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Gene Puerling of the Hi-Los dies.

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  • mrcooby
    Gene Puerling, 78; vocal arranger led the innovative Hi-Lo s quartet By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Gene Puerling, leader of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2008
      Gene Puerling, 78;
      vocal arranger led the
      innovative Hi-Lo's

      By Valerie J. Nelson,
      Los Angeles Times Staff

      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
      [2008]. He was 78.

      Puerling, a longtime
      resident of San
      Anselmo, California,
      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
      [California] in 1953,
      the Hi-Lo's were
      talented" and "could
      flawlessly execute
      seemingly impossible
      vocal leaps," according
      to an appreciation on
      the website

      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

      One of the Hi-Lo's
      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

      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

      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,

      In 1950, he moved to
      Los Angeles
      [California] and soon
      met Burroughs.
      With baritones Bob
      Strasen, with whom
      Puerling sang in
      Milwaukee, and
      Bob Morse, they formed
      the Hi-Los, 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

      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
      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

      The Hi-Los broke up in
      1964 but reconvened in
      the late 1970s and
      performed into the

      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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