Tenor: Don Kahl
Lead: Calvin Yoder
Bass: Willard Yoder
Bari: Jim Bagby
When the Rural Route 4 won the international quartet championship in 1986, they did not exactly qualify as an overnight sensation.
Organized in 1971 by four residents of Cass County, Missouri, the quartet would not win the gold until 15 years and two personnel changes later. Along the way were dozens of contests, from the chapter to international level, and years of hard work. But there was fun too, as the RR4 gradually built a reputation as on of the most entertaining show quartets around.
Brothers Calvin and Willard Yoder, lead and bass respectively, and the owners of a dairy farm, plus bari Rufus Kenagy, also a farmer, and tenor Everett Roth, a carpenter, were the original members of the group.
They qualified for their first international contest in 1976 in San Francisco, finishing in 21st place. The next eight years were a roller coaster – in the top ten three times, out of the top ten twice and laying out three years when the wives proclaimed, “We’re not spending this vacation at a contest!”
Meanwhile, Rufus had dropped out in 1977 and was replaced by Jim Bagby, an Associated Press newsman from Kansas City who had coached the quartet since 1972. Everett was replaced by Don Kahl, a respiratory therapist in 1983.
Finally in 1985 at the Minneapolis convention, the RR4 earned fifth-place bronze medals. The following year, to their own surprise more than anyone else”s, they jumped to the number one spot.
Shortly thereafter Don moved to Dallas Texas, and son/nephew Wesley Yoder stepped in for several more shows.