chords Unlimited Media:Chords Unlimited 1969.jpg formed with George on bass, winning the state title in 1969. During their 12 years together, they sang nearly 500 shows. At one point, George was directing 3 chapters (Dupage, Town and Country and Elgin) while performing 40 shows a years with Chords Unlimited.
In 1987, he helped form Chordiac Arrest Media:Chordiac Arrest 1987.jpg. The comedy quartet performed hilarious parodies written by Baritone Lynn Hauldren and arranged by George. They won 9th in international competition first time out, then won the 1987 Illinois quartet title. Then followed with two 5th-place medals at internationals.
George was a charter member and bass section leader of The New Tradition Chorus in Northbrook (international champions in 2001). He became an interpretation judge in 1975, then qualified as a music judge when the system redesigned the judging categories. He also taught at Society and District colleges.
Named second recipient of the Music Man Award (1993) by the Quartet Champions Association of Illinois, George was selected as Barbershopper of the Year (BOTY) in the Illinois District in 1985.
Chorus Director: 1994-1995
(See section above for Byron's biographical skectch)
Chorus Director: 1995-2001
Born: 1946, Little Rock, Arkansas
Dennis joined the Bloomington Chapter twice! The first time was in 1973-74 as the newly-minted director of a nearby barbershop chorus. Joining Bloomington was an opportunity “to learn how the big boys do it” by singing for a very talented director, Sam Anliker, in a bigger chorus. Dennis says: “My favorite memory of those days was being featured in an annual chapter show playing piano onstage as the chorus sang and danced to (There‘ll Be) No New Tunes on That Old Piano. Boy, I felt like I had arrived!”
Two decades later Dennis returned to the Bloomington Chapter as its music director. “I fondly recall a lot of good fellowship, those rehearsals when the chords really rang, the excitement of the chapter shows and competitions, directing the national anthem at Wrigley Field, and our performance at the 1999 All-State Conference of the Illinois Music Educators Association (IMEA).”
Dennis joined the Society in 1971 and remained a member for thirty-five years. He directed both men’s and women’s barbershop choruses in Pontiac as well as a women’s chorus in Peoria. The Pontiac choruses earned three best small chorus recognitions in barbershop competitions.
From 1985 through 1988 Dennis sang bass with the West Towns Chorus from Lombard, Illinois, where he served as a section leader and an assistant director. Under the direction of Dr. Greg Lyne, West Towns won the gold medal in 1987 to become the Society’s International Chorus Champion.
Beginning in the late ‘90s, Dennis served as the vice-president for chorus director development in the Illinois District, as a music and performance instructor for the Society’s COTS program, and as a member of the music faculty for IDAH (Illinois District), Harmony College East (Mid-Atlantic District), and Directors College/Harmony College.
“I’m fortunate that both my mom and dad were musicians,” says Dennis. “Thanks to my dad, I learned to play baritone ukelele and also piano in a chord-based fashion and to understand how chords progress. These experiences were fun and enjoyable, and prepared me to appreciate the beauty of barbershop-style harmonies, especially when they are sung with friends.” His formal education includes a liberal studies degree from the University of Notre Dame, a bachelors in music and a master’s in conducting from Illinois State University, and a doctorate in music education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
A public school music educator, Dennis taught junior high and high school choral music in Bloomington District 87 until his retirement.
Chorusl Director: 2002-Present
A Springfield resident, Terry’s barber shop experience dates to 1987. He led the Quincy, IL, chapter 13 years (1989-2002) before joining the Sound of Illinois, and led his Great River Barber Shop Chorus to 5th place in Illinois during a span when Quincy twice was small chorus champ. He majored in music education at Quincy University until 1991.
The SOI continues to flourish under Terry’s leadership, as competition scores and member growth demonstrate. For the first time in the Society’s 73-year history, the Sound of Illinois qualified to compete in the International chorus contest nine consecutive years (2008-2016). The SOI prides itself in staging top quality annual shows, including the chorus performances and the guest quartets. Terry has brought his talents to bear on the quality of the chorus, which ranks among the top 15 in the Society. The 2016 appearance of the Sound of Illinois in Nashville, Tenn., marks the ninth consecutive year the group has been Illinois’ chorus representative in international competition.
Terry has been active in quartets, the most recent being a Bloomington group, The Waldorf Hair Company Media:Waldorf Hair Co. 2.jpg, which won the Illinois quartet championship in 2011. He also sang tenor in Wound 4 Sound Media:Wound 4 Sound.PNG. He also coaches and arranges for barber shop groups, and is a founding member of the Brass Band of Central Illinois. At the Illinois District convention Sept. 26, 2015, Terry became the fifth Bloomington member to win the state's highest barbershop honor the Award for Barbershopping Excellence (ABE).
SOI Directors Gather for 2015 Photo
At the Illinois District convention in Bloomington Sept. 26, 2015, Sound of Illinois directors gathered for a photo. The opportunity was spurred by the planned return of Sam Anliker for a reunion of is BHS Barbershoppers group. The reunion occurred with former Bloomington High School singer Dwayne Cooper leading the alumni in Sam's absence (he had a last-minute conflict and was unable to attend).
From left, the directors include: Terry Ludwig (current director), Dennis Morrissey, Byron Blair, Jim Stahly and Glenn Perdue.
1942-1962 Illinois Hotel
1962-1963 Bloomington Federal Savings & Loan
1963-1967 Miller Park Pavilion
1967-1974 Illinois House
1974-1976 Central Catholic High School
1976-1978 Odd Fellows Hall (Normal)
1978-1983 Bloomington Consistory
1983-1986 Mennonite Health Services Building
1986-2004 Bloomington Consistory
2004-Present Second Presbyterian Church
The Founders: Who Were These Guys?
L. Earl Bach March 26, 1893 - Jan. 25, 1960
A prominent lawyer in Bloomington, Earl was 49 years old at the chapter’s first meeting. He was a Bloomington native and received his law degree from Illinois Wesleyan University. Earl was a WWI Navy veteran and joined the law firm of an uncle, William R. Bach, in 1921.
Bach was a former president of the McLean County Bar Association and active in the American Legion (past commander, judge advocate), and he was attorney for the Bloomington-Normal Sanitary District board for many years.
A second heart attack took Earl’s life, while the first in 1957 spoiled his chance at singing with the chorus when it competed in Los Angeles. Earl was the main fund-raiser in an effort that brought in $6,000 to help finance the trip, which he missed because of his first heart attack.
Chapter president in 1948-49, Earl was a regular in the Hartz Mountain Troubadors, a hillbilly jug-band that performed on Bloomington barber shop shows. He was show chairman for every show from the first (1944) to 1951 and emcee for shows in 1947 through 1951.
Otto G. Beich Dec. 21, 1892 – Dec. 7, 1964
Otto was 49 years old and president of Beich Candy Co. when the barber shop group first met. Though he never served in a chapter office, Otto was named an international board member by the barber shop society in 1943, a post he held through 1947.
A Bloomington native, Otto became board chairman of the candy company in 1945. He was a past member of the Teachers College Board, past president of the Bloomington Association of Commerce, and a director of the Illinois Association of Manufacturers.
His company sponsored a popular Central Illinois quartet, The Whiz Candy Makers.
Joe Bunting June 23, 1890 – April 2, 1965
At age 51, Joe Bunting was among those organizing the first meeting. He was general manager of The Daily Pantagraph at the time and served as war-time publisher for several years. Joe came to Illinois State Normal University from Secor, his birthplace. The 1913 graduate attended Illinois Wesleyan’s law school. He taught several years before joining the newspaper as a proofreader, a career that was to last 46 years, the last half as general manager.
As lead singer in the Squeaky Hinge Four (second from right in quartet photo), Joe delighted in entertaining. He was show emcee in 1946 and 1947, and four more years beginning in 1952. He authored a delightful booklet entitled “The Birth of SPEBSQSA in Bloomington.” That’s where the first chapter name, Bloomington Harmony Club, is documented, along with the behind-the-scenes planning that went into the first meeting.
