In Celebration of the Human Voice - The Essential Musical Instrument
The Gentlemen's Agreement, 1971 International champion, is one quartet that really was and "overnight success." Almost, anyway. Organized in December 1969, it qualified for the international contest in the spring, went to Atlantic City in July and came home with fourth-place medals. The following year, in New Orleans, the Detroit-area quartet won the whole ball of wax. But why not? Two of its members (baritone Glenn Van Tassell and tenor Al Rehkop) claimed their second gold medals in New Orleans; they had been half of the Auto Towners, 1966 champions. And the other two, lead Drayton Justus and bass Bob Whitledge, were equally talented, long-time barbershoppers, even though they didn't have medals to show for it.
Glenn, Bob and Drayton had been directors or assistant directors of three different choruses; Al is an accomplished composer and arranger who was responsible for many of the quartet's songs. One week after winning the gold the G.A. accepted an invitation to make a 17-day tour of South Vietnam. From the decks of ships to forward-area bases to hospitals they entertained US servicemen, singing 41 shows in a little over two weeks. Greg Backwell, formerly of the Nighthawks, replaced Glenn in about 1973, and Drayton later joined the Suntones. The quartet retired, then reorganized two or three times but finally shelved the pitchpipe in the mid-80s.
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Review: Though each of the singers who made up the quartet had prior contest singing experience, it is a fact they went from a brand new group to International Champions in just nineteen months. One week after winning they spent three weeks in Viet Nam entertaining the troops for the USO. Part of their vocal appeal, for this reviewer, is the fact that the lead singer, Drayton Justus, had a higher voice than most barbershop leads and the mix of voices has a sweet bell like quality when they hit those ringing chords. They used the finest arrangers of the day such as Renee Craig, Al Rehkop (the tenor of the group), Mo Rector, Greg Backwell, Joni Bescos and Jarmela Speta to whom they pay tribute in song. You'll find twenty-six songs amassing seventy minutes of marvelous music on this recording.