The Brothers Four will perform with the Sno-King Community Chorale twice on Nov. 11, including with a salute to the armed forces. From left are Mark Pearson, Mike McCoy, Bob Flick and Karl Olsen.

The Brothers Four will perform with the Sno-King Community Chorale twice on Nov. 11, including with a salute to the armed forces. From left are Mark Pearson, Mike McCoy, Bob Flick and Karl Olsen.

60 years later, Brothers Four leading the sing-along

Formed by UW frat brothers, the quartet was there at the start of the folk era and kept singing.

EDMONDS — You will sing along. It just happens.

That’s the promise from Sno-King Community Chorale director Frank DeMiero, whose concerts Saturday with the chorale will feature the legendary American folk-pop quartet, the Brothers Four.

Theirs is the sort of music that most everyone just knows, and the invitation to sing along goes without saying, DeMiero said.

In a phone interview this past week, Brothers Four founder Bob Flick said he and the rest of the guys are looking forward to singing with the chorale, a group they have performed with before.

“The chorale is such a hard-working bunch, and Frank — the icon, the living legend — is a taskmaster who shapes us all up,” Flick said.

A Ballard High School alum from the 1950s, Flick formed the group with Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brothers Dick Foley, Mike Kirkland and John Paine at the University of Washington.

Current member Mark Pearson joined the group in the late 1960s when Kirkland left. Dick Foley stayed with the quartet until 1990. There were other changes, of course. The deal is, however, the Brothers Four are still performing 60 years later.

Another benefit of this concert, especially for you TV sitcom fans, is that Flick’s wife, the beautiful Loni Anderson, will be on hand to sing along as well.

“All the wives will be here, which makes it even more special for us,” Flick said.

The Brothers Four’s hit rendition of the ballad “Greenfields” was released in 1960, just a few years after the group had formed in Seattle.

“It was kind of ‘Happy Days’ music back then,” Flick said. “It was pop and rock, but mostly folk music, which was enjoying a revival. Those songs were pretty easy to learn, and sometimes needed to be sung in unison.”

The songbook that became their mainstay included tunes from the Weavers, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, Flick said. “Without them there would be no Peter, Paul and Mary, no Kingston Trio, no Phil Ochs and maybe even no Bob Dylan.”

At Easter break in 1959, the Brothers jumped into a station wagon owned by Flick’s folks and headed down the coast to San Francisco.

There they performed at the hip “hungry i” nightclub in North Beach. “It was one of those inspired places — like Greenwich Village in New York City — for jazz, stand-up comedy and the growing folk music scene. Turns out Dave Brubeck’s manager Mort Lewis was in the audience. He encouraged us to make a tape because he thought Columbia Records needed us on their roster.”

Back in Seattle, the Brothers made a demo tape at the office of KUOW, where Flick was the radio station’s production manager. “It had seven songs. We sent it off to Mort Lewis. They called us to come to New York City on July 4. It was pretty exciting. We made our first album there.”

The single “Greenfields” went to No. 2 on the pop charts six months later, sparked by lots of radio play in Seattle and Salt Lake City, Flick said. “The timing could not have been better. We never looked back.”

The Brothers Four, with the support of their families, quit the UW and jumped onto the college concert circuit, performing across the nation. Their self-titled first album was released at the end of the year and made the top 20 of the most popular albums of 1960. At the 1961 Academy Awards the group performed their single “the Green Leaves of Summer,” which had been used in the John Wayne movie “The Alamo.” The Brothers Four recorded the theme song for the ABC-TV series “Hootenanny,” and appeared on the show numerous times.

The rise of Dylan, Joan Baez and like-minded folkies, followed by the British Invasion, slowed the success of the Brothers Four. And yet, the group continued to make records (60 total), perform across the country and climb the charts in Japan, where they still are popular today.

“This music is called Americana now. It’s not a lost art,” Flick said. “It’s storytelling music. ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone?’ is just as sobering a song as when Pete Seeger first sang it. There are serious subjects and lots of joyful tunes.”

The concerts on Sunday will give people a chance to remember times that are dear to them while offering younger generations exposure to songs that are timeless, Flick said.

“That’s why our concerts become sing-along events,” he said.

Along with bassist Flick, the Brothers Four includes Mark Pearson, of Port Ludlow. Pearson was a bit younger than the original four, but was a member of the same fraternity nonetheless. Pearson sings tenor, plays banjo, guitars and writes songs.

Mike McCoy, of Snoqualmie, yet another member of the same frat at the UW, has been with the quartet for about 12 years. McCoy sings harmony, plays guitar, and he makes guitars that he gives away to fellow musicians.

Karl Olsen, of Whidbey Island, is the most musically educated of the four, having earned master’s degree in vocal/choral music at the University of Denver. A guitarist, Olsen oversees the music programs at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland and has done scoring and arranging for the Brothers Four.

“The sound we produce now is probably closest to the original Brothers Four. These men can do it all, but the simple sounds often are the most effective,” Flick said. “We rehearse frequently. We don’t phone it in.”

Music has been the passport of the Brothers Four, he said.

“We are heading back to Japan very soon. I think we are appreciated there because people want to learn to speak English and we enunciate when we sing,” he said. “We’re also developing our online presence. Lots of new doors are opening and all of us are so blessed as we pass through. Being a Brothers Four member has been wonderful.”

Sing Out for America

Sno-King Community Chorale with guests The Brothers Four perform at 3 p.m. and again at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 at Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N. Tickets are $35 general, $32 for seniors, $20 for children. Call the box office at 425-275-9595 or go to www.ec4arts.org. More information is available at sno-kingchorale.org.

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