Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


HI-LO's, The

Jazz-oriented pop vocal group, probably the most technically accomplished of all. The apostrophe in their name seems to have been a sort of trademark, even though it doesn't mean anything. Original lineup: Eugene Thomas Puerling (b 31 March 1929, Milwaukee WI; d 25 March 2008), Clark Burroughs (b 3 March 1930, Los Angeles CA); Robert Morse (b 27 July 1927, Pasadena CA); Robert Strasen (b 1 April 1928, Strasbourg, France). Organized by Puerling, they took their name from the fact that Strasen and Morse were well over six feet tall, towering over the others, as well as from their amazing vocal range. They shared a house to save money, worked as salesmen, soda jerks, parking cars etc, singing weekends and evenings, and were heard by bandleader Jerry Fielding, leading to recording for the Trend label, then Starlite. Puerling provided intricate arrangements, Burroughs's voice (reaching high G over middle C without difficulty) adding a distinctive touch, and a flood of bookings included the Red Skelton TV show, a tour with Judy Garland and a spot at Las Vegas hotel, the albums for Columbia: Suddenly It's The Hi-Lo's '57, Love Nest and Now Hear This '58.

Strasen was replaced '59 by Don Shelton (b 28 August 1934; he also played reed instruments), and then came a highpoint: The Hilo's And All That Jazz with the Marty Paich Dektette, the band featuring trumpeter Jack Sheldon, Bill Perkins, Bud Shank and Herb Geller (b 2 November 1928, Los Angeles; d 19 December 2013, Hamburg Germany) on reeds. After Ring Around Rosie with Rosemary Clooney and All Over The Place '60, there were more albums for Columbia, then Kapp, then with Frank Sinatra's Reprise label: The Hi-Lo's Happen To Folk '62, To Bossa Nova '63. They split up '64.

Puerling and Shelton moved into ad jingles, then formed Singers Unlimited '66 with Len Dressler and Bonnie Herman (also jingle singers) and this studio-based group using multi-tracking was heard by Oscar Peterson, and recorded for German BASF/MPS: 15 albums began with In Tune (with the Oscar Peterson Trio), A Cappella (called Try To Remember in the USA), and Christmas, all released in 1972; Sentimental Journey '74 and Eventide '77 with Robert Farnon, Feeling Free '75 and Friends '77 with the Pat Williams Orchestra, Four Of Us '73, Singers Unlimited with Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass '74, Just In Time '77 with the Roger Kellaway Cello Quintet, Invitation '73 with the Art Van Damme Quintet, plus A Cappella II '74, A Special Blend '76, Easy To Love '81 and A Cappella III '80. Puerling, Morse, Shelton and Burroughs reunited in 1978 for The Hi-Lo's! Back Again on MPS. Singers Unlimited re-formed in 1993 for one track on a Gloria Estefan Christmas album, then all their MPS albums (except Christmas) were compiled on seven CDs as Magic Voices in 1998 on Motor Music, a boxed set which made fans ecstatic: connoisseurs of vocal pop and jazz value Puerling's work as the top of the hill for sheer technical perfection, as well as joy in the making of music. Christmas, Feelings, In Tune and two 2-CD compilations (Masterpieces and Complete A Cappella Sessions) have also been released separately.