Not only did Joe sing in a quartet, he was organizer of the Hartz Mountain Troubadors and the Panther Crick Pilgrims (photo above), the hillbilly band that appeared on Bloomington shows. It was an outgrowth of Joe’s Lytleville Fire Department Band. His leadership in the chapter and the newspaper led to numerous staffers joining the barber shop chapter, including: Charlie Driver, Gene Smedley, Hal Adams, Tony Holloway, Stan Lantz, Tom Gumbrell, and Jim Stahly.
Bunting was active in newspaper trade associations as well as local organizations, including: Better Bloomington Committee, Bloomington Fans Association (Three-I Baseball League), Community Chest (predecessor to United Way), Bloomington Association of Commerce (director and past president), First Baptist Church trustee and its representative on the Brokaw Hospital board. He was past president of Young Men’s Club, Rotary Club and a member of the Masonic Lodge 43 and Consistory.
Dan Carmody April 2, 1903 – Sept. 20, 1986
Born in Merna, Dan was a funeral director in Bloomington-Normal for more than 50 years. He was 42 at the first barber shop meeting. Two years earlier, in 1940, Dan left his partnership in a local funeral home to establish Carmody Funeral Home.
Dan was a graduate of Worsham College of Mortuary Science, Chicago, after attending St. Mary’s College (Collegeville, Kan.) and Marquette University (Milwaukee).
A lifelong member of the Bloomington-Normal Musicians’ Union, Dan played piano and organ in the community for many years.
Floyd G. (Doc) Dana Aug. 15, 1895 – Feb. 2, 1967
Floyd G. (Doc) Dana was 46 years old at the group’s first meeting. Born in Westmoreland, N.H., Dana was a 1921 graduate of the University of Chicago. He was active in real estate from 1929 in the Chicago area and was former president of the Chicago Real Estate Board, former chairman of the Illinois Port Authority and headed his own real estate business in Chicago.
Doc never lived in Bloomington and was never an active member of the Bloomington Chapter or the performing chorus. His wife, Mabel, was a sister of Founder Otto Beich’s wife, Harriett. Therein lies the connection. It is believed that Otto included Doc Dana as a founding member, probably to add his influential background to the original group of organizers.
The Dana’s had one daughter, Mrs. Clinton B. (Joan) Soper, of Bloomington. The Danas moved to Naples, Fla., in 1965, where he was a member of the Naples Yacht Club and Port Royal Beach Club. Floyd’s wife, Mabel Kiser Dana, died 1973. Both are entombed at Naples Memorial Gardens Mausoleum.
Hugh A. Henry July 6, 1905 – Nov. 5, 1980
Hugh was 36 years old at Bloomington chapter’s first meeting, and he was the Bloomington chapter’s second president (1943-44). Even though Hugh never sang with the chorus, he was a constant fixture in the background, including afterglows at The Lucca Grille. He and show chairman Charlie Driver spent many hours there, planning the creative touches on shows from 1957 through 1967.
Born in Philadelphia, Hugh’s family moved to Lima, Ohio, where he played high school sports. He worked at department stores in D.C., Altoona, Pa., and Columbus, Ohio, before joining Livingston’s Department Store in Bloomington in 1930 in charge of advertising and displays.
Hugh was considered a master showman, evident in the promotions at Livingston’s, one of the larger department stores in downstate Illinois. To capitalize on the fame of the TV game show “The $64,000 Question,” Hugh once put 64,000 one-dollar bills in a window display. The money was hauled from Peoples Bank (corner of Center and Washington) in a wheelbarrow – with a police escort – to the store on the south side of the square.
He was active in many community promotional events, including organizing the longest parade in Bloomington history prior to WWII (to sell war bonds). Hugh organized and chaired scores of community banquets and served on the steering committee that raised $1 million to build three Catholic schools and start Epiphany Church. He was president of Young Men’s Club in 1940 and served on the boards of the McLean County TB Association and Salvation Army.
B. Paul Jefferson July 30, 1900 - May 11, 1990
At age 41, Paul was a prime mover, along with L. Earl Bach, in the formation of the Bloomington Harmony Club in 1942. The next year, Paul was made president of the barbershop organization’s Illinois District. Paul was a successful insurance agent for Freese and Jefferson Agency for 55 years, retiring in 1973. He was born in Bloomington and attended Illinois Wesleyan University, and was a member of Second Presbyterian Church.
Paul was active in community organizations. He was past president of the Association of Commerce, past commander of the American Legion Post, and a member of The Bloomington Club, Young Men’s Club, Rotary, Consistory, Mohammed Shrine, Masonic Lodge 43, Moose and Elks.
Art Kane Nov. 29, 1894 – Feb. 8, 1968
Born in Bloomington, Art was 48 at the founding of the Bloomington chapter. That same year, 1942, he was made captain in the Army Signal Corps. He was a veteran of both world wars, and in 1945 was appointed civilian consultant to the quartermaster general of the Army. He assisted in setting up boards in five Central Illinois counties at the start of the Selective Service System. Art founded Kane Advertising in 1931, specializing in national advertising accounts in several states. He started Kane Engraving in 1936. Even though he was never an officer in the chorus, Art was an active community member. He was past commander of the American Legion Post and a founder of the Legion’s Junior Baseball Program. He was a director of the Illinois Association for the Crippled and, in 1951, was appointed by Gov. Adlai Stevenson as district chairman for the Crusade for Freedom.
David H. Ward Feb. 28, 1899 – June 29, 1979
At age 43, Dave Ward was among the younger of the founding members. Born in Corydon, Ind., he and brother Kay moved to Bloomington in 1917. They became owner-partners in Model-Paris laundry and dry cleaning business in 1919. The Ward brothers, along with father A.G. Ward, became active in breeding and racing horses. They were joined in that pursuit by fellow founder Dan Carmody in the 1970s. Dave was a charter member of the US Trotting association, a 50-year member of the Masonic Lodge, the Consistory and the Elks Lodge.
K.R. (Kay) Ward March 22, 1897 – Nov. 7, 1988
Two years older than his brother, Kay also was born in Indiana. The brothers owned and operated Model-Paris cleaners, and the family was instrumental in promoting harness racing in Illinois. Kay was named to the U.S. Trotting Association board in 1950, served many years as treasurer, and was a member of the executive committee. He helped organize the Illinois Trotting and Pacing Colt Association in 1937 and was racing secretary of the Illinois State Fair from 1941 to 1948. Kay was inducted into the harness racing hall of fame in 1979.
