Burlington Chapter History
As the Burlington Chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society celebrates its 75th anniversary, this is the first of a series of articles that will appear weekly in the eTone. The material for these articles comes from information published in the GMC’s Overtone in October of 1972 in celebration of the Chapter’s 25th anniversary . The information’s author was Fran Sheridan, long time chapter secretary who had access to the very earliest chapter records. Much of this same early information was published again in the GMC’s Burlingtone in 2007, our 60th anniversary year.
The First Quarter Century (1947 - 1972)
The Burlington Chapter, SPEBSQSA, saw its first light of day in the waning months of 1947. Though an official birth certificate was not issued by the international Office until the second quarter of 1948, the chapter was born on October 28, 1947 in the old Hotel Vermont’s Apple Orchard Room. Don Tetzlaff was the driving force in organizing the new chapter and the Barre Chapter was the sponsoring group. Don obtained promises of attendance from 25 men with a lot publicity articles in the local newspapers and radio stations. 24 men showed up for that first meeting and it started off with singing! There was organization business conducted later that night and a motion was made and carried to petition the national organization for a charter. Annual dues were set at $6.00 with $3.00 going the International Office.
Our first director was Carl Nelson, an insurance man of great personality and musical know- how. He, more than anyone else, was responsible for the Chapter’s early success musically. By the summer of 1948 the membership was up over 70 and the Chapter was preparing for its first big show to benefit the Mary Fletcher Hospital. On November 5, 1948 the Burlington Chapter through the aid of the Mary Fletcher Hospital Auxiliary presented a concert in Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium. The Burlington Chapter quartets participating in that show were The Four Fortes, The Uncalled-Four, The Maple Sugar Four, The Ethan Allen Four and The Sigma Phi Four. The Burlington Chorus under the direction of Carl Nelson sang the old songs: ‘You Tell Me Your Dream”, “Daisy and Annie Rooney”, “Sailing on a Moon Beam” and “In the Evening By the Moonlight”. Tops among the visiting quartets were the marvelous Linen Dusters from Hartford, Connecticut. They literally brought the house down with their wonderfully harmonious ballads and their humorous vaudeville type of songs. This foursome, the first really professional quartet to come to Burlington, not only thrilled the paying audience during the concert, but continued their melodies in a variety of public wineries until the wee hours of the morning and then at 8:15 the next day showing up fresh and hearty for encores over a local radio station. The show raised $2,600 for the hospital.
In 1949 the Chapter hosted the Northeastern District Quartet Contest in the Burling ton’s Memorial Auditorium. Burlington’s Maple Sugar Four, made up of Ed Bechtel, Doc Howard Slack, Bob Titus and Bruce Butterfield, qualified to sing in the International Quartet Contest to be held in Buffalo, New York (one quartet member didn’t get off the train in Buffalo - but that’s a whole other story). In the 1950's the Chapter had a change in directors. Carl Nelson passed away suddenly and men like Monroe Allen, Bob Huber and Dick Kitchen served for various periods of time. It was during the 1950's that many of Burlington’s fine quartets became organized. Not only were the Maple Sugar Four, previously mentioned, singing but perhaps one of our most beloved quartets, the Ethan Allen Four, picked up the pitch pipe. The original quartet was made up of Doc Rayme Towne, tenor; Carl Nelson, lead; Buss
Taggart, bari and Mase Huse, bass. After Carl Nelson and Buss Taggart passed away, Harlan Wilcox took over as lead and Doc Howard Slack as bari. This quartet, perhaps more than any other quartet in our Chapter, symbolized what is great about Barbershopping - four men who loved to sing and would go anywhere to entertain.
Another quartet with a great sound, The Chord Smugglers, made its appearance in the 50's and continued on right through the early 1970's with various personnel changes. The group with perhaps the sweetest sound was Monroe Allen, tenor; Jim McNamara, lead; Ed Bechtel, bari and Bill Garneau, bass - really three tenors and a baritone with a great range. The early 1960's saw the birth of a great fun quartet, The Yankee Doodles. Jim Applegate and his dad Wes along with Joe Kaelin and Ray Miller could really break up an audience with songs like “The Great Big Saw”.
