Chapter History

In The Beginning ......

Dr. Hank Calhoun came to Hilton Head from the Philadelphia area and brought with him his love for barbershopping. It didn't take Hank long to find a few other guys who loved to ring chords, and so came the forming of a new chapter on Hilton Head.

The first recorded minutes of the Hilton Head chapter happened on November 25, 1974.  A visitor from the Dixie District recommended that they elect a slate of officers while they wait for their charter. This they did. The chapter was chartered April 15, 1975.

Dave Stevens visited them on one of their Monday night rehearsals, which were held at St. Andrew-by-the-Sea Church. In his report to headquarters, he stated that the chapter was for real but with a high age average. Nothing has changed.

Their newsletter, the forerunner of “The Pitch”, volume 1, number 1, came in to being December 9, 1974. Comments from the newsletter: Treasury balance $150. We now have 35 members. A name for the chorus was studied in committee. Yule log Christmas was at Harbourtown. The first annual concert was scheduled for spring of 1975.

The first annual show was held at the Holiday Inn on April 18, 1975. They had two district quartets, “Southern Gentry” and “The Good Time Singers,” and two chapter quartets, “Southern Comfort” and “The Rebel Rousers".

The 1976 show was held at the Hilton Head Elementary School.  “Main Street U.S.A.” were the headliners. They represented the district at the internationals that summer in San Francisco.

The 1977 show was also at the Elementary School. "Dealers Choice" were the big guns. They were the 1973 International champs. Ron Parker, a new member of our chapter, got his brother, Gary Parker, the bass of “Dealers Choice,” to have the quartet sing at the show for no fee; just transportation. What a deal.  Of course, “The "Rebel Rousers” represented our chapter.

In 1978, the chapter had grown to 50 members. The annual show was a little different. They showed off the “Sandpipers”, an in-house octet; “The Marsh Wrens,” a Sweet Adelines quartet; a “Farmer" quartet with Robert Peeples singing bass; a “Cowboy” quartet, and “The Rebel Rousers.”  Everybody got into the act. The top dog was “The Racquet Squad” with our own Dave Frankland singing lead.

1979 was a good year.  With 45 members, the Hilton Head chapter was the second largest in the district.  That year, the “Pros N Cons" got top billing. Individually in other quartets, they had won five international medals, (including two gold medals). They also had seven district championships. Three were certified judges and all were, or are, directors. Many of you remember their tenor, Harry Williamson. Their bass was none other than Tom Ewald, a recent candidate for our Chapter’s chorus director.

Fifty members helped make 1980 a great year with numerous sing-outs as well as the annual show in May.  “Crackerland Chord Company” and “B and O Connection” were in the spotlight. “Crackerland Chord Company" was formed in 1978, and they became district champions the same year. They competed at the Internationals in 1979.  The “B and O Connection" were Mid-Atlantic champions in 1978 and came in seventh at the International in 1978 and third in 1979.  Bill Laidlaw joined the chapter that year and, we gained a GREAT bass. (We hope he can get back with us again.).

1981 followed 1978 as a good year for in-house quartets. In 1978 we had three quartets and an octet in the show. In 81, we had “ Shonuff 4”,  “Heritage Foursome” (w/Robert Peeples singing bass), and “The Rebel Rousers" (w/Hank Calhoun-bari). The headliners were “The Stacked Deck” and “The Pros N Cons.”

Bob Jones became President of the Island Sounds in 1982. There were 57 members who presented a Gay Nineties Review at the Hilton Head Playhouse,. "The Heritage Foursome", the "Chordsmen" and the "Rebel Rousers" sang in the first half, along with the Vocal Impressions from Greensboro, NC. After intermission, the headline quartet, the "Racquet Squad" with our own Dave Frankland, gave their usual topnotch performance. After many years of the chorus practicing on Monday nights at St. Lukes Episcopal Church, they moved to the Palmetto Dunes Clubhouse.

"The Midstates Four", past International Champions, headlined the 1983 Annual Show, with the "Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boys" as the second guest quartet. Three Chapter quartets appeared as well. Bud Max was the President that year but moved to Florida before his term was up. Bill Bratt moved up from VP Membership to take his place. This show ended Hank's directorship, which was taken over by Dick Camp.

A new wrinkle was added on May 13, 1984, a matinee.  International champs from Denver, "Classic Collection", and an Augusta quartet, "Second Time Around", appeared on all three shows. Bill Bratt began a two-tear term as President and Hank Calhoun as VP Program. Geoge Hopkins was Secretary. The chapter numbered 51 members at the time, with a brand new member, Kiah O'Brien.