|1957||Los Angeles||Floyd Connett||3|
|2011||Kansas City||Terry Ludwig||15|
|2012||Las Vegas||Terry Ludwig||16|
|1959||Rock Island||Glenn Perdue||1|
|1964||Rock Island||Glenn Perdue||5|
|1970||Rock Island||Glenn Perdue||3|
|1980||Rock Island||Byron Blair||2|
|1990||Peoria||Byron Blair/Jim Stahly||3|
|1991||Peoria||Byron Blair/Jim Stahly||3|
|1992||Peoria||Byron Blair/Jim Stahly||3|
|1993||Peoria||Byron Blair/Jim Stahly||3|
|Year||President||Sec/Treas||Show Theme||Show Chairman||Emcee|
|1942-3||Paul Jefferson||Kay R. Ward||Parade of Quartets||None||None|
|1943-4||Hugh A. Henry||Ray V. Hopkins||Parade of Quartets||L. Earl Bach||None|
|1944-5||T.F. (Ted) Campbell||Ray V. Hopkins||Parade of Quartets||L. Earl Bach||Norm Davis|
|1945-6||George P. Smith||E. D. Olinger||Parade of Quartets||L. Earl Bach||Joe Bunting|
|1946-7||Adolph A. Modahl||E. M. Lebkuecher||Parade of Quartets||L. Earl Bach||Joe Bunting|
|1947-8||John T. Dickinson||E. M. Lebkuecher||Parade of Quartets||L. Earl Bach||L. Earl Bach|
|1948-9||L. Earl Bach||Forrest G. Stahly||Parade of Quartets||L. Earl Bach||L. Earl Bach|
|1949-50||Charles J. Driver||Forrest G. Stahly||Parade of Quartets||L. Earl Bach||L. Earl Bach|
|1950-1||J. H. Bellamy||Forrest G. Stahly||Parade of Quartets||L. Earl Bach||L. Earl Bach|
|1951-2||E. J. (Nip) Behrmann||Forrest G. Stahly||Parade of Quartets||Emil Wichmann||Joe Bunting|
|1952-3||Emil Wichmann||Forrest G. Stahly||Parade of Quartets||John Dickinson||Joe Bunting|
|1953-4||Harold L. Coffman||Forrest G. Stahly||Parade of Quartets||John Dickinson||Joe Bunting|
|1954-5||Gene F. Smedley||Forrest G. Stahly||Parade of Quartets||John Dickinson||Joe Bunting|
|1955-6||Edwin H. Cooke||Forrest G. Stahly||Bloomington, The All-American City||John Dickinson||B. Paul Jefferson|
|1956-7||Edward W. Lindsay||Forrest G. Stahly||Singing for the Angels||Charles J. Driver||Ivan H. Jenkins|
|1959-60||Bill Finkbiner||Forrest G. Stahly||Big Dallas, Here We Come||Charles Driver||Bob Lindley|
|1961||Forrest G. Stahly||Charles J. Driver||Civil War||Charles J. Driver||Bob Lindley|
|1962||Robert R. Lind||Forrest G. Stahly||20th Anniversary||Charles J. Driver||Bob Lindley|
|1963||Loren F. Bogart||Forrest G. Stahly||George M. Cohan||Charles J. Driver||Bob Lindley|
|1964||Paul Gehrt||Bernard Jacobs||Close Harmony Around the Year||Charles J. Driver||Bob Lindley|
|1965||Bill Von Drehle||Bill Sullivan/Warren Cumpston||Let’s Harmonize||Charles J. Driver, Forrest G. Stahly||Bob Lindley|
|1966||John A. Behnke||Bill Sullivan/Warren Cumpston||Barber Shop Tin-Type||Charles J. Driver, Forrest G. Stahly||Bob Lindley|
|1967||Jim Stahly||Bill Sullivan, Warren Cumpston||The Best of the Past – 25th Anniversary Show||Charles J. Driver, Forrest G. Stahly, Hugh A. Henry||Bob Lindley|
|1968||Al Draper||Aubrey E. Johnson, Roland Raydon||Melodies in Harmony||Bill Von Drehle, Paul Gehrt||Bob Lindley|
|1969||Bill Sullivan||Aubrey E. Johnson||Barbershop USA||Bill Von Drehle, Paul Gehrt, Jim Stahly||Bob Lindley|
|1970||Willard J. (Jay) Siebert||Forrest G. Stahly||Barber Shop Varieties of 1970||Charles J. Driver, Paul Gehrt||Wally Ryan|
|1971||Paul Sennewald||Forrest G. Stahly||The Better Half of Barbershopping||Charles J. Driver, Paul Gehrt, Forrest G. Stahly||Bob Lindley|
|1972||Don Sherrard||Forrest G. Stahly||Broadway, Barber Shop Style||Bill Von Drehle||Buzz Haeger|
|1973||Jack Aldridge||Forrest G. Stahly||“Happiness Is”||Bill Von Drehle, Paul Gehrt||Don Munson|
|1974||Miles L. Ward||Wally Hood||Showboat||Bill Von Drehle, Paul Gehrt||Don Munson|
|1975||Kurt Gummerman||Wally Hood||Girl Crazy||Paul Gehrt, Bill Sullivan||Don Munson|
|1976||William E. Spencer||Gene Gardner, Wally Hood||What A Country||Paul Gehrt, Bill Sullivan||Tim Stivers|
|1977||Wendel Augspurger||Gene Gardner, Larry Hensley||Barbershop for All Seasons||Paul Gehrt, Bill Sulivan||Bob Lindley|
|1978||Kenneth L. Leitzen||Gene Gardner, Larry Hensley||Sound of Illinois in Concert||Paul Gehrt, Bill Sullivan||Ray Henders|
|1979||Larry Finger||Aaron Garrett, Larry Hensley||The Music Man||Paul Gehrt, Bill Sullivan||Don Munson|
|1980||Wally Hood||Aaron Garrett, Lee Wells||Circus Daze||Paul Gehrt, Bill Sullivan||Don Munson|
|1981||Merrill McCall||Aaron Garrett, Lee Wells||Off the Record||Jack Aldridge, Charles J. Driver||Jerry McDonough|
|1982||Eldon Haab||Lee Wells||Harmony Through the Years||Jack Aldridge, Charles J. Driver||Ed Lindsay|
|1983||Gordon Turnbull||Lee Wells||Barbershop Bonanza||Jack Aldridge, Walt Linne||Ed Lindsay|
|1984||Warren Wickham||Ken Uphoff, Harry Morris||Girls, Girls, Girls||Tom Debord, Walt Linne||Sandie Hawthorne|
|1985||Dick Eade||Ken Uphoff, Harry Morris||The Sounds of Freedom||Tom Debord, Walt Linne||Rich Buchanan, Dick Godfrey|
|1986||Kenneth L. Leitzen||Ken Uphoff, Harry Morris||A Salute to Jolson||Tom Debord, Marcus Maier||Rich Buchanan|
|1987||Don Leonard||Ken Uphoff||Smile in the Barbershop Style||Tom Debord||Rich Buchanan|
|1988||Bill Spencer||Ken Uphoff, Harry Morris||Barbershop Harmony: A Golden Tradition||Tom Debord, Marcus Maier||Rich Buchanan|
|1989||Merrill McCall||Ken Uphoff, Frank Ripsom||The World of Harmony||Tom Debord, Don Leonard||Bob Cearnal|
|1990||Harvey Styron||Ken Uphoff, Frank Ripsom||Home Is Where the Heart Is||Tom Debord, Don Leonard||Bob Cearnal|
|1991||Herb Burdett||Ken Uphoff, Frank Ripsom||College Days||Tom Debord, Don Leonard||Bob Cearnal|
|1992||Clay Martin||Ken Uphoff, Frank Ripsom||Heritage of Harmony||Tom Debord, Don Leonard||Rich Buchanan|
|1993||Jim Allen||Ken Uphoff, Frank Ripsom||Down the Mississipppi||Tom Debord, Don Leonard||Dick Johnson|
|1994||Wayne Brown||Doug Rixstine, Todd Abeling||Strollin’ Down Harmony Lane||Tom Debord, Don Leonard||Steve Vogel|
|1995||Rich Buchanan||Doug Rixstine, Chuck Parlette||Sweethearts & Others||Tom Debord, Marcus Maier, Phil Rolfs||Dick Johnson|
|1996||Rich Buchanan||Phil Rolfs, Tom Schiebel||Radio Daze||Tom Debord, Marcus Maier, Phil Rolfs||Tim Calhoun|
|1997||Greg Grey||Todd Abeling, Tom Schiebel||Harmony Highway||Greg Grey, Marcus Maier, Phil Rolfs||John Morrill|
|1998||Merrill McCall||Jim Waldorf, Tom Schiebel||History of Harmony||Greg Grey, Marcus Maier, Phil Rolfs||Ron Melzer|
|1999||Jim Waldorf||Bret Reinthaler, Tom Schiebel||Stage & Screen||Greg Grey, Marcus Maier, Phil Rolfs||Bruce Parrish|
|2000||Phil Rolfs||Bret Reinthaler, Tom Schiebel||USO: A Sentimental Journey||Tom Debord, Bret Reinthaler||Mike McNeil|
|2001||Dick Eade||Kevin Greer, Tom Schiebel||2001: A Bass Odyssey||Tom Debord, Bret Reinthaler||Judy Markowitz|
|2002||Al Draper||Kevin Greer, Tom Schiebel||Songs for All Seasons||Tom Debord, Doug Ferrier, Bret Reinthaler||Royce Elliott|
|2003||Al Draper||Kevin Greer, Tom Schiebel||Swing!||Tom Debord, Doug Ferrier, Bret Reinthaler||Marc Boon|
|2004||Phil Rolfs||Kevin Greer, Tom Schiebel||And They Called It Dixieland||Bret Reinthaler, Phil Rolfs, Doug Ferrier||Marc Boon|
|2005||John Leitzen||Kevin Greer, Tom Schiebel||A Tribute to “Hee-Haw”||Bret Reinthaler, Grey Grey, Cregg Miyat, Harry Lovell||Jim Stahly, Mike Claver, Mayor Judy Markowitz|
|2006||John Leitzen||Kevin Greet, Tom Schiebel||Off Broadway||Greg Grey, Cregg Miyat, Harry Lovell||Jim Stahly|
|2007||Pat Dunagan||Kevin Greer, Tom Schiebel||Technical Difficulties||Greg Grey, Cregg Miyat, Harry Lovell||Doug Ferrier|
|2008||Jim Waldorf||Kevin Greer, Tom Schiebel||My Fellow Americans||Mark Bradley, Harry Lovell, Greg Grey||Doug Ferrier|
|2009||Jim Waldorf||Kevin Greer, Tom Schiebel||Remember Radio||Mark Bradley, Cregg Miyat, Harry Lovell||Doug Ferrier|
|2010||Doug Ferrier||Kevin Greer, Tom Schiebel||Pirates on the High C’s||Mark Bradley, Cregg Miyat, Harry Lovell||Jim Stahly|
|2011||Doug Ferrier||Kevin Greer, Tom Schiebel||It Had To Be You||Gary Eustice, Harry Lovell, Mark Bradley||Raymond Schwartzkopf|