Another fine quartet, “The Original Junction City All Stars”, did a great job in a local production of The Music Man and also in competition. Jim Applegate, Ken Willey, Ray Miller and Bob Currier were singing in this quartet during the late 1960's and early 1970's. Current quartets (1972) are The Northern Lights and The Battery Parkers.
You may notice that not much mention has been made of the Chorus here - there were many directors and many frustrating years. But all that changed with arrival of Steve Plumb. Steve joined the Burlington Chapter three times. He was first recruited by UVM professor Doc Huber, a former GMC director, who got Steve to join the chapter when Steve was a grad student at UVM. Steve eventually graduated and joined IBM in the Poughkeepsie, NY area. Steve joined the Poughkeepsie chapter - a very successful chapter who went on the represent the NED at an International Chorus Contest. W e believe that Steve co-directed at that appearance along with co-director Bill James.
In the late1960's, Steve moved back to our area as a manger with IBM and became the GMC’s director. The chorus was really struggling at that time and Steve brought it back to life! The biggest singing challenge at that time was the Montreal Chapter. Steve subtitled one of our contests songs as "Beat Montreal!" in the early 70's. And we eventually did beat them, winning the Division One championship multiple times and the GMC finishing as high as third in a NED District Chorus Contest. Steve was also in a quartet called "The Seven O'clock Four" (based on the time of day they met). One night Steve arrived at quartet practice to find that he had been replaced by Lead, Ed Bechtel and Steve was “promoted” to coach! It is reported that Steve's finest recruit was Greg Morrill (who worked for Steve at IBM). Greg went on the be the GMC’s director for 26 years. Steve was the GMC's Chorus Director from 1970 through 1983. He then transferred to join IBM in the Kingston, NY area. Steve was also very, very active in the SPEB/BHS judging program, was a category specialist and much sought-after coach. Steve eventually left IBM and to teach at a local New York State Community College. Steve and his wife Barb decided to move back to Vermont around 2018. Barb however passed away before they could move. Steve eventually arrived and joined the chapter for a third time. However dementia and Alzheimer's were starting to take a toll on him. Eventually Joy Hayes, a childhood friend from the Brattleboro area, joined Steve - she was his care giver until earlier this year when he was moved to a nursing home before passing away. Steve is survived by his daughter Margie and was predeceased by his son Steve Jr.
Annual shows were held in 1948, 1949, 1951,1957, 1959, 1960 , 1968, 1970, 1971 and 1972.
We believe that The Buffalo Bills of “The Music Man” movie and Broadway fame appeared twice in this time period as the feature quartet. Other feature quartets included The Union Jacks, The Four Rascals, The Adventurers, Cracker-Jills, The Boston Common, Grandma’s Boys, The Top Hats and The Four Statesmen.
Movers and Shakers in the First Quarter Century were:
1947 Hal Mayforth
1948 Donald Tetzlaff
1949 Carl Nelson
1949 Charles Taggart
1949 Louis Dow
1950 Robert Titus
1951 Robert Burger
1951 Simon Levin
1952 Edward Bechtel
1953 Raymond Foulds
1954 Harlan Wilcox
1955 Morris Hammond
1956 Howard Slack
1957 Mason Huse
1957 Simon Levin
1958 Nathan Brown
1959 Les MacKenzie
1960 Robert Huber
1961 Francis Sheridan
1962 Conrad Flynn
1963 Raymond Palmer
1964 Wayland Campbell
1965 Robert Huber
1966 Raymond Miller
1967 Bruce Wenner
1968 James Applegate
1969 Robert Currier
1970 Robert Currier
1971 Ken Willey
1972 Charles Waters
Carl Nelson Carl Nelson Carl Nelson
Robert Huber Robert Huber
Rayme Towne Rayme Towne Rayme Towne Robert Huber Robert Huber Robert Huber
Richard Kitchen Richard Kitchen Monroe Allen Monroe Allen Monroe Allen Richard Kitchen Robert Huber Monroe Allen Robert Huber Richard Ianni Alfred Vieneau Robert Huber Steve Plumb Steve Plumb Steve Plumb
The Second Quarter Century (1972 - 1997)
Well, we sure wish we had Fran Sheridan around to chronicle the next quarter century! Continuing with what Steve Plumb started, the GMC finished in first place in Division One preliminary (Spring) chorus contests 17 times in this 25 year time span. In this same time period at the Fall NED chorus contests, the GMC finished third 5 times, fourth 4 times and fifth twice. (A tip of the hat goes to Jerry Walter for compiling this and other data in this report). As mentioned earlier, Steve Plumb directed through1983, Carl Phillips directed in1984 - 1987. Greg Morrill took over directing duties in mid-1988.
