Bob Flanigan, Original Member of Four Freshmen, Dies

Vocalist and musician was 84

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

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.