|2012||Brett Mulford||Kevin Greer, Tom Schiebel||All You Need Is Love||Mark Bradley, Harry Lovell, Ken Ota||Ray Palmateer|
|2013||Brett Mulford||Kevin Greer, Tom Schiebel||Barbertoons||Doug Ferrier, Harry Lovell, Ken Ota||None|
|2014||Kevin Greer||Ron Darner, Tom Schiebel||Songs of Sinatra||Doug Ferrier, Harry Lovell, Ken Ota||None|
|2015||Kevin Greer||Tony Meizelis, Tom Schiebel||Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?||Harry Lovell, Mark Bradley||None|
|2016||Ken Ota||Tony Meizelis, Tom Schiebel||Get Your Kicks on Route 66||Bret Reinthaler, Evan Patrick|
Bloomington’s Favorite Sons
Bloomington’s barbershop chapter is known for its strong internal leadership. There are men who got their starts in Bloomington and went on to significant contributions to the Barbershop Harmony Society BHS). Among them are: Sam Anliker, Floyd Connett, Dwayne Cooper, Rich Hansen, John Hanson, John Krizek. The legacy these men have generated from their devotion to the international barbershop singing organization brings honor to the Bloomington, Ill., chapter where each of them had his start.
Sam Anliker’s roots in the barbershop world began in Bloomington, where he became chorus director in 1971. He was a successful chorus leader, musically and inspirationally, and quickly recognized the potential that four-part a cappella singing held for his high school choirs. Like most high school groups, there was a need for more male singers. His program at Bloomington High School became a huge success and inspired the Barbershop Harmony Society to begin its high school outreach programs.
“We were one of the very first high schools to institute the Young Men In Harmony program,” Sam recalls. After just two years, he had a group of 36 freshman boys striving to become one of the 30 varsity barbershop singers. His success was the subject of a page of pictures and an article in the Society’s magazine The Harmonizer (July-August 1973).
Sam’s BHS Barbershoppers performed at many school and community programs, including Bloomington Chapter annual shows. Other performances were at Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel and for President Carter on a trip to the South. An impromptu performance for Society Music Director Bob Johnson and other staffers at Society headquarters (then in Kenosha, Wis.) planted the seed for what would become the Society’s Young Men In Harmony program. The Kenosha performance led to Sam’s high school boys performing for a National Music Educator’s Conference in Chicago, where the high school presented Johnson with a plaque to thank him for his idea of beginning the Young Men In Harmony (now Youth In Harmony) Program.
Sam came to the Bloomington Chapter soon after joining Bloomington High School as head of the choral music program. Born in Bloomington, Sam grew up in Eureka and earned his bachelor’s degree in music in 1961 and his master’s in choral conducting in 1966 from Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU). At Wesleyan, Sam was three-year accompanist for The Apollo Quartet, which appeared several times on Bloomington shows in the early Sixties. Sam was choral director in Roanoke-Benson before taking the Bloomington High position when Mary Selk retired in 1971.
That’s when he was recruited by Jim Stahly (who sang in The Apollo Quartet) to become Bloomington Chapter’s chorus director. Sam attended three Harmony College sessions and recalls training with Mac Huff and Dave Stephens. “That is where real learning came from,” according to Sam. “My master’s degree should have included those Harmony College classes! They were the best!”
“I remember my first (barbershop) rehearsal ,” Sam says. “I was a real choral director ‘out of water’ because I was used to a music stand to put my music on and look at while I directed the chorus. These guys must have gasped!” But Sam’s personality and drive led to the chorus winning the state title in 1976, its first since 1959. That qualified The Sound of Illinois Chorus to compete in Philadelphia in 1977 where it placed 10th out of 16 choruses with 85 men on stage.
That fall, Sam left Bloomington and teaching for a sales position, eventually relocating to North Carolina where he became an executive recruiter in 1993. He and his wife Joyce live in South Carolina, where Sam runs his own executive search service in the financial services sector.
More than a few of Sam’s former students are barbershoppers, including several in The Sound of Illinois and others around the country. Former BHS singer Dwayne Cooper is Society treasurer and a former president of the Southwestern District. He is also his chapter’s chorus director.
Floyd Connett, Bloomington’s second director, had a wide and lasting impact on barbershop singing as it developed in Illinois and the entire Society. His contributions -- before dying of a heart attack at age 48 while weeding the yard in front of his Peoria barber shop -- position him as the man whose impact on barbershopping is arguably greater than any Illinois member in history.
A barber in Peoria, Floyd undertook his first directing position with the Peoria Belles Sweet Adelines chorus in 1948.
A protégé of John Hanson, first director of many Central Illinois chapters including Bloomington, Floyd took over the Bloomington Chorus in 1953 and led it to a district championship in 1956. The chorus placed third in its first international contest in Los Angeles in 1957, the fourth year that choruses competed.
Connett’s success in that competition was noted by Society leaders, who hired him to be their first field representative. He traveled the country by car, visiting hundreds of chapters and thousands of members as he shared his musical and leadership knowledge. In 1961, Connett became national education director of Sweet Adelines.
In September 1963, on the weekend of Illinois’ district contest, Floyd suffered a fatal heart attack. He had coached the Bloomington chorus the prior Tuesday. A successful arranger, Floyd is the only Society member to be certified in all judging categories (there were five at the time).
He was editor of Just Plain Barbershop, which contains 10 of his arrangements and remains the most widely used publication in Society history. The inverted cone, a Connett invention to demonstrate the proper relationship of four parts to produce consonant overtones, remains a principle today.
In the mid-Fifties, when The Buffalo Bills were selected to appear in Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, Floyd coached the 1950 champs during preparations for the Broadway production (and, later, the movie).
The Society inducted Floyd into its first class of members of its Hall of Fame in 2004. Although he never sang in a competing quartet, Connett not only understood the barber shop style, he knew how to teach it. All Society members still benefit from his contributions.
Dwayne Cooper joined the Barbershop Harmony Society in 1976 in Bloomington, a result of his exposure in Sam Anliker’s BHS (Bloomington High School) Barbershoppers that fall. That led to a number of leadership roles in other areas of the country. Barbershop Harmony Society treasurer since 2011, Cooper was 2009-2010 president of the Southwestern District and oversaw the Youth In Harmony program there from 2004-2007. Son Daniel was a founding member and lead of The Marcsmen, who competed at the Society’s first Youth Chorus Festival in 2008 at the San Antonio Midwinter Convention.
Cooper auditioned for Bloomington’s Sound of Illinois chorus in February 1977 and joined other high schoolmates (Dave Park, Dale Jarvis, Mark Hill and Mark Barnes) for international competition in Philadelphia that summer. (He was to meet his wife, Barbara, from standing beside her father, the late Bob Moore, on the risers for that contest.)