Saturday Night At The Movies,” 1985s annual show, marked the return engagement of the "Crackerland Chord Company" plus the newly crowned Dixie District Champions, the "Bowery Street Boys" from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The "Heritage Foursome" added Kiah Brien as Bari, and the "Rebel Rousers" introduced a new tenor, Dwight Blakeslee.

George Hopkins was President in 1986. Hank Calhoun was Membership VP. The year had a good start with lots of singouts and a mid-May show with the "Side Kicks" from Florida and our old friends from Savannah, "Tybee Lighthouse", who helped demonstrate that "There is Something I Like About Broadway.”

There was a letter in the program addressed to George Hopkins. Here it is:

"Dear George:


Pass the pitchpipe and permit me to salute the Hilton Head Chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Singing in America on your forthcoming show:   There’s Something I Like About Broadway.

Your barbershop talents will certainly do justice to the many songs the world likes about Broadway.  I am delighted that the great Hilton Head group has chosen to honor the city of New York with this production.

Thank you, keep on singing and God Bless!


Edward I. Koch, Mayor"

Bob Cragg was elected President in 1987. The chorus was learning to sing under the direction of Kiah O'Brien. The in-house quartets were doing a lot of gigs. Instead of bringing in an international quartet champion for the show, the "Dapper Dans" of Disneyland were contracted. They were a professional foursome who used instruments in their performance. All four sang all four parts and switched in mid song again and again. They shared the spotlight with a group from North Carolina, "Match Point".

1988 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of SPEBSQSA. The ranks of the chapter rose to 61, all active chorus singers. Bob Cragg continued as president, and Jack Fisher did a bang-up job as show chairman. The 1983 international champions, the "Side Street Ramblers" and the "Midnight Express" headlined the show. Kiah O' Brien continued to improve as a barbershop musical director, a job he took the previous year.

An unusual event took place to commemorate the 50th anniversary when George Hopkins set up a display in the local library to tell the story of barbershopping to the Island . There were news clippings by Katie Callahan and Jane Shaw. Another important event took place that year; your reporter joined the chapter. I know, big deal.

The long time friends of our chapter, the "Pros 'N' Cons", returned in 1989 for our show in May, announcing that this was their swan song. The lead, Kevin King, had formed a new quartet to enter the race for the Gold at International. There was a new group in the show, the "Back Nine", (a very large quartet). They were very entertaining with their close harmony.  The Rebel Rousers also sang. For the first time in many years an MC announced the singers and kept the audience in stitches. His name was Melvin "Skinny" Harris of Charlotte. Ed Wechtel was President and Hank Calhoun was Show Chairman.

The Chapter began the 90s with 73 members and two new quartets, "Sunny Side Up" and "Lost in Sound", making their way into the retinue with names like Jack Hawkins, Dick Yawger, Don Cederblade and Jim Williams. The "Rebel Rousers" maintained the same four guys for the sixth year. Hank Calhoun was elected President with Don Cederblade as Show Chairman and a new guy, Ken Houck, as Ass't Show Chairman.

“When The Railroads Ran” was the title of the 1990 show. The featured quartets were "Class Apart" and a great Quartet from Bellevue, WA, "Northwest Spirit". The show was the introduction of our bright red jackets.

1991 was a good year for barbershopping on Hilton Head. Membership remained high. Hank Calhoun presided at the meetings with Bruce Cormack, Ken Houck, Bill Laidlaw and George Hopkins as Vice Presidents. The annual show, "Grandpa's Attic", was a happy mélange of old favorites sung by the chorus. The 1990 International Champions, the "Acoustix", were a smash hit with the audience. The 1990 senior champs, "Grandma's Beaux", rounded out the evening in style. Dick Von Glahn played Grandpa. "Five Over Par" made their debut with two songs. This happy group consisted of Bus Baker, Ell Clymer, George Funk, Curtis Carter, Ed Wechtel, Dwight Blackslee, John Judge, Jim Ragland, Don Cedarblade and Bob Garver.

This was the year we moved our weekly meetings and our annual show to the elementary school from Palmetto Dunes.

1992 began with Bruce Cormack as our president. We added a long time barbershopper, Wayne Meier, from Westfield Mass., where he was a director of a chorus for eight years. He was immediately added to our directing staff as assistant director. Our annual show, "Down in the Old Neighborhood," a nostalgic musical trip to those days of songs everybody knew. 1982 champs, "Classic Collection," returned for the second time and a crazy quartet "Fred" were second banana and put the audience in the aisles laughing. Ed Wechtel was the show chairman.

