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The Hi-Lo's Biography

The name of this outstanding North American vocal unit derived from the contrast in height between its tallest members - leader/arranger Gene Puerling (Eugene Thomas Puerling, 31 March 1929, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, d. 25 March 2008, USA) and Bob Morse (b. Robert Morse 27 July 1923, Pasadena, California, USA, d. 27 April 2001, USA) - and diminutive Clark Burroughs (b. 3 March 1930, Los Angeles, California, USA) and Robert Strasen (b. 1 April 1928, Strasbourg, France, d. 28 February 1994). While developing their sophisticated close harmony style, they lived in the same Chicago house, making ends meet with menial jobs and engagements at weekends and evenings. Through the offices of band leader Jerry Fielding, they recorded for several labels while building a reputation as a versatile, technically accomplished act via a Las Vegas hotel season, a tour supporting Judy Garland and replacing the Four Esquires as resident musical turn on comedian Red Skelton’s networked television series. Before Strasen was replaced by Dan Shelton (b. 28 August 1934, Tyler, Texas, USA) in summer 1959, the four teamed up on disc with the Marty Paich Dek-tette - and Rosemary Clooney with 1957’s ‘Ring Around Rosie’ (with Morse’s counter-tenor prominent). This breakthrough assisted the passage of Now Hear This into the album Top 20 the same year. Further collections - some devoted to specific stylistic genres - sold steadily if less remarkably.

After the Hi-Lo’s disbanded in 1964, Puerling and Shelton found employment producing advertising jingles with vocalists Len Dresslar and Bonnie Herman with whom they formed Singers Unlimited in 1966. An impressed Oscar Peterson recommended them to Germany’s BASF/MPS company, which released several Singers Unlimited albums including 1978’s Eventide. That same year, the Shelton line-up of the Hi-Lo’s re-formed as a recording entity and were affectionately welcomed at performances in nostalgia revues. The Hi-Lo’s had a profound influence on the harmony sound of the Four Freshmen and the Beach Boys.

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

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