Concert brings back memories

Last Saturday night’s performance of the Four Freshmen at the Smoot Theatre brought back fond memories for Roger Blackburn, Bill Warfield and Dave Kesselring.

On Dec. 13, 1961, in the Parkersburg High School Auditorium, Blackburn, Warfield and Kesselring, all students at PHS, got the unforgettable opportunity to meet the original Four Freshmen and sing tunes with the famous quartet.

At the time, Blackburn, Warfield and Kesselring, along with Larry McKinley, were members of a Parkersburg barbershop quartet called the Chordables. The quartet was in demand to sing for the Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions clubs and other organizations in town, recorded an album and sang on WTAP-TV.

Blackburn, who graduated from Parkersburg High School in 1963, remembers singing a few Four Freshmen arrangements, which he had taken off their record, backstage with the singing group after its PHS performance.

“They were surprised that we knew some of their repertoire and gladly let us sing our parts,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn said it was a thrill for him, as a high school junior, to sing with the Four Freshmen. He has been a Four Freshmen fan since that night in 1961.

Blackburn, who lives in St. Peters, Mo., wishes he could have attended Saturday night’s Four Freshmen show at the Smoot. Blackburn was a trumpet player with the Philadelphia Orchestra for 37 years before retiring in 2011.

Warfield, who also graduated from PHS in 1963, was thrilled he could perform with the new Four Freshmen on the Smoot stage as a member of the Smoot House Band, where he plays baritone saxophone.

The 16-member Smoot House Band accompanied the Four Freshmen for the second half of Saturday’s show. The Four Freshmen, all accomplished musicians besides being outstanding singers, handled the music for the first half of the show.

“I never thought I would be playing with the Four Freshmen again 52 years after the Parkersburg High School show,” Warfield of Parkersburg said.

Warfield remembers how nice Bob Flanigan, a founding member of the Four Freshmen, was to the high school singers after his performance at PHS.

Brian Eichenberger did a great job singing the demanding melody (top part) Saturday night, Warfield said.

Kesselring of Parkersburg was in the audience for the Four Freshmen show Saturday night.

The new Four Freshmen-there have been 22 members since 1948-and Smoot House Band put on an excellent show, Kesselring said.

“They (Four Freshmen) are carrying on the legacy” of the original members. “They have a special, unique sound,” Kesselring said. “We are fortunate to have them sing in Parkersburg.”

The vocal group combines elements of pop, jazz and barbershop.

Felice Jorgeson, Smoot Theatre director, said this was the third performance by the Four Freshmen at the Smoot. About 500 people attended Saturday’s show.

Hunter Ackerman, Jesse Eaton, Jared Ream and Ben Vierheller, members of the Smoot Theatre Children’s Chorus, sang before the Four Freshmen went on stage Saturday.

Later in the show, the Four Freshmen asked the four local boys to join them on stage for a few songs.

“The boys were real excited. They loved it,” Jorgeson said.

The Four Freshmen wanted to show the four boys what it is like to sing on stage before a large audience and to inspire them, she said.

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com