05/18/11

Bob Flanigan, Original Member of Four Freshmen, Dies

Vocalist and musician was 84

Jazz vocalist and musician Bob Flanigan, who was one of the original founding members of the Four Freshmen, died on May 15 of heart failure. He was 84 years old.

Along with Hal Kratzsch and brothers Ross and Don Barbour, Flanigan formed the Four Freshmen in the '40s, as an offshoot of a barbershop quartet. Their first hit single was "It's a Blue World," in 1952. The group would go on to release a succession of increasingly popular records in the 1950s, culminating with "Graduation Day." According to a statement released by their management company, the Four Freshmen have over 50 albums, 70 top-selling singles and six Grammy Nominations. A major influence on modern-jazz vocal groups such as the Manhattan Transfer and New York Voices, the Four Freshmen are more famously credited with influencing the Beach Boys by providing a model for unconventional yet mellifluous high harmonies. Over the years, the Four Freshmen developed a large following and even a large fan club that remains active to this day.

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Bob Flanigan of the Four Freshmen
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Bob Flanigan
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Four Freshmen album cover

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Flanigan retired from the group in 1992, but kept in close contact with the younger musicians who kept the group alive in the studio and in performance. Ross Barbour is now the sole survivor of the original group. The current Four Freshmen (Brian Eichelberger, Curtis Calderon, Vince Johnson and Bob Ferreira) have been together for more than 10 years. In a statement released by their management, the current members acknowledged their debt to Flanigan in both personal and professional terms: “Bob’s life had a profound impact on the music world, and the four of us personally. The sound that he and his cousins created back in the late '40s influenced, inspired and entertained millions of people. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be a part of that legacy. Bob was our inspiration, partner and friend, and we will miss him dearly. The world is a better place because he passed through it. Our thoughts go out to Bob's wife, Mary, and the rest of the Flanigan family in this sad time.”

Flanigan is survived by his wife Mary, six children and 15 grandchildren.

6 Comments

  • May 18, 2011 at 09:09PM Donald Boland

    Thank you for your piece on Bob Flanigan, without a doubt the greatest lead singer in the history of vocal groups. He will surely be missed as a musician, but even more so as a man.

    As wonderful as the original Freshmen were, Flanigan always introduced the current group as the best Four Freshmen group ever assembled.

  • May 19, 2011 at 04:06PM bcushman

    Amen! One of my favorite songs by the Four Freshmen is "There Will Never Be Another You" and that certainly applies to Bob Flanigan. As a result of your publishing Bob's obituary I have just subscribed to Jazz Times after a long absence.

  • May 19, 2011 at 04:10PM bcushman

    An additional comment regarding the obituary on Bob - there is one original member of the group still living = - Ross Barbour

  • May 19, 2011 at 05:27PM Lee Mergner

    Thanks. We have made a correction to the piece to note that Ross Barbour is still alive and is now the last living member of the original group.

  • May 19, 2011 at 08:09PM bcushman

    Lee, I'm impressed! Glad to be back as a member of the JT family!!

  • May 21, 2011 at 01:37PM Robert Magruder

    Bob was a wonderful artist and a fine gentleman as well. Bob has been introducing the present group as "the best group ever." Not without Flanigan it isn't.

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