Annual shows were held each year in this time period including two at the Flynn Theatre in
Burlington. Feature quartets included The Easternaires, The Club House Four, Gentlemen’s Agreement, The Boston Common, The Roaring 20's, Pieces of Eight, Rural Route 4, The Citations, Blue Grass Student Union, The Pros ‘N’ Cons, The Harrington Brothers, Center Stage, The Pros ‘N’ Cons (again), Interstate Rivals, Rural Route 4 (again) and Side Kicks. We had John Austin to thank for booking “up and coming” feature quartets a couple of years in advance at more reasonable rates.
Chapter quartets abounded in our second quarter century. We’ll list quartets listed in Annual Show programs, their members in part order (T,L,Ba,Bs) and in approximate time order. The Battery Parkers (King Milne, Rick Neilson, Charlie Church, Bob Knapp); The Northern Lights (Andy Buchanan, Ed Bechtel & Dick Sears, John Austin, Nick Hodnett & Fred Newhall); Nickelodeon (Jim Applegate, Mark Yungfleisch, Jim Keefner, Ray Miller); Queen City Express (Tod Lawrence, Steve Janes, Carl Phillips, Dick Ianni); The Hometown Crowd (Charlie Church, Ed Bechtel, Carl Phillips and Bob Currier & Bob Farnham); The Yankee Express - 1981 Northeastern District Quartet Champs (Andy Buchanan, Tom Glosick, Steve Norris, Dick Ianni); The Uncalled Four (Al Kousen, Steve Tremper, Scott Frost, Leonard Bettis); The Dads And Undergrads (Al Kousen, Greg Morrill & Dave Getzin, Matt Hamilton & Greg Morrill, Tom Creed); A Great Idea ( Bev Austin, Linda Miller, John Austin, Ray Miller); High Voltage (Adam Socinski & Chuck Laufer, Greg Morrill, Charlie Church, Don Pierce); The Old Smoothies (Andy Buchanan, Ed Bechtel, John Austin, Bob Currier); International Blend Harold Grevatt, Bruce Spector, Al Allen, Bob Grevatt); Factory Seconds (Adam Socinski, Ron Clarke, Dan Suiter, Rich Gutowski); North Country Chord Company (Al Kousen, Ron Clarke, Tom Shersten, Hugh Goodwin); Imagine That! (Chuck Laufer, Ron Clarke, Steve Lacombe, Rich Gutowski); Parts Unknown (Al Kousen, Joe Gortych, Jim Allen, Dale Higgs); All The Rage (Andy Buchanan, Bruce Spector, Carl Phillips, Rich Gutowski); Irish Lads (Steve Lacombe, Ed Bechtel, Jim Allen, Rich Gutowski); Borderline Four (Harold Grevatt, Len Beams, Al Allen, Ned Duffy & Jerry Huetz & Dale Higgs); Second Nature (Steve Lacombe, Ron Clarke, Carl Phillips, Gregg Neavin); Faux Pas (Steve Lacombe, Ed Bechtel, Carl Phillips, Ned Duffy); The Rusty Pots (Monroe Allen, Ed Bechtel, Ray Palmer, Hugh Goodwin); Prime Time (Chuck Laufer, Don Allen, John Zweighaft, Jerry Walter); The Journeymen (Ron Clarke, Denis Brochu, John Zweighaft, Jerry Walter); Anything Goes! (Steve Lacombe, Bruce Spector, Carl Phillips, Ned Duffy); The River City School Board (Chuck Laufer, Greg Morrill, Charlie Church, Don Pierce); 3 Good Looking Guys (Dan Suiter, Ron Clarke, Carl Phillips, Ned Duffy); The Five Statesman (Dan Suiter, Ed Bechtel, Carl Phillips, Ned Duffy); No Small Affair (Steve Lacombe, Ron Clarke, Mike Ianni, Dick Ianni). Also, the Champlain Echoes, the local Harmony Incorporated ladies chapter participated on
a number of our Annual Shows. Chapter member Bob Hothem emceed many Annual Shows even afer he relocated to Ohio.
