The Singers Unlimited

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The Singers Unlimited
TheSingersUnlimited.jpg
The Singers Unlimited c.1977 (Left To Right: Len Dresslar, Don Shelton, Bonnie Herman, Gene Puerling)
Background information
GenresVocal Jazz, Jazz, Easy Listening
Years active1967–1982
Past membersGene Puerling
Len Dresslar
Bonnie Herman
Don Shelton

The Singers Unlimited was a four-part jazz vocal group formed in 1971 by Gene Puerling. The group included Len Dresslar (better known as the Jolly Green Giant in General Mills commercials), Bonnie Herman, Don Shelton, and Puerling himself.

Gene Puerling and Don Shelton had formed part of Puerling's successful all-male vocal group, The Hi-Lo's, some years previously, though Shelton was a 1959 replacement for original Hi-Lo's Member Bob Strasen. The Singers Unlimited group were originally formed to record for commercials in the USA, but as time passed, they were persuaded to enter the recording studio to record a series of albums. On the recommendation of pianist Oscar Peterson (who was also signed to the label at the time), they gained a contract with German label MPS. They recorded two albums in 1971, the first a cappella, the second, In Tune with Peterson's then-current trio.

The group produced 15 albums, of which arguably the most well-known is their Christmas album (which was actually recorded before the group's association with MPS.) All of the 14 albums they recorded specifically for MPS (between the years 1971-1982) are collected in the 7-CD box set entitled Magic Voices.

Puerling's Singers Unlimited arrangements earned him the reputation as one of the best vocal writers in the world. Members of the renowned jazz-gospel vocal group Take 6 often give credit to Puerling and the Singers Unlimited as innovators in the a cappella world, claiming that they "went to school" on Puerling's arrangements.

Puerling took advantage of cutting-edge multi tracking techniques of German studio engineer Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer to create his advanced harmonic concepts and the group's signature sound. In the overdubbing process, baritone Puerling and tenor Shelton would often add two additional middle parts, after which all parts were "doubled" and "tripled." Creating these extra tracks created the fuller, richer sound of the group's recordings, and is now a common recording practice. Gene Puerling died on March 25, 2008.

The group would record their songs starting by having Bonnie Herman record a simplified version of the melody, after which, Len, Gene, and Don would fill in the remaining parts. Once this process had been completed, Bonnie Herman's original melodic line would be replaced with a new one in which she could add melodic embellishments and add "color" to the groups sound.

Bass singer Len Dresslar (1924–2005) was known as the voice of the Jolly Green Giant ("Ho, Ho, Ho!") for over 40 years, as well as the voice behind countless other jingles from Chicago. He had also been the President of the Chicago branch of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) for several years in the mid-to-late 1980s.

Bonnie Herman was the singer of the original "Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Is There" commercial jingle, which ran for several years. She is the daughter of Lawrence Welk original Champagne Lady Lois Best, and Jules Herman, who was a trumpet player in the Welk orchestra. She is the niece of big band leader Woody Herman.

Discography[edit]

  • MPS 815 671-1 (1971) A Capella
  • MPS 68.105 (1972) Christmas (recorded previous to 1971)
  • MPS 68.085 (1973) In Tune (with Oscar Peterson Trio)
  • MPS 68.106 (1973) Four of Us
  • MPS 68.107 (1973) Invitation (with Art Van Damme Trio)
  • MPS 68.102 (1974) Sentimental Journey (with Robert Farnon Orchestra)
  • Delta 5C 064D-99447 (1974) A Capella II
  • MPS-BASF MC 22607 (1975) Feeling Free (with Pat Williams Orchestra)
  • MPS 68.101 (1976) A Special Blend
  • MPS 68.150 (1976) Friends
  • MPS 68.196 (1976) Eventide
  • MPS 68.179 (1977) Just in Time
  • PAUSA PR 7056 (1978) The Singers Unlimited with Rob McConnell and The Boss Brass
  • PAUSA 7076 (1979) A Capella III
  • PAUSA 7109 (1980) Easy to Love (the last of the 15 original albums recorded by Singers Unlimited)
  • PA USA – 7136 (1982) The Composer’s Corner (singing the music of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Duke Ellington)
  • MPS 831-373-2 (1990) Compact Jazz (a compilation of previously released songs)
  • MPS 06025 1717737, Universal Music Group – 06025 1717737 (2010) Feelings (a compilation of previously released songs)
  • MPS 523 521-2 (1996) Masterpieces (a compilation of previously released songs)
  • MPS 539 130-2 (1997) Magic Voices (a 7 CD box set of all albums except Christmas)
  • MPS 06024 9825421 (2006) The Complete A Capella Sessions

References[edit]

  • This discography was updated October 15, 2018 using the 15 original MPS Records vinyl LP Record albums as the source for all album numbers and recording dates.