The years 1964 and 1965 brought new work and promise, highlighted by my joining an incredible male quartet, The Mellomen, with Thurl Ravenscroft on bass, Bill Lee on baritone, Bill Cole on first tenor and myself on second tenor. I have Bill Cole to thank for recommending me for the group after Max Smith retired. Unfortunately the group didn't stay active too long after I joined, maybe two years. But during this period we recorded some wonderful material, did an on-camera film with Elvis (along with a couple of other recordings with him), and several other projects that were such a joy to sing. I was so fortunate to have been a part of this incredible male quartet!

 

Also in 1965, I began singing on the Academy Awards (the "Oscars"), and with the exception of missing a year or two, have continued to do so to this day, over 40 years later! Now that's quite a run, and I hope to continue doing so if the occasion would arise again. My first show was with the Mellomen, off camera, and in black and white (no color TV as yet) with Johnny Green conducting the Academy Orchestra and hosted by Bob Hope...great memories!!

 

1966 and 1967 were great years for me. It happens occasionally that a great opportunity comes along when it is least expected. In 1966 Anita Kerr had recently moved out to Los Angeles from Nashville where she had phenomenal success with The Anita Kerr Singers quartet, having won a "Grammy" in the Best Vocal Group category, and also recorded many hits where she also did the arrangements for orchestra as well as voices. It happened that she was doing an album with George Beverly Shea and the tenor she had been using, Bill Cole (yes, from the Mellomen) couldn't make it because of a prior commitment. She knew of me (actually using me on a job several months earlier) and asked me to replace Bill. I was a little hesitant to take the job because the tenor part would be a little too high for me (Anita always wrote very high for the men) but I decided to risk it. Thinking back now.... What if I had decided not to accept it? I shudder to think about what might have happened. Perhaps I never would have been a part of this incredible group!! At any rate, the session went well, I thought, but not until the next day did I realize how much Anita liked me and the sound of the group she had been wanting to hear. The doorbell rang, and there was a young man delivering me flowers and a bottle of wine from Anita, a sure sign she had been happy with the group. I was ecstatic!

 

Now started a five year relationship with Anita resulting in numerous albums, singles, commercials, station ID's, etc. I can honestly say that every minute I spent with this multi-talented lady was always a joy, not only musically but also on a personal level. I have never worked with a nicer, more gracious, more caring person in all my years in this crazy business! I just couldn't wait to sing with the Quartet when we got a job. It was challenging, but a pure delight.

 

The high point of our time together was when we won the Best Vocal Group Award in the "Grammy's" in 1966, for a single of "A Man and a Woman", winning out over some very powerful talent, including the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas. We received the award at the Grammy's presentation at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, in front of a live audience after singing one of our singles, "Mamselle", accompanied by the Les Brown band. There was no live TV show as yet. When our name was announced after our song, we were completely surprised at winning, but sooooo happy to have done so! Four years later, in 1970, we flew to Amsterdam to accept the prestigious Edison Award, Europe's equivalent to the Grammys, for a wonderful album Anita had written of Burt Bachrach's hits. Her a capella arrangement of "A House is not a Home" is still a classic, and when we performed it live in front of a huge audience during the Awards ceremony, we received an incredible, lengthy applause that just floored us! We were so excited we were just barely able to finish our last number, "What the World Needs Now". I have never been so thrilled after a performance, solo or otherwise, and I've done a lot of singing in my career! Unquestionably, the high point of my life spent with the Anita Kerr singers!

 

But then came the low point, when Anita announced that she was disbanding the group and moving to Europe to live. To say that I was shocked and deeply dismayed at her announcement would be a serious understatement, although I understood her personal reasons for doing so. Still, I have found it hard to forgive her completely, because I knew the group still had several years of life ahead of us. If she weren't such a great and wonderful lady I would have hated her for the rest of my life!

 

But, dear Anita, when and if you ever read this, I do forgive you, and thank you for the few years we did spend together, as one of the best pop vocal groups ever. And I consider myself so fortunate to have been a part of something very special. The beautiful music you wrote and the wonderful sounds we made together will always endure, and remain as a legacy to be forever proud of!

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