Valedictorian at Bloomington High School and a National Merit Scholar, Cooper went to the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where he majored in accounting. (He earned his B.S. in 1981 and masters in tax in 1982.) He joined the Illini Statesmen Chorus and shared his passion by recruiting Andy Sauder (another Sam Anliker prodigy from Roanoke-Benson High School), Lee Reifsteck and David Shepard. Cooper and Sauder won Illinois’ 1978 Novice Quartet award with The Collegiates.
Cooper moved to Dallas in 1982 to work for Arthur Andersen accounting firm and transferred his membership to the “Big D” Chapter, then to the newly-formed Plano, Tex., Men of Note. He became assistant chorus director in 1983 and led the group in its first district competition in 1984. That’s when Dwayne and his brother David formed The Continental Drifters quartet. Cooper was president at Plano 1985-1986 and became music director in 1987 for the next five years. He sang baritone with a popular Dallas area quartet Sunny Side Up. Cooper led the merger of the Plano Chapter with the Town North Chapter in 1993.
In 1996, a job change took Cooper to Jackson, Miss., for four years. He became chorus director of the Magnolia Chorus and sang baritone with Brick Street Quartet. Cooper returned to Texas, this time as director of finance & administration for Austin’s Long Center for the Performing Arts. He became Austin chorus director 2001-2004. He also and sang baritone in The Alley Cats quartet. In 2005, Cooper became a certified chorus director and was recruited to direct his current chapter, New Braunfels Hill Country Chorus.
Cooper was inducted into the SWD Hall of Famer in 2013, recognizing his musical and administrative contributions to the district. He led the BHS (Bloomington High School) Barbershoppers in their reunion performance at the Illinois District convention in Bloomington in September 2015. He filled in for Sam Anliker, founder and director of the group, who was unable to attend because of a last-minute conflict.
Rich Hansen of Mt. Zion, Ill., a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS)since 1992, sings with Bloomington’s Sound of Illinois (SOI) chorus and Charleston’s Coles County Chorus. He began a two-year term as Illinois District president in 2015.
As baritone in the 2014 Illinois champion quartet Drive Time, Hansen earned full membership in Illinois’ Quartet Champions Association (QCA), the organization that, earlier in the year, had bestowed honorary membership as the group’s Music Man Award honoree. He received the 2010 Award for Barbershopping Excellence (ABE), youngest to ever win Illinois’ highest honor.
These awards recognize Hansen’s extensive work with young singers. He has organized every Central Illinois Youth In Harmony (YIH) fall festival, held every year in Bloomington-Normal since the first in Charleston in 1998 . He has also coached 10 student quartets, four of which won BHS state contests. All were Mt. Zion High School students where Hansen has taught history since 1997. Prior to becoming Illinois president in 2015, Hansen served as a vice president from 2000-2009 and executive vice president 2012-2014. He has sung in many quartets since joining the Society in 1992.
A native of Rutland, Hansen is a 1996 graduate of Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, where he earned his master’s degree in 2003. Hansen joined Coles County in 1992 and sang in several chapter quartets before being approached by Mac McGlasson of Decatur to run a festival for high school singers in 1998. Rich has since been instrumental in broadening the effort to five events across the state that reach more than a thousand students each year. The young men and women attend a day-long festival that includes clinicians. Festivals conclude with a concert by the groups and BHS and Sweet Adelines choruses that sponsor the festivals.
John Hanson John Hanson was instrumental in the birth and nurturing of barbershop chapters throughout Central Illinois, including Bloomington which became his second chorus in what was to become the Corn Belt Chorus. As many as 17 communities were part of his joint venture.
A born showman, Hanson performed in vaudeville with Jim Jordan, another Peoria native, who would become radio’s popular Fibber McGee. Hanson’s first barbershop quartet, The Templeton Four, included Jordan on lead (Hanson was bass). In 1941, he sang with The Capitol City Four, placing fifth in international competition with a show-stopping rendition of Shine. He also was bass in Peoria’s Gipps-Amberlin Four, which placed fourth in 1944.
At age 39 (1934), after helping stage a minstrel show in Peoria, the 40 men stayed together as the Klose Harmony Klub. In 1941, after learning of the barbershop society, the Peoria chapter formed with John as director. When Bloomington formed in 1942, John was named director there, as well. Many Central Illinois communities formed chapters and wanted John to lead them.
His popularity led to formation of the Corn Belt Chorus. Since he arranged much of the music, he taught all of his choruses the same songs. When any chapter had a show, all chapters would send men to perform as the Corn Belt Chorus. John’s dream was to put a thousand men on stage at once, according to his letter to O.C. Cash, a Society founder and personal friend of Hanson’s. It was not unusual to stage several hundred for a show. A 1946 newspaper photo documents a 325-man chorus singing in Peoria. Another photo shows 304 at the Illinois State Fair. Hanson’s active role in spreading barbershop across the state was recognized by the Society, and he was asked to serve on the international board (1942-43). He became the first official Society emcee for international contests.
Born June 24, 1895, in Peoria, John died in Bloomington in 1954, where he is buried. His late daughter, Betty Oliver, sang tenor in the Sweet Adelines champion quartet, The Pitch Pipers.
Because he led choruses in so many cities (17 at the highest count), and because of his ability to arrange and teach, many Illinois barbershoppers benefited from his talents. That led to his posthumous selection as Illinois Quartet Champions Association Music Man honoree in 2015.
John Krizek joined the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) in 1959 as a member of the Bloomington, Ill., chapter. Two years later, a job change took him to California where he continued his barbershop passion and rose to leadership positions at Far Western District (FWD) and Society levels. He was:
- A key organizer of the youth outreach movement now known as Youth In Harmony (YIH)
- A principal architect of Society change during the 1990s
- A founder of the Society’s Collegiate Quartet Contest that started in 1992
- Chair of the Society PR Committee which helped Harmony Foundation change its focus to music education.
A State Farm corporate public relations staffer when he joined the Society, Krizek moved to California in 1961 to pursue a career that included helping TransAmerica Corp. persuade San Francisco to allow construction of its landmark building downtown. He moved to Burbank in 1985 to establish a P.R. consulting business.
The Maywood, Ill., native eventually assumed district leadership roles that led to responsibilities at the Society level. In 1968, he was co-founder of Auditions for Admissions that helped Northern California Division membership grow by 40 percent during a four-year period.
In the 1980s, Krizek organized and chaired the FWD task force (which included Society luminaries Val Hicks and Lloyd Steinkamp) that pioneered the youth outreach movement which became the Society’s YIH program. He was FWD president 2000-2002 after serving a 1997-1999 term on the Society board. As chair of the International Marketing Committee, he was a principal architect of Society change in the 1990s.
In 1974, Krizek was appointed to the Society’s long-range planning committee, drawing on his achievements as a FWD leader and Society public relations chairman. In 1976, he was general chairman of the Society’s international convention in San Francisco. He chaired the International Public Relations Committee 1973-1980 and again in 1991. The latter assignment led to a new Society vision statement and to the Harmony Foundation’s focus on music education..
The Society’s Collegiate Quartet Contest, first held in 1992, was the result of Krizek’s vision and work with two members of 139th Street Quartet (Pete Neushul and Jimmie Kline).
Krizek was inducted into the Far Western District Hall of Fame in 1995, recognizing his contributions at the district and international level. He was keynote speaker at the Society’s midwinter convention that year.
A baritone most of his life, Krizek sang in many Singing Valentine and show quartets. He earned two gold medals as a member of the Masters of Harmony Chorus in 2002 and 2005. He also performed on the international contest stage with Peninsula in 1974 and San Fernando Valley in 1987.
Now retired, Krizek lives in Prescott, Ariz., with his wife Kay.
Youth In Harmony (YIH)
The Sound of Illinois organizes and finances a day-long festival each fall that provides free vocal education and training for Central Illinois high school music educators and their students. Held in Bloomington-Normal, the workshop also receives support from the Illinois District of the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) and Region 5 of Sweet Adelines International. Highly-acclaimed a cappella clinicians conduct the full day of rehearsals and evening concert.