Bruce Cormack took us into 1993 for a second year as president with a music team under the gung-ho leadership of Ken Houck and a new quartet, "Calibogue Sound." John Degnan, a long time barbershopper, who joined us in 1992, along with John Judge, Bob Garver and Don Cedarblade made "mistakes " in their first show piece. A second quartet, "Again," also appeared with tenor Hank Calhoun, lead Charlie Schoolcraft, bari Kiah O'Brien and bass Bill Laidlaw. Morale was high, the membership was 63, as we prepared for the spring show, "Phantom of the Barbershop." "Chordiac Arrest" of Chicago, provided plenty of comedy and good singing. "The New Attitude" of Charlotte rounded out the headliners. Wayne Meiers was transferred back to New England never to be heard from again.

In 1994 we lost a friend and active barbershopper, Don Cedarblade. Wally stone stepped into his place as base in Calibogue Sound. Ell Clymer was elected president , backed by Jim Snow VP membership, Wally Stone VP program, Ken Houck VP music and Frank Moore VP public relations.

Our annual show "A Stroll Down Memory Lane," featured a Sweet Adeline Quartet, "Ambience," for the first time ever. Their rendition of Rhapsody in Blue was outstanding. These ladies were all chorus directors. The 1992 district champs, "Talk of the South," did an outstanding job. Our local quartet was , "All in Accord," with Bob Case, bass, Ken Houck, lead, Ell Clymer, bari and Hank Calhoun, tenor.

1995 was an up and down year. We gained new members, including Dick Heckman and Bernie Bookman, but lost bass section leader Dick Yawger to cancer. The membership dropped by ten members overall but despite this there were a number of successful singouts. "The Show of Shows" was the theme of our annual show and was a rousing success. It featured the 1992 International champs "Keepsake". Their lead, Joe Connolly, was the best I've ever heard. A fine young quartet fresh out of  college, "Class of '94", filled out our top billing. We had three local quartets, "Calibogue Sound", "Keystone Rebels", and "Low Country".  A month after the show tragedy struck again. Ken Houck died suddenly following elective surgery.

1996 was an exciting yet tragic year in that we lost longtime outstanding members Bill Bratt, Bill Huntly and Bruce Cormack. The membership dropped sharply despite an active schedule. The self Family Arts Center opened in March and we produced a show in conjunction with the "Island Singers", a well known Hilton Head women's chorus, entitled "Broadway meets Dixie Land." Bob Garver presided at Chapter and Board meetings ably assisted by Bernie Bookman, Wally Stone, Dick Heckman and John Degnan as VP's.

In May we learned a valuable lesson. Always have two headliner quartets! Our show "Vaudeville on Broadway" featured International champs "Marquis" and a popular comedy group "Shenanigans" and an emcee Mr. Barbershop himself, Freddy King from Baltimore. A problem arose in that Marquis never showed Friday night. Their bass was socked in by fog in St. Louis. Shenanigans did double duty, actually two routines and Freddy kept the audience in stitches with his own brand "shenanigans" to make the show a smash hit. Two local quartets, "Low Country" and "Keystone Rebels" did their part to add to the entertainment. All went smoothly Saturday night.

A new man joined the Chapter in 1997 and dropped the average age of the group by five years. Chris Roach, a 17 year old high school senior came into the chorus adding a fine bass voice. The Chapter inaugurated a Valentine program being used throughout the Society. For $30 a quartet would sing two love songs to your sweetie and present a rose and a card. Three quartets entertained around the Island and the surrounding area all day long.

We entered chorus competition in March of 1997 in Gatlinburg, Tenn. We did ourselves proud but we didn't win. The annual show in May was outstanding, featuring the "Acoustix" as stars and "Prime Cut" a collegiate champion foursome. Two quartets, "Calibogue Sound" and "Low Country" sang. The latter introduced two new members, Buck Edwards and Dick Tyrrell, both singing lead. More will be heard from these two in days to come. We also had a number of good singouts during the year.

Bernie Bookman headed the leadership team of the Chapter in 1998, a very successful year in Barbershop on the Island. Valentines' day had four quartets doing their thing. The annual show in May featured the International Champions "Gashouse Gang"and District Champs, "The Svelte Brothers". "Calibogue Sound" and "Low Country" again made us proud. Our founder, Hank Calhoun, missed the show, his first absence for an annual show in 39 years in the Society. Again, a sad note; the death of a long time active member and good friend, Phil Bagnold.

1999 was our Silver Anniversary, 25 years of barbershopping on Hilton Head. Bob Garver presided over our membership roster that totaled 54. Bernie Bookman and Bob Minitor co-chaired our annual show, "25 Years of Harmony". We had a great show with the International bronze medal winners "BSQ", the 1998 College Quartet Champions, "Prime Cut" and the local Sweet Adelines chorus, the "Shore Notes". The Chapter was represented by two of our own quartets, "Calibogue Sound" and "Low Country".

