Vocal Groups

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Thurl Publicty Photo

Not Thurl

Over the years, Thurl was a member of many different vocal groups. This page is not intended to be comprehensive, but will attempt to include all the major groups in which he sang. They are listed in roughly chronological order.

The Goose Creek Quartet
The first group Thurl sang with was the Goose Creek Quartet. More facts about the group can be found on the Radio page.

The Paul Taylor Choristers
Thurl left the Goose Creek Quartet to join the Paul Taylor Choristers, who backed up Bing Crosby on Kraft Music Hall radio program. The group consisted on 8 men and 6 women who all shared one microphone.

The Sportsmen
In 1938, Thurl joined two of his colleagues, Bill Days and Max Smith, from the Paul Taylor Choristers as part of the Sportsmen Quartet. Details about this group is on The Sportsmen page.

The Mellomen
In 1948, shortly after Thurl returned to civilian life following World War II, Thurl and Max Smith formed the Mellomen. It was during his years with the Mellomen, that Thurl achieved his biggest success. See The Mellomen page for additional information

Big John & the Buzzards
Since the Mellomen were well-known at the time, when they decided to record some rock-and-roll music the chose a new name. Though they originally recorded four songs for Columbia Records,  only two were actually released by Columbia. The other two songs "Oop Shoop" (2:15) and "Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash" (2:19) were put out on the OKeh label in 1954. 

An OKeh records boxed set (The OKeh Rhythm & Blues Story 1949-1957) was released in 1993 and had the following information in the liner notes:

Often thought to be RCA/Groove R&B star Big John Greer, moonlighting for the competition, it turns out this Big John is the rather obscure Big John Otherbody who gives a rather perverse trashing to two of the era's biggest hits--the Clovers' "Your Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash," and the Teen Queens' "Oop Shoop." Certainly one of the most unusual OKeh discs of the '50s and one of the rarest.

Big John Otherbody? How about that for a made-up name? Actually "Big John Otherbody" is none other than Thurl himself, and the Buzzards are the rest of the Mellomen. The two songs that were released on Columbia were "Hey, Little Girl" (2:47) and "Mean Woman" also from 1954.

Randy Van Horne Singers
Thurl was a member of the Randy Van Horne Singers in the 1950s and 1960s. Other members were Alicia Adams, Sue Allen, B. J. Baker, Vangie Carmicheal, Peggy Clark, John Drake, Jimmy Joyce, Bill Lee, Jay Meyer, Marni Nixon, Vern Rowe, Max Smith, Bob Stevens, Sally Sweetland, and Sally Terri. The Randy Van Horne Singers recorded lots of commercial jingles as well as several albums, but their most famous work is probably the television theme songs they recorded for Hanna-Barbera cartoons. They sang the themes for The Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound, The Jetsons, Magilla Gorilla, and Yogi Bear. The group also sang regularly on The Nat King Cole Show in 1957.

The Carr-Hops
As a member of Joe "Fingers" Carr's vocal backup group the Carr-Hops, Thurl sang on a number of recordings. One song that features Thurl is the 1953 Capitol single "The One Called Riley" (2:18). Joe Carr and the Carr-Hops also backed up Tennessee Ernie Ford on "Stack-O-Lee" in 1951.

The Norman Luboff Choir
The Mellomen made up the core the Norman Luboff Choir in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Thurl can be heard on almost all of their albums, though often just as part of the choir. On the album Songs of the Cowboy he has a solo on "Riders in the Sky" (3:05). On Songs of the West he sings on "The Old Chisholm Trail" (1:48). Likewise on Songs of the Sea, Thurl gets a solo on "The Boston Come All Ye" (2:01). The Norman Luboff Choir also backed up numerous singers including Doris Day, Frankie Laine, and Jo Stafford. For more about these and other singers, see the Work With Other Artists page.

The Sons of the Pioneers
Though he sang on three of their albums, Thurl was never an official member of The Sons of the Pioneers. After Hugh Farr left the group, they were without a bass singer. The four-part harmonies were so important the Pioneers' sound that someone needed to take over for Hugh. That is where Thurl came in. The three albums on which he sang were, Cool Water (1959), Lure of the West (1961), and Tumbleweed Trail (1962). He even has a solo on "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" (2:23) from Lure of the West. On Cool Water and Lure of the West, Thurl sang on the entire album but on On Tumbleweed Trail, he sang only on "The Lilies Grow High", "Song of the Trail", and "Song of the Pioneers".

The Thurl Ravenscroft Singers
The Thurl Ravenscroft Singers released an album on Dot Records titled 12 Great Hits in 1962. The group was made up of the Mellomen and a few female singers. Thurl has solo lines on the song "If I Didn't Care" (2:41), but otherwise just sings with the group such as on "Who's Sorry Now" (2:18).

Pete King Chorale
One of Thurl's favorite recordings was the song "Wagon Wheels" (2:44) from the record The Wide Open Spaces by the Pete King Chorale.

The Johnny Mann Singers
Thurl was on 28 albums with the Johnny Mann Singers in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Thurl said that whenever Johnny Mann wanted to go into the recording studio, that he always called Thurl first to make sure he was available. On most albums, Thurl is part of the choir, but on a few songs he does have a solo. Two good examples are "Walk Right In" (2:03) on the album Midnight Special and "She's Just My Style" (2:25) from the record A Man and a Woman. On one song, "Boll Weevil" (2:31) from the album Golden Folk Song Hits, Thurl sings the lead and the rest of the group sings backup.

Thurl also appeared on Johnny Mann's Stand Up and Cheer which was syndicated and ran for 3 seasons on between 1971 and 1973. See Thurl on Television for more about the show. 

The Johnny Mann Singers performed at the White House on two occasions, one during a luncheon held by Pat Nixon for Imelda Marcos in January 1973, the other for a meeting between Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev in June 1973.

The Modern Barbershop Quartet
In 1974, Thurl was recruited, along with Ron Hicklin, Gene Morford, and fellow Mellomen member, Gene Merlino to record and album as The Modern Barbershop Quartet. The album Modern Barbershop Quartet was released by Bell Records and featured barbershop-style renditions of popular songs of the time. Some of the songs included were "Delta Dawn", "If", "Me and Bobby McGee", and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree".

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