Since its inception in 1998, more than 10,000 students from Illinois high school have participated. Rich Hansen, Illinois vice president in charge of Youth In Harmony, is responsible for the Central Illinois program which has touched nearly 8,000 since 1999.
BHS Barbershoppers Reunion Chorus 2015
Bloomington had one of the pioneer programs in the country at Bloomington High School. After taking the reins of the chorus in 1971, Director Sam Anliker Media:Anliker.jpg saw the potential of a high school barber shop program increasing male participation in his high school choirs. “We were one of the very first high schools to institute the Young Men In Harmony program,” Anliker recalls. After just two years, he had a group of 36 freshmen boys striving to become one of the 30 varsity barber shop singers. His success was the subject of a page of pictures and an article in the Society’s The Harmonizer (July-August 1973).
Anliker’s BHS Barbershoppers performed at many school and community programs, including the Bloomington Chapter’s annual shows. Other performances were at Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel, on a southern trip for President Carter, and at the Society’s Kenosha headquarters where an impromptu performance for Music Director Bob Johnson and other staffers planted the seed for the Society’s Young Men In Harmony program. The Kenosha performance led to Sam’s high school boys performing for a Music Educator’s National Conference (MENC) in Chicago, where the high school presented Bob with a plaque to thank him for his idea of beginning the YMIH (now Youth In Harmony) Program. Johnson had already added Anliker to his youth development board.
At the 2015 Illinois District convention, a reunion group of 27 of Sam's students performed for the convention. The finale included nine members of the current Bloomington High barbershop group, shown in the picture above in purple shirts, intermingled with the reunion singers.
Local MUSIC MAN Connection
Meredith Willson's The Music Man play on Broadway and in movie theaters featured The Buffalo Bills barbershop quartet, making it one of the best-known groups to ever sing four-part harmony. Willson chose the Bills after dining in Bloomington with Glenn Perdue and Charlie Driver. He told them about his upcoming production and wanted their advice for a quartet to serve as the school board. Both Bloomington men immediately suggested The Buffalo Bills (1950 international quartet champions) and, if they weren't available, The Mid-States Four from Chicago.
The Buffalo Bills were selected and appeared on Bloomington Chapter shows six times: 1952, 1953, 1955, 1961 Media:Lida Rose Contest Winner 1961.jpg, 1963 and 1967.
Bloomington’s Community Players has staged The Music Man play three times, each time featuring SOI members in prominent roles.
In the May 1980 version, Jim Stahly (left) was cast as Harold Hill’s confidant, Marcellus Washburn (played by Buddy Hackett in the movie), who sang Shipoopi.
The barber shop quartet (right) was Bill McCracken, baritone; Dick Eade, lead; Ken Leitzen, bass; Kurt Gummerman, tenor. Director was Neil Cobb, who became choreographer for the Sound of Illinois Chorus in ensuing years. Vocal director was Phil Shaw.
In the September 1992 staging, the SOI again provided the quartet: Kurt Gummerman, tenor; Herb Burdett, lead; Al Draper, baritone; Merrill McCall, bass.
In the July 2004 production, two SOI quartets shared the school board roles on alternating weeks. Harmony Guaranteed : Jim Waldorf, tenor; Kurt Gummerman, lead; Byron Blair, baritone; Tom Debord, bass.
Past Forte (left): Bruce Wiggins, tenor; Cregg Miyat, lead; Dave Bloom, bass; Tim Calhoun, baritone, bass. Both quartets are shown in cast photo (right).
In Miller Park's summer production of 1985, Bloomington barbershopper Neale Lehmkuhl played the lead, with quartet (right) support provided by four Sound of Illinois barbershoppers: Kurt Gummerman, tenor; Don Leonard, lead; Merrill McCall, bass; Steve White, baritone, bass.
In 2014, Miller Park staged the show again. Harmony Guaranteed (left) again did the quartet role. Rich Hansen filled in for Baritone Byron Blair on one of the weekend performances July 26-27 and Aug. 1-2. SOI’s Brian Pihl (left) had the lead role of Harold Hill. The show was underwritten by the City of Bloomington and the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.
Wrigley Field Appearances
The Sound of Illinois has performed the national anthem twice prior to Chicago Cubs games at Wrigley Field. On Sept. 8, 1990, the chorus (left) sang prior to the Cubs-Cardinals game.
On Sunday, July 13, 1997, the SOI sang prior to another Cubs-Cardinals game.
An SOI quartet led Take Me Out To The Ballgame at Wrigley Field Aug. 24, 1999, during the first year of the Seventh Inning Stretch, initiated to honor the memory of long-time Cubs TV announcer Harry Caray. The quartet (from left): Jim Waldorf, tenor; Byron Blair, baritone; Tom Debord, bass: Jim Stahly, lead. Jay Blunk, then a Cubs promotion staffer, called his father, Dave Blunk, for a talent recommendation. A long-time follower and friend of SOI member Paul Sennewald, Dave contacted Jim Stahly, who put together the foursome of Cubs fans to lead the 30,000+ fans.
As noted in the Activities section, the Sound of Illinois performs for a variety of audiences in Central Illinois. All except the annual shows staged by the chorus are to support local organizations, usually to help raise funds.
Since its founding in 1942, the Bloomington Chapter has staged shows for local patrons as its primary fund-raiser for annual operating expenses (director, music, uniforms, training, risers). Many past international quartet champions have performed in Bloomington. In fact, in the early days, a parade of 4 or 5 guest quartets helped the fledgling chorus in its shows.
The Bloomington Consistory (also known as The Scottish Rite Temple), now the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA), has been the venue for most of the shows. From 1978 through 1994, shows were at presented Illinois State University’s Braden Auditorium. They then returned to the Scottish Rite Temple in 1995 until the building was remodeled by the City of Bloomington to become the BCPA. During that three-year span (2004-2006), shows were staged at Normal Community West High School.
The Buffalo Bills of The Music Man fame, probably the best-known barbershop quartet ever, appeared in Bloomington six times. Other favorites include: The Mid-States Four, The Schmitt Brothers, The Rascals, The SunTones, Boston Common, Gentleman’s Agreement, Gashouse Gang, The OK Four, The Four Nubbins, Chordiac Arrest, Vocal Spectrum.
The 50th anniversary show in 1992 recreated the Corn Belt Chorus Media:Barber2.JPG, which drew men from many Central Illinois cities to the stage to perform two songs. (See the Corn Belt Chorus.)
Cameo performances by local dignitaries, including the mayors, have spiced up shows over the years. (See Mayors on Stage.)
In 2015, State Rep. Dan Brady (on right in photo) was featured in a brief appearance in a quiz show bit.
Sounds of Christmas
The Sound of Illinois is the only group appearing in the annual Sounds of Christmas program at State Farm’s Corporate Headquarters every year since its inception in 1974. The program is the brainchild of the late Dick Benson, who got the idea while helping Jim Stahly lead Christmas carol sings at State Farm. Benson, Stahly and Don Munson of WJBC approached President Ed Rust Sr., who offered the Corporate Headquarters facility as the venue. The Music Shoppe of Normal selects talent and organizes the show, WGLT-FM Radio handles promotion and ticket distribution (originally handled by WJBC Radio) and State Farm provides the facility and support staff to stage the hour-long show featuring local musicians who volunteer their services.
Lucca Grill ConnectionFor more than 50 years, The Lucca Grill
Lucca opened Dec. 9, 1936, in its building at Market and East Streets. That was six years before the Bloomington barbershop chapter formed. Original proprietors of the Italian restaurant were immigrant brothers Fred and John Baldini. (Fred handled the downstairs bar and restaurant, and Fred ran the kitchen.) No other restaurant in the city has been at its original location longer than Lucca Grill.
Brothers John and Charles F. (Tot) Baldini , sons of Founder John, ran the business together until Tot’s retirement in 1980. Both are deceased, but Lucca continues to be a location for winding down after rehearsals for Sound of Illinois members, usually with a few tunes.
