are back. Actually, the famed vocal group that began on a small college campus 65 years ago never really went away.
The Four Freshmen’s current lineup features Brian Eichenberger, Curtis Calderon, Vince Johnson and Bob Ferreira and they have a new album, “Love Songs.”
Founded in 1948 by two brothers, Ross and Don Barbour, at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, the group was first known as Hal’s Harmonizers, then The Toppers, and finally, The Four Freshmen. Two years later, they signed with Capitol Records and produced a string of hits in the 1950s.
Singer and drummer Bob Ferriera says the quartet became popular not only on the strength of their vocal harmonies but also on their original musical accompaniment.
"The group started out as four freshmen in college and they were just trying to get around and get some gigs and play around. So, they played these little bowling alleys or supper clubs and different things," he said. "They’d sometimes do two shows in a day, so they would just throw all of their instruments in a car and run from show to show. A lot of it was that it was kind of hard to hire out musicians to do all these shows when you’re young and you’re broke and in college. They were all playing instruments anyway so they figured ‘let’s just do it.’”
The songs performed now are from those early years, going back to the 1940s and 1950s - keeping intact the sound that the Four Freshmen were best known for.
“The group over the years has experimented in different styles of music as many musical acts do. They will take contemporary songs and adapt them to their style, with mixed success," Ferreira said. "I think our approach, the four of us, even though we were raised in a different time with different styles of music being our initial influences, we know and understand that the Four Freshmen sound is best when it is applied to the Great American Songbook.”
The Four Freshmen is the longest running musical group in pop history. Today, the group performs more than 100 shows a year across the globe. Bob Ferriera says most fans have a favorite Four Freshmen song in mind.
“More often than not they’re coming to share these songs and hear this style of harmony they grew up with," he said. "They have so many memories that were created around this period in their lives and around these songs in their lives. So they get songs like ‘It’s a Blue World’ or ‘Graduation Day.’ They say, ‘I was graduating college in ’56 when ‘Graduation Day’ came out, or ‘I met my first love to this song.’” It’s great. It’s wonderful to hear these stories and to know that these people still have that passion for the music and the nostalgia, but also, they’re coming to hear a different group of four guys singing these songs and accept us.”
The Four Freshmen - Bob, Brian, Curtis and Vince - will be on tour throughout the year, including a stop at the annual International Four Freshmen Society Convention in Fort Wayne, Indiana. From September 5 to September 7, members from previous groups and fans from around the world will celebrate The Four Freshmen’s 65th anniversary, as well as the release of the new CD.