Lads of Enchantment
While some quartets continue singing for years as International Champions, others are forced, for one reason or another, to "hang up the pitch pipe" soon after winning the gold. The Lads of Enchantment, 1957 winners, was one of the latter.
And yet tenor Don Pitts, lead Dan Aycock, bari Carl Wright and bass Gil Wallace, all from Albuquerque, left their mark in some areas as indelibly as did the Suntones.
How many quartets since then, for example, have sung Hal Staab's There's a Rose on Your Cheek or Ro-Ro-Rollin' Along, borrowed from the Sweet Adelines' Big Four Quartet and arranged by Floyd Connett? The "Lads" introduced both songs. When they sang what they thought was Frank Thorne's version of Love Me and the World is Mine, Frank asked THEM for the arrangement.
They proved, also, that at least for two successive years, they were the best in their league. In the 1956 International preliminary contest, they qualified although losing to Lou Laurel's Desertaires.
In Minneapolis they won third-place medals, while the Desertaires placed ninth. The following year the Gaynotes beat them in the prelims. But in Los Angeles the Lads took the gold, and the Gaynotes had to wait until 1958.
Don Pitts dropped out of the quartet after its championship year, and the others decided to disband.
- Tenor: Don Pitts
- Lead: Dan Aycock
- Bari: Carl Wright
- Bass: Gil Wallace
- Tenor: Cal Sexton
- 1956 3rd
- 1957 1st
- Ro-Ro-Rollin' Along
- There’s a Rose on Your Cheek
- My Indiana Home
- Love Me and The World Is Mine
- Way Down in Georgia
- It Looks Like Rain In Cherry Blossom Lane
- A Closer Walk With Thee
Lads Of Enchantment
written and researched by Grady Kerr
taken from Golden Memories - The History of the Southwestern District - pub 1996
The Lads were fine quartet that, unfortunately, didn't last long after winning the gold medals. For that reason, they are not as popular today as they were in the '50's. Back then, the Lads were one of the great quartets and very popular on the show circuit. There are very few chapters who DIDN'T have them on their annual show which made the Lads, before and after winning, a very busy foursome.
They first formed in September of 1954 and, as with almost all great quartets, the first sounds were very encouraging. They also felt the potential and with much encouragement from fellow Albuquerque chapter members and other quartets, they began working toward improvement.
Don Pitts, 29, was a native of New Mexico and worked for Sandia Corporation (prime contractor for the Atomic Energy Commission) as an electrical engineer.
Dan Aycock, 31, came from Arkansas. He was an administrative supervisor for Sandia Corporation.
Carl Wright, 30, was from Vermont. He worked as an architectural draftsman with Stanley & Wright. Stricken with polio as a child, Carl spent his life on crutches. To his credit, he never let his handicap affect his positive attitude, his performance or his love of singing.
Texan Gil Wallace, once a member of the Lubbock chapter, was the oldest at 34. Gil also worked for Sandia Corporation as a mechanical engineer.
The Lads never had a regular coach but instead closely observed the other top quartets of the day such as the Four Hearsemen, The Orphans, and the Desertaires. In addition to help from fellow quartetters, The Lads learned advanced barbershop craft from such society experts as Johnny Means and Floyd Connett.
From them they gained an appreciation for the "song" and attribute their success to gaining the desire to ring chords with as much perfection as possible. They were blessed with a perfect lead-bass match. To add to this gift they all took voice lessons and worked on vowel matching long before the society began teaching it.
The Confederates also helped them with this skill, being masters of it themselves. Many ever-glows were spent with the Lads and other quartetters working the finer points of expanded sound in hotel rooms till dawn.
In their very first contest they attempted to qualify for the 1955 International by having to drive 1500 miles round-trip from Albuquerque to the San Antonio prelims. They drove all night through heavy storms to arrive and check in about 1:30 in the morning before the contest. The Regional contests were not kind to the Lads and it was indeed tough competition at the Southwestern District prelims. They did well but were named as alternates behind the Desertaires (who placed 7th at International that summer) and the Four Hearsemen (who won the 1955 International). It was a long drive home.
