The Brothers Four Biography

This pioneering and long-running folk/pop quartet was formed in 1957 by University of Washington fraternity brothers Bob Flick (upright bass, vocals), Mike Kirkland (guitar, banjo, vocals), John Paine (guitar, vocals) and Richard Foley (guitar, vocals). They were spotted by Dave Brubeck’s manager, Mort Lewis, when playing at the famous Hungry I in San Francisco in 1959, and he was able to secure them a contract with Columbia Records. Their second release, ‘Greenfields’, shot to number 2 in the US charts. This beautiful and haunting song came from the pen of Terry Gilkyson of the Easy Riders, who had written major 50s hits such as ‘Memories Are Made Of This’ and ‘Marianne’. The folk-based foursome, who were voted America’s ‘Most Promising Group Of 1960’, were quickly established as one of the leading lights on the folk revival scene alongside the Kingston Trio and the Limeliters. They saw their first two albums, The Brothers Four and B.M.O.C. (Best Music On/Off Campus), reach the US Top 20. They had eight more lower placed albums and half-a-dozen smaller US hit singles, and reached a peak when they recorded the theme tune to the ABC network folk music series Hootenanny. The emergence of Bob Dylan and a highly politicized folk movement, coupled with the British beat group invasion of the mid-60s made the Brothers Four’ brand of easy listening folk instantly passé.

The original line-up carried on until 1969, when Kirkland was replaced by Mark Pearson (banjo, guitar, piano). Pearson was in turn replaced by Bob Haworth, but returned in 1990 in place of his successor. Flick was briefly replaced by electric bass player Tom Coe in the mid-70s, and Foley finally left the line-up in 1990 with Terry Lauber taking his place. The quartet survived the 70s and 80s through extensive touring, and resumed recording the following decade.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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