[JPL] Gene Puerling RIP

Doug Crane dcrane at comcast.net
Sat Apr 5 18:18:53 EDT 2008

DC: Of all of the Hi-Lo's recordings I've ever heard, the one that 
stands out for me is the 1958 date "And All That Jazz" with Marty 
Paich's DekTette.  Stellar performances and impeccable writing by 
both Puerling and Paich.

Also: The Hi-Lo's make a brief uncredited appearance in the 1964 film 
"Good Neighbor Sam" which stars Jack Lemmon.  The group is seen in a 
rehearsal for a Hertz ("Let Hertz put you in the driver's seat") 
rental car commercial that goes terribly awry if I remember the scene 

Doug Crane
dcrane at comcast.net
KUVO Denver 89.3 FM
7 to 9 PM Wednesdays

Gene Puerling, 78; vocal arranger led the innovative Hi-Lo's quartet

By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 2, 2008

Gene Puerling, leader of the innovative vocal quartet the Hi-Lo's and 
a noted vocal arranger whose sophisticated harmonies influenced the 
sound of other groups, including the Beach Boys, died March 25. He was 78.

Puerling, a longtime resident of San Anselmo, Calif., died of 
complications of diabetes at a Bay Area hospital, said Don Shelton, 
who was a member of the Hi-Lo's.

Formed in Hollywood in 1953, the Hi-Lo's were "frighteningly 
talented" and "could flawlessly execute seemingly impossible vocal 
leaps," according to an appreciation on the website allaboutjazz.com.

Their rich sound sprang from Puerling arrangements that could make 
other performers swoon. Jazz pianist and TV host Steve Allen is said 
to have called the Hi-Lo's "the best vocal group of all time." Singer 
Bing Crosby reportedly said: "These guys are so good they can whisper 
in harmony."

Puerling "exhumed songs from the past and reinvigorated them," 
creating "a catalog of grand American standards," Don Gold, a former 
Downbeat magazine editor, wrote in 2002 in the Chicago Tribune.

One of the Hi-Lo's first recordings, " Georgia," experienced some 
success, and the group received critical praise for pop renditions of 
such classic jazz tunes as "Fascinatin' Rhythm" and "Skylark."

Their 1956 album "Suddenly It's the Hi-Lo's" briefly became one of 
the Top 20 albums and two years later another, "And All That Jazz," 
was highly praised. Despite being critical favorites, the group never 
achieved great commercial success.

Clark Burroughs, the tenor whose range as the Hi-Lo's lead vocalist 
freed Puerling to write daring arrangements, told The Times that 
Puerling's charts were "complex and hilarious and beautiful -- and 
difficult. He could make our four voices sound like a brass section."

In addition to Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, other groups have 
cited the Hi-Lo's as an influence. They include the Mamas and the 
Papas, the Gatlin Brothers, Take 6 and Manhattan Transfer, according 
to biographical sources.

Puerling won a Grammy in 1981 for his arrangement of "A Nightingale 
Sang in Berkeley Square" for the Manhattan Transfer.

Eugene Thomas Puerling was born March 31, 1929, in Milwaukee, Wis.

In 1950, he moved to Los Angeles and soon met Burroughs. With 
baritones Bob Strasen, with whom Puerling sang in Milwaukee, and Bob 
Morse, they formed the Hi-Lo's, named for the group's vocal range and 
differences in height. At 5 feet, 7 inches, bass-baritone Puerling 
was one of the "Lo's." Shelton, a tenor, joined the group after 
Strasen left in 1959.

In the mid-1950s, the Hi-Lo's toured with Judy Garland. They joined 
the cast of Rosemary Clooney's syndicated variety show in 1956 and 
cut an album, "Ring Around the Rosie," with the singer.

Mitch Miller of Columbia Records unsuccessfully pressured Puerling to 
simplify his arrangements to create a more radio-friendly sound. When 
Columbia dropped them in 1961, another fan -- Frank Sinatra -- 
invited the Hi-Lo's to record for his fledgling Reprise label.

The Hi-Lo's broke up in 1964 but reconvened in the late 1970s and 
performed into the 1990s.

In 1967 -- with Shelton and singers Bonnie Herman and Len Dresslar -- 
Puerling formed Singers Unlimited and produced advertising jingles. 
The Chicago-based a cappella vocal group recorded 14 albums, relying 
on Puerling arrangements that were models of overdubbing, making four 
voices sound like nearly 30.

"There was only one writer like Gene Puerling," Shelton said. "He was 
untrained, unschooled but just had this instinct, this unbelievable 
proclivity for beautiful sounds."

Puerling is survived by his wife, Helen

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