Other things were happening in the chapter as well during these years - here is a sampling: The 70's saw us start the 20 Week Club, which was a major fund raiser for many years. At this time we also rented and renovated the basement of the KofC on Cherry Street in Burlington for a permanent rehearsal space for both GMC and Champlain Echoes - this gave us a private rehearsal space with chairs and risers permanently setup. We constructed a fourth row of risers and to this day these boxes provide storage spaces in our storage area at St. Francis Xavier School. Our chapter hosted the 1978 NED Fall Convention/Contests at Memorial Auditorium in Burlington. The GMC membership at that time stood at 65. During this time period we presented an annual Holiday Show on WCAX TV. With the help of Lyric Theatre “techies”, we built Flats and acquired sound and lighting equipment - and then
traveled all over the State presenting Package Shows. The 80's saw the chapter running annual Fall retreats at Keewaydin camp on Lake Dumore. The Burlington Free Press ran spreads in their Weekend section promoting our annual shows in 1986 and 1988. In 1992 we attended a function hosted by the Champlain Echoes celebrating the 10th anniversary of their directors, Greg Morrill and his late wife Alice Kruidenier. Under their guidance, the Echoes won four Harmony Incorporated championships. In 1996 the GMC participated in the Buckeye Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. Ask the old guys how that loud and loooong bus ride was!
Movers and Shakers in the Second Quarter Century were:
1973 John Austin
1974 John Marriott
1975 Charles Church
1976 Peter Bridge
1977 Charles Church
1978 Ray Grenley
1979 Dan Venditti
1980 Steve Janes
1981 Ken Zyber
1982 Hubert Goodwin
1983 Charles Church
1984 Geoff Kelafant
1985 Andrew Buchanan
1986 Andrew Buchanan
1987 Steve Tremper
1987 Charles Church
1988 Denis Brochu
1989 Bruce Spector
1990 Adam Socinski
1991 Richard Labrecque
1992 Dan Suiter
1993 Richard Gutowski
1994 Leonard Beams
1995 Leonard Beams
1996 Bruce Spector
1997 Bruce Spector
1997 Leonard Beams (7/1)
Steve Plumb Steve Plumb Steve Plumb Steve Plumb Steve Plumb Steve Plumb Steve Plumb Steve Plumb Steve Plumb Steve Plumb Steve Plumb Carl Phillips Carl Phillips Carl Phillips Carl Phillips
Barbershopper Of The Year
n/a Richard Sears
John Austin Carl Phillips John Marriott Steve Plumb Charles Church Dan Venditti Ray Grenley Ken Zyber Donald Pierce Steve Tremper Adam Socinski Greg Morrill
Richard Labrecque Donald Pierce Leonard Beams Richard Gutowski Jerry W alter
Bob & Harold Grevatt Charles Church
Barbershoppers of the first half Century (1947-1997): Ed Bechtel and Steve Plumb
The Third Quarter Century (1997 - 2022)