OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — Historical credit for saving what’s known as the ‘barbershop’ sound goes to a man named O.C. Cash.
The self-proclaimed ‘world’s greatest barbershop baritone’ was worried that his favorite musical genre might go silent for good, so he threw a party at the Tulsa Club in April of 1938.
That was the beginning of the Barbershop Harmony Society says Mark Winn.
“It started from there,” he confirms, “and they started forming chapters.”
Flip the sheet music ahead to the present day and O.C. Cash’s organization is still going.
It’s official name is The Society for Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing, or S.P.B.S.Q.S.A for short.
Winn is a member and says, “The Society has grown over 75 years to include 17 international affiliates.
There are chapters in Sweden, New Zealand, Australia. There’s an affiliate in Spain.”
The Society holds a big international contest every year.
The Bartlesville Barflies took home the first trophy in 1939.
A quartet of Oklahoma City police officers calling themselves The Flatfoot Four won in 1940.
Bass singer Barry Clark found a picture of the original four at work at immediately felt a connection.
He’s a captain with the OCPD today.
“So they got to tour all over North America and sing,” says Clark.
“You’re carrying on a previously unknown musical legacy,” observes one listener.”
“Yeah, you could probably say that,” he laughs. “I’m carrying it the best I can. I’m probably not doing a great job but I’m enjoying it.”
The groups sing to us across generations.
The 4 Hearseman, The Lads of Enchantment, The Side Street Ramblers, even the Gaynotes kept alive the tradition of four part harmony.
Their barbershop descendants are still trying for something they call ‘lock and ring’, when every part is perfectly sung, when ‘barbershop’ reaches for the high note of art.
There is an official celebration of the Barbershop Harmony Society’s 75th year taking place Saturday, April 27th.
The concert is called ‘Celebrate Harmony’.
It’s set for 7pm at the Harding Fine Arts Academy. Tickets are $15.00.