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Society Honorary Member Bob Flanigan 1926-2011

The vocal performance world has lost a great talent. We mourn the loss of the 2003 Society Honorary Member and lead singer/founder of the incomparable Four Freshmen Bob Flanigan and reflect on his life through the words of his friends and contemporaries.

“Bob Flanigan was a rare bird, a one-of-a-kind, driven for more years than one would think possible to carry on the Freshmen legacy.

The Four Freshmen sound and their early recordings stimulated group singers everywhere to emulate that clear, ringing harmony, with its open jazz voicing that took the next step from the Modernaires and Skylarks model and threw those impossibly high tenor and spread jazz chords into the male group singers’ lexicon . . it made pop vocal selections so much more interesting! Barbershop, it was decidedly not.

In the early ’50s I was in college in Detroit and singing small group material with musicman Don Large’s varied ensembles (trios to chorus) on WJR the Goodwill station (clear channel) for its Saturday CBS “Make Way for Youth” programs. Fascinated by the group sound, five of us set out to do the Modernaires thing, soon forming a pretty good group that sang around town and on the radio as the “Spellbinders” (whoa!). We heard about the Freshmen and those of us 21 or older escaped to their fairly frequent engagements at the Crest Lounge, a popular bar/bowling alley. We were knocked out by what we heard! We went back several times and all five of us sat in or sang in their upstairs rehearsal sessions. What a great time we had. Yes, “Blue World” was the epitome of our longing jealousy. I even copied it by hand from the 7″ platter and found 4 other guys at college to satisfy our appetite for ‘the sound.’

The new Freshmen? I know they’ll miss Bob, but they’ve still got Ross. And I’m sure he will agree that these great singers have a perfect feel for what we were hearing in those early days. My now-wife (the lead singer in our teenage quintet adventure) and I enjoy the hospitality and comraderie when we are able to attend the FFS conventions and look forward to the great sounds and scenes that emulate our early fan-years.

Yet Bob will be greatly missed — especially when we hear “Blue World.” (I still have that platter.)”

Rol and Bev Sharette
Boulder, Colorado

“I just heard from Bob Ferreira that our great friend Bob Flanigan passed away just before 10pm tonight Las Vegas time. He was with several generations of his family and died peacefully with jazz music playing softly.

This afternoon, Rod Henley and a group of Vegas musicians came by his home and played for him, so music was a big part of Bob’s last day on earth.

We’ll all miss Bob so much; his legacy lives on as the greatest lead singer in vocal group history.

It’s a Blue World without you…


Chaz Cone
Four Freshmen Society Membership Director