They must have been doing something right because they won the district championship on November 5th, 1955 on the stage of El Paso's historic Liberty Hall in only their second contest. They won despite a partially collapsed lung suffered by tenor Don Pitts the morning of the contest. It was appropriate that they sang “Hoop-Dee-Do” as their acceptance song.
Still fighting that regional contest jinx, The Lads qualified but came in second to the Desertaires. That summer (1956) they leaped over them and placed 3rd (in their very first International) while the Desertaires placed 9th. The next year the Gaynotes beat them in the Prelims but the Lads qualified by placing second.
That summer of '57 in Los Angeles Dan “Potsy” Aycock remembered the three days of competition as pure work mixed with some confusion and chaos. Their hotel reservation got messed up and the Lads' entourage of family and friends ended up having to stay at a little, off-the-beaten path hotel called the Gates (also referred to as a "dump"). Aside from being scattered on separate floors and a bell boy who couldn't comprehend the idea of "clean shirts", the Lads braved it all and focused on the job at hand.
The Lads were innovative in their song selection and introduced several new songs to the society. In the quarter-finals they sang two unique numbers: Ro-Ro-Rollin' Along, borrowed from the Sweet Adelines Big Four quartet and rearranged by Floyd Connett, and Hal Staab's arrangement There’s a Rose on Your Cheek.
In the semi-finals they sang My Indiana Home, and Love Me and The World Is Mine which became a hit and was repeated by many of those who were in the contest audience when they returned to their home chapters. The Lads credited Frank Thorne with the song but later Frank asked THEM for the arrangement.
The scores allowed the Gaynotes and the Lads to make the finals but the luck of the draw placed the Gaynotes singing first and the Lads last in the contest. They sang Way Down in Georgia and closed the contest with It Looks Like Rain In Cherry Blossom Lane. The Gaynotes were third and the Lads of Enchantment were crowned 1957 International champions in only their second International contest.
Their championship year was full of shows and wonderful memories but after being together less than four years, Don “Pistol” Pitts decided to retire from the quartet just prior to their swan song at the 1958 International in Columbus. It was the very first International quartet contest the Lads had ever SEEN. It seemed that they were almost always picked to sing last and never got to see the competition. It was a good thing too as they were very impressed with the number of outstanding quartets in the contest. They, of course, cheered on their friends the Gaynotes, and were thrilled to present the trophy to another Southwestern District foursome that night. After returning home and trying a few other combinations, The Lads agreed to disband. They did temporarily reunite in time for the Mid-Winter convention of 1959 in El Paso. With alternate tenor Cal Sexton on tenor, this was final appearance.
Unfortunately, the Lads never put out their own record album. They did have several songs and a large repertoire but like the Hearsemen, their hometown wasn't well equipped with recording studios so the task went undone. They only appear on society contest records with a few songs. They were flooded with requests for their songs, a very popular one being Just A Closer Walk With Thee they had taken off of an old recording of the Southernaires gospel quartet.
Some of the Lads were very active in chapter and district affairs. Gil “Dad” Wallace was Albuquerque chapter president at least seven times as well as a Southwestern District Area Counselor, and Vice President in two districts (Southwestern District 1967) (Rocky Mountain District, several years). He also served as Rocky Mountain District Executive Vice President in 1987. Dan served as Albuquerque's music director for many years and Carl is a past chapter secretary and president. Carl also served on the Southwestern District Board in 1957.
Don Pitts retired and lived in Albuquerque until his death on June 12, 1999 at the age of 71.
Gil Wallace died on October 15, 2006 at the age of 84. He is survived by his wife Dee who still lives in Winnsboro, Texas.
Danny Aycock and his wife Joan live in Monroe, Louisiana where he is a field representative for the Social Security Administration.
Carlton Wright lives in an assisted living facility in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia near his daughter, her family and his wife Dorothy.