Show chairmen Hugh Henry and Charlie Driver (both deceased) often collaborated on creative aspects of shows at the Lucca Grill, and they were responsible for coaxing John Baldini to loan the huge bar.
In a 1987 show at ISU’s Braden Auditorium, John Baldini played a speaking role of bartender on stage. The Saturday night show went according to script. The Sunday show took a bit longer as Baldini relished the spotlight and added his own material.
When Tot was courting Madelyn, he would call her from the phone behind the bar and hold it so the barbershoppers gathered at the back table could sing “Paddlin’ Madelyn Home” to her. Result: free beer and pizza -- and a marriage.
Tot was roasted Feb.9, 1981,at the Elks Club, and the barbershoppers were among those who performed. Barbershopper Jim Stahly joined, among others, WJBC personality Don Munson
The McLean County Chord Company, a quartet from the Bloomington chapter, sang (members were Larry Finger, tenor; Bill Spencer, lead; Merrill McCall, bass; Jack Aldridge, baritone.)
The Sound of Illinois was featured at the grill’s 50th anniversary celebration in 1986. The Lucca menu offers a pizza named the “barbershopper special.” Clippings from The New York Times, Washington Post and The Daily Pantagraph hang on the restaurant wall, each recognizing the grill as a hangout for barbershop singers.
While covering the funeral of Bloomington’s Adlai E. Stevenson in July 1965, New York Times writer Austin C. Wehrwein visited the Lucca Grill and wrote a column about his visit. He called Lucca “a delightful old-time saloon where barbershop quartets gather from time to time.” His visit occurred on a Tuesday night when he encountered the Bloomington singers.
John Baldini (third from left in newspaper photo above) was responsible for initiating the routine of banging a spoon against a beer bottle to acknowledge a particularly good song when Bloomington Barbershoppers gathered at Lucca Grill after rehearsals. Later, a bell hanging behind the bar became a bit higher class form of approval, a practice that continues today. Another tradition is a serving of Lucca Pizza, named the Barbershopper Special for obvious reasons. for those who still call Lucca Grill their afterglow venue on Tuesday nights.
State Farm Connection
When The Ideals Media:The Ideals (1970).jpgwon the state quartet championship in 1970, all were employees of State Farm Insurance Companies at the Corporate Headquarters in Bloomington, Ill. The quartet performed at many company functions, including regional office groundbreakings and employee anniversary parties. Members were: Jim Stahly, tenor;Jack Aldridge, lead; Al Draper, baritone; Chuck Lewis, bass. A quartet known as Sound Design, aka State Farm Four, sang at the groundbreaking of the company's Tulsa, Okla., office, affording the opportunity to visit the site of the birth of barbershopping Media:Sound Design aka State Farm Four.jpg.
State Farm Companies Foundation, which provides Good Neighbor Grants based on volunteer hours contributed by its employees, agents and retirees, is a long-time supporter of The Sound of Illinois. Since 1999, SOI has received more than $80,000 through this program.
Impromptu quartets have often performed for birthdays, anniversaries and retirements at the nation’s largest auto and home insurance company headquarters. CEO Ed Rust Jr. is at left in photo. Others are, from left: Kurt Gummerman, Jim Stahly, Tom Debord and Byron Blair.
Don Munson of WJBC Radio was the long-time host of the Don Morning Munson radio show. He chose State Farm's Corporate Headquarters Atrium as the location to mark the 15th anniversary of his show. The Ideals, all State Farm employees and 1970 state barbershop quartet champs, performed several songs on the air (right) to help their long-time friend celebrate. They're wearing four styles of State Farm hats for the occasion. It was Don who asked the quartet to come up with a song for the WJBC Corny Belters softball team. It was often aired on his show.
When State Farm executives honored retiring Senior Vice President Mary Crego with a pizza lunch in the board room (December 2015), her assistant Stephanie Kinney arranged for a surprise song from a Sound of Illinois quartet consisting of a retiree and three employees. Surrounding Crego, from left: President Mike Tipsord, Retiree Jim Stahly, Board Chairman Ed Rust Jr., and employees Doug Ferrier, Kevin McClelland and Tom Debord.
In 1996, three State Farm employees decided to use their combined talents to produce a cassette and CD of original Christmas songs, featuring Bloomington-Normal people, as a fund-raiser for the local Salvation Army. The result was a 10-song album, Twin City Christmas, which sold 386 cassettes and 347 CDs, all proceeds of which went to the local Army. With David Davenport and Dave Shields doing the song-writing, and Clay Johnson offering his in-home studio for the recording, the album included State Farm Public Affairs Director Jim Stahly (now retired) singing a duet with another State Farm employee, Theresa Hering, on Insure the Reindeer. In 2016, the album was placed on iTunes where an MP3 version could be downloaded free: An artilcle in the Dec. 17 edition of The Pantagraph carried an article about the effort.
Daily Pantagraph Connection
From the beginning of the Bloomington Chapter in 1942, employees of Bloomington's The Daily Pantagraph were active members. Joe Bunting Media:Joe Bunting.jpg, general manager, was a founding member and author of The Birth of SPEBSQSA In Bloomington.Other staffers over the years: Charlie Driver, managing editor; Gene Smedley, city editor; Stan Lantz, farm editor
WJBC Radio Connection
Live On-Air Performances
WJBC Radio began operating in Bloomington in 1925. The Bloomington Barbershop Chapter formed 17 years later. No one is certain when the first live airing of barber shop occurred on WJBC, but a photo of a live Christmas season performance in 1952 on the steps of the McLean County Courthouse (now the McLean County Museum of History) is one of the earliest. The WJBC microphone is clearly visible.
Likewise, some of the early barbershop shows were broadcast on the Bloomington station. Photos of The Corn Belt Chorus singing at the Scottish Rite Temple (now the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts) in 1947 show a WJBC microphone at center stage.
The Radio Auction
Beginning in 1946, WJBC used the airwaves for a Polio Auction to benefit the March of Dimes. When the disease was eradicated, the auction continued as the Children’s Radio Auction, with proceeds going to the Children’s Healthcare Council of McLean County to pay medical bills and provide equipment and services for children.
Bloomington barbershoppers were among the groups who were volunteer auctioneers since the Sixties. The chorus furnished its own emcees (Ed Lindsay, Jack Aldridge, Merrill McCall and Jim Stahly) to guide the process along. Salesmen would hawk their items and listeners would call in their bids. Winning bids were announced, then new items were offered.
Earliest auctions were at the WJBC studios in the Castle Theater building in the 200 block of East Washington (photo at left, with singers from left: Jim Stahly, Arvon Jacobssen, Charlie Driver and Wayne Vawter). After the station moved to the southwest edge of Bloomington, the auction had several venues, including Miller Park Pavilion (photo at right, with Ed Lindsay emceeing), Eastland Shopping Center and Schnucks Grocery Store. The auction’s last year was 2010, at which time it was reportedly the longest running auction (64 years) of its kind.
MARCH OF DIMES SONG
March of Dimes, March of Dimes,
Join us in the March of Dimes.
And some time the March of Dimes,
May help you and yours.
CHILDREN’S RADIO AUCTION SONG
Call and help the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
They are precious in our sight.
Call and help the little children of the world.
The barbershoppers were the traditional kickoff group of auctioneers, working a three-hour shift that began about 9 a.m. Jim Stahly arranged the March of Dimes song authored and performed by local pianist and musician Lyle Smith. When the focus of the auction changed, Stahly wrote and arranged the Children’s Radio Auction song. The songs kicked off each major segment of the weekend auction. The barbershoppers sang live in the earlier years; in later years, the singers performed at the opening and the station recorded it to use after each break.
Don "Morning' MunsonOf the quartets appearing on WJBC to promote shows, Singing Valentines and anniversaries over the years, The Ideals struck a long-lasting relationship with the station’s morning host, Don Munson. For the 15th anniversary of Don Munson in the Morning in 1980, Don chose State Farm’s Corporate Headquarters atrium as the venue for his show. The quartet – all State Farm employees -- sang live on that show
Don took his show to the street in (year), setting up across the street from the Castle Theater and chatting with passers-by. Among the visitors was the quartet. When Don wanted a theme song for the station’s 16-inch softball team, the Corny Belters, the quartet put together a short tune that Don (and others) used often on the air.