Dick Tyrrell led us into the year 2000 with the help of Bernie Bernstein, Sec; Zig Palagyi, Treasurer; Dick Heckman, VP Music; Dick Heckman, VP Chapter Development and John Degnan, VP Public Relations. This was our first year to hold our show at the Self Family Arts Center. Bernie Bookman and John Degnan were co-chairman for "The Roaring 20's".  We headlined the 1997 International Gold Medal winners "Yesteryear" and also featured "Riptide", the 1998 Dixie District Champs who put on a great performance. We were represented by "Calibogue Sound" and some new guys on the block, "The Hilton Head  Four".

Tyrrell did such a good job, we re-elected him President for 2001. He had a great support group with Bernie Bernstein, sec; Ian McLeod, Treasurer; Bernie Bookman, VP Music; Zig Palagyi, VP Chapter Development; and Dick Gosson, VP Marketing. The 2001 Annual Show was titled "Come on Down to Hilton Town", taken from the adaptation of an old tune with new words written and arranged by our own Dick Heckman. Dick Tyrrell and Bernie Bookman co-chaired the Annual Show which was again held at the Arts Center. Our featured quartets were the 1999 International Champions, "FRED" and the 2000 Dixie District College Champs, "Low Down Sound". The Sweet Adelines Chorus, the "Shore Notes", were again represented. The chorus and our local quartets had a very active singout program that year, singing to 67 community groups.

Kiah O'Brien, who we were proud to have had as our Director since 1985, retired from the chorus. He directed the choruses at Hilton Head High School and middle schools, and the Low Country Presbyterian Church Choir. He was honored by being selected "Barbershopper of the Year" in 1994.

"The Barbershop History of Hilton Head Island" was the title of our 2002 Annual Show. We acknowledged Charles Fraser for his vision, energy and enthusiasm that spearheaded the growth of Hilton Head Island. We had two directors for our show, Tim Brooks from Atlanta and Peter Stevenson, the Director of the "Harbormasters" in Beaufort, each doing a segment of the show. We were very appreciative of their help. Headlining the show was the "Four Voices", the 1999 Dixie District Champs and Bronze International medalists, and the "Wise Guys", the 1998 Sunshine District Champs.

Zig Palagyi was our President for part of 2002, but relocated to Hawaii during the year. Dick Tyrrell stepped in to the leadership role and carried us through for the balance of the year and stayed on for 2003.  Dr. David brown became our director this year.

Our top guns for the show this year were  “Catfish Bend”, the 2002 international collegiate champions and “Endeavor”, the 2002 international semi-finalists.

2004, our 30th year, we presented “Barbershop On Broadway”. Under the directon of Dr. David Brown, we are singing better than ever and filling the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina both Friday and Saturday night.

On of are fairly new members, Jim Grove, became President. As in the past few shows we have had “The Shore Notes” and this year the Hilton Head High School show choir.

In 2005 we took a “Sentimental Journey” with “The Hilton Head Lighthouse Chorus”.  “Night Life”, the 1997 international barbershop quartet champions was our guest quartet.

Kirby Sullivan became our new president.

2006 was another good year for our chapter. We had fifty three members. Our president and show chairman, Kirby Sullivan did an outstanding job at both positions. We had twenty three members step up and fill positions. They were a tremendous asset to Kirby and the chapter.

Our show “Tribute To The Ladies” was great success.

2007 was our break out year for chapter quartets. In our March show, “Barbershop And All That JAZZ” we had six quartets performing. This is what barbershopping is all about. The average age of our membership came down with the addition of a good bass, young Richard Melton.

Show chairmen Dick Tyrrell and Rick Weymuth did a great job as co-show chairmen. The skits this year were tied in with some of our songs were real crowd pleasers.

“As Time Goes By” was the theme for our 2008 show. This was our 34th annual show .  Our show chairman, Kirby Sullivan did an excellent job.

We had five chapter quartets in the show.  Our special guest quartet, “ 3 Men and A Melody,” wowed the audience.

Led by second term president, Rick La Spisa, the chorus had many sing outs for the benefit of local community organizations.  We gave financial support to Bluffton High School to start a program for learning vocal and instrumentation on guitars, which proved very successful.

2009 brought us a new chorus director, Wayne Vanderslice.  Wayne stepped out of the tenor section and had us singing our best ever.

Terry McPherson became president and proved to be a great leader. He is also our representative with a group from North and South Carolina Chapters wanting to break away from Dixie District and form a Carolina district that would better serve our interests.

Our 35th annual show, “Barefoot Days,” was a venture into vignettes about our childhood days. The audience liked our attempt to have old guys acting like kids.

To be continued.....

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