Moments To Remember : The Four Lads©2004JCMarion

From choir practice at St. Michael's in Toronto, Canada as The Jordanaires, , to a fledgling start in pop music as The Four Dukes, the quartet known the world over as The Four Lads had one of the true signature sounds of the nineteen fifties. The original group consisted of tenors Bernie Toorish and James Arnold, baritone Frank Busseri, and bass Corrado Codarini. The way they were supposedly discovered, is one of the great show business legends of the fifties. As the story is told, one night in 1950, the Lads were appearing at Casino Theater in Toronto, and part of their act was a very good impression of famed gospel and pop group from the 40s, The Golden Gate Quartet. It just so happens that in the audience was one Orlando Wilson, who also happened to be the lead singer of the Golden Gaters. Wilson rang up his manager in New York (Mike Stewart) from stage front and held up the phone so he could hear the group. Without further ado Stewart became the manager of The Four Lads.

The Canadian foursome traveled to New York and got a booking at one of the smart set's hangouts of the time, La Reuben Bleu. Ten days turned into a thirty week extended engagement and the group was seen by none other than Mitch Miller who signed them to Columbia Records. On NBC television in 1950 The Four Lads appeared on the Ransom Sherman Show with Johnny Bradford, Nancy Wright, and the Art Van Damme Quartet. Mitch Miller rather than producing the group for their own recordings had them sing backup for a new untried singer named Johnny Ray. Because they didn't quite know how to package Ray, the initial record was released on the Okeh label which was pushing hard in the R & B field under Danny Kessler. The Ray - Four Lads collaboration resulted in five big hits for Columbia - "Cry", "The Little White Cloud That Cried", "Please Mr. Sun", "Here Am I Broken Hearted", and "What's The Use". Then in 1952 Miller and Columbia agreed to record the Four Lads on their own.

In July of 1952 Columbia released Okeh #6885 "The Mockingbird" by The Four Lads. This first release by the group was a good sized hit and made the top 25 in the country. Next year Mitch Miller produced and led the orchestra for "Somebody Loves Me", the standard from the 1920s back on the Columbia label on #39865. That record got on the charts for one week as did "He Who Has Love" on #39953. Another old standard "Down By The Riverside" (#40005) did better as a top 20 seller and a five week charter. In late October of 1953 The Four Lads had their first big hit, a somewhat ridiculous tune called "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" with Norman Leyden's orchestra that made the top ten and remained a big seller for more than three months. The flip side "I Should Have Told You Long Ago" even charted for a week.

In 1954 "Oh That Will Be Joyful" (#40220) briefly charted followed by the flowery named "Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellen Bogen By The Sea" (#40236) which actually was a top twenty seller and a chart record for five weeks. In the studio with Neal Hefti's band the Lads recorded a vocal version of a South African song called "Skokiaan" which was a hit for the originators, The Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms Band" on London Records. The Four Lads version on #40306 was a surprise hit for them selling well into the American top ten and remaining on the charts for three months. The group closed out the year with a song recorded with Frankie Laine and the Buddy Cole Quartet called "Rain Rain Rain" on#40295.

In late summer of 1955, as the rock 'n roll age was gathering steam, The Four Lads recorded a song that told the story of remembering happy times for the post war generation during the late forties. This sentimental tune so heavy on nostalgia turned out to be a monster hit for the group and their signature song. "Moments To Remember" on Columbia #40539 seemed to appeal to everyone across the entire spectrum of record buyers. It was kept out of the number one spot by of all people, Mitch Miller with his sing along hit "Yellow Rose Of Texas". The Lads "Moments" held the number two position and remained a top seller on the charts for six months. It was the group's first million seller. Their follow up was almost as big a hit. "No, Not Much" on #40629 held on to number two for four weeks (kept out by Dean Martin's "Memories Are Made Of This") and charted for five months. In late April the quartet made it three huge hits in a row with "Standing On The Corner" from the Broadway hit "The Most Happy Fella". The song topped out at number three and stayed for four and a half months on the charts. The flip side did fairly well also, with "My Little Angel" getting in the top twenty five. Another good selling two sided record was released in late 1956 - "The Bus Stop Song" (from the film) and "A House With Love In It" on #40736 both reached the top twenty. During the year The Four Lads also had a top selling LP album called "On The Sunny Side" for Columbia #912.

Well into the rock age The Four Lads kept the hits coming. "Who Needs You" on #40811 was a good steady seller in early 1957. It was a top ten hit and stayed for four months on the charts. Later in the year "I Just Don't Know" on #40914 became another top twenty seller. Late in the year The Lads recorded a song that was a hit for them with "Put A Light In The Window" on #41058. The song was a solid top ten hit and a nine week charter. The group kept it up into 1958 with a solid seller on #41136 - "There's Only One Of You", another top ten record. In the summer, "Enchanted Island" was another good seller for the group on #41194, and the last of The Four Lads chart hits came at the tail end of the year as the group comes full circle as they record a new version of their very first hit on their own - "The Mockingbird" on #41266.

At the close of the decade they recorded a few more tunes for Columbia but their successes as a hit recording artists were over. "The Girl On Page 44", "The Fountain Of Youth" and "Happy Anniversary" all recorded in 1959 did not do much in either sales or airplay. The original group broke up in the early sixties after more than a decade at the top of their profession. We are fortunate there are a number of CD recordings that have preserved the sound of The Four Lads. Some of the best available are :

"Love Songs by The Four Lads" (Ranwood)

"The Four Lads Sing Frank Loesser" (Collectables)

"Great Gettin' Up Morning" (Sony)

"Four On The Aisle" (Collectables)

and three double original album CDs -

"Moments To Remember" / "Very Best" (Taragon)

"Swing Along" / "Everything Goes" (Collectables)

"Breezing Along" / "On The Sunny Side" (Collectables)

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