CORNY BELTERS SONG (to the tune of a then-popular Gillette commercial)
They look sharp, when they take field,
When the game starts, they will never yield.
A big bat, they will always wield.
The W-J-B-C Corny Belters!
When The Ideals disbanded in 1973 (they started up again in 1990), a This Is Your Life event in Ottawa surprised the foursome and their wives. Don was unable to attend, but sent an audio message—humorous and poignant—that was played for the gathering. WJBC on-air personality Ken Ritter volunteered to record the quartet’s repertoire for posterity, which was done at WJBC studios.
Don was emcee for five chapter shows: 1973-75 and 1979-80. WJBC News Director Steve Vogel was emcee for the 1994 show Radio Daze.
The SOI has enjoyed a long association with Chaunce Conklin and Mary Simon, principals of Conklin’s Barn Theater at Goodfield. For many years, SOI member Byron Blair was pianist for the shows (mostly musicals) and pre-show entertainment. And for many years, McLean County Chord Company provided pre-show music that warmed audiences for Wednesday night productions (from left): Larry Finger, tenor; Bill Spencer, lead; Merrill McCall, bass; Jack Aldridge, baritone. Chaunce appeared on a Bloomington show (center photo), portraying the Dirty Old Man character from Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In television show. The old lady who beat the Dirty Old Man with her purse as he fell from his tricycle was played by Uretta Lovell, wife of Bloomington barbershopper Harry Lovell.
Simon managed the dinner theater until October 2015, when the Barn II Theater closed. It suffered storm damage in the summer and could not be salvaged. Mary carried forward the effort after the passing of Conklin, and it enjoyed a 40-year run. Wednesday nights always featured the melodrama Love Rides The Rails, which began with the quartet as the warmup act. Bloomington members treated their ladies to performances at the barn many times over the years.
People of Note
As the Community Activities section demonstrates, a cross-section of local people, businesses and organizations have had long relationships with the Bloomington barbershop chorus. Many are identified in the Community Activities section, but some are not.
Bob Lindley, Emcee Extraordinaire
Bob Lindley is the only Bloomington chapter member to win a gold medal with an international champion quartet, although that occurred prior to joining Bloomington.
During a quartet job in Geneseo in 1949, he learned of an opening in the city’s chamber of commerce. He took the job, then moved to Pekin’s chamber in 1952. While there, he sang baritone with the Kord Kutters quartet (bottom right photo)
Bob moved to Bloomington in 1958 to become head of the Association of Commerce. He emceed 11 Bloomington shows (1959-1967, 1969, 1971, 1977), more than any other emcee. At bottom left, he is shown with show organist Vera Pearl Kemp. In news clipping, Bob is shown in his Abraham Lincoln costume with Director Glenn Perdue, dressed as Uncle Sam, for the 1965 show that honored the 100th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.
Bob left Bloomington in 1963 to work with several professional trade associations, retiring in 1988 from the American Association of Medical Society Executives. He lives in California near his daughter.
Vera Pearl Kemp, Show Organist 42 Years
Vera Pearl Kemp, a native of London, Ky., moved to Bloomington in 1927 to teach organ and music theory at Illinois Wesleyan University. Schooled at Nazareth Music College in Louisville and the Arthur Foote Music School in Boston, she served as organist for several churches and memorial homes. Vera Pearl organized and traveled the Central U.S. performing with the Vera Pearl Kemp Ensemble, a chamber orchestra with singers.
As musical director and organist for the American Passion Play for 35 years at the Scottish Rite Temple (now Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts), she was a natural fit for the barber shop shows held at the venue. Playing before and after the shows, plus at intermission, Vera Pearl shared her renditions of old favorites for 42 consecutive years. Media:Lindley-Kemp.jpg
John Hanson’s knack for showmanship no doubt was developed during his vaudeville years. He sang bass with The Templeton Quartet, which included fellow Peorian Jim Jordan, who sang lead. Jordan and his wife became the beloved radio team of Fibber McGee and Molly. Hanson is back center in photo; Jordan is at left.
Photo of Fibber and Molly is from a Victory Loan rally in New York during W.W.II.
Congressman Arends Long-Time Member
Illinois Congressman Leslie C. Arends (1895-1985) of Melvin was a long-time member of the Bloomington Chapter, even though his duties kept him from participating as a part of the singing chorus. When Central Illinois’ congressman ran for reelection in 1961, an item in The Barber Post noted: “Les Arends is no crow (non-singer). He sings a mean tenor."
In remarks recorded in the Congressional Record June 24, 1949, Arends recognized the 1949 international champion quartet, The Mid-States Four of Chicago, closing with: “I extend the congratulations of a fellow barbershopper from another Illinois chapter, Bloomington.” The quartet appeared on Bloomington shows many times. Arends was Central Illinois’ Republican congressman from 1935-1975.
Mayors On Stage
Four local mayors have graced the stage while in office during Sound of Illinois shows since 1942. First was Bloomington Mayor Bob McGraw (year-year), who twice had cameo roles. He was featured as the bartender in the 1958 western show and again in 1964 as Dick Butkus in a Chicago Bears uniform, both at the Consistory (now the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts).
In 1985, final year in the terms of Bloomington Mayor Rich Buchanan and Normal Mayor Richard Godfrey, the pair shared emcee duties for The Sounds of Freedom shows on the Braden Auditorium stage at ISU. They had been credited for creating stronger cooperation between the cities during their terms. Buchanan made good on his public promise to join the SOI following his term.
In 2001, Bloomington Mayor Judy Markowitz was emcee for the 2001: A Bass Odyssey show at the Scottish Rite Temple (now Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts). It was during Judy's tenure as mayor that the BCPA became the city's venue.
Bits & Pieces
The Year It Rained On Stage
The annual show theme in 1964 was Barbershop for All Seasons. Show chairman Charlie Driver took full advantage of the Consistory stage, home of the American Passion Play. During the Passion Play, the stage was rigged to handle a rainstorm, with the water being channeled by a tarp through a hole in the floor to a basement drain. During the barber shop show, ‘Twas Just A Garden in the Rain was performed to an April shower in February. Featured on the show program cover were 1964 officers (from left): President Paul Gehrt; Vice Presidents Bill Von Drehle and John Behnke; Secretary Bernie Jacobs.
International Travel Brings Travail
Trips to international competition involving Bloomington barber shop singers seem to create serious issues for members.
In 1957, first trip to compete, three Kountry Kernels singers and their families escaped injury when they left their coach for dinner in the dining car. Near Grants, N.M., en route to Los Angeles, four cars uncoupled at the rear of Santa Fe Railroad’s El Capitan. The train’s brakes set because of the uncoupling, and four cars slammed into the stopped train. Thirty passengers were hurt, but not Ernest Behrmann, Bob Potts and Lloyd Smith, who helped the chorus place third.
In 1960, second trip to international, Director Glenn Perdue had an appendectomy shortly before the competition in July. Determined to direct the group, he made the trip lying prone in the back of Floyd Connett’s station wagon and directed the chorus to a fourth place.
In 1972, when The Ideals earned a spot in the international quartet competition in Atlanta, Ga., Tenor Jim Stahly’s car was stolen from the hotel parking lot the day he arrived. Thanks to Harry and Uretta Lovell, the Stahlys had a ride back to Illinois.
In 1977, when the Sound of Illinois qualified for the international contest in Philadelphia, Pa, the charter plane was loaded up at Bloomington’s airport, then unloaded so the overweight plane could get rid of enough fuel to take off with the passengers and luggage.
In 2008, the chorus competed in Nashville, Tenn. The experience was dampened considerably by the untimely death of Pat Spencer, wife of member Bill Spencer Media:Bill and Pat.jpg, at a hospital there. She became ill the night before the trip home. Bill has since passed away.
Barbershop Harmony Society: www.barbershop.org
Illinois District: www.illinoisdistrict.org
Sound of Illinois: www.soundofillinois.org