Tenor: Bob Welzenbach
Lead: Jim Grant
Bass: Don Stratton
Bari: Fred King
The real beginning of the Oriole Four, 1970 International champion quartet, was in 1951 outside a Baltimore high school – although no one, of course, knew it at the time. That’s when students Fred King and Jim Grant first met, discovered they had a mutual fondness for harmony and sang an impromptu duet. They joined the Society a couple of years later, found two other students who liked to harmonize and formed the Deacon Four, with Jim on lead and Fred on baritone.
The quartet, with occasional personnel changes, was still getting together now and then after its members had graduated, and in 1956 the name was changed to the Oriole Four. Bass Don Stratton came along in 1957; tenor Bob Welzenbach joined the others in 1958, and a winning combination was solidified.
All were members of the Dundalk, Maryland chapter, and three weeks after their first rehearsal they won the Dundalk Open and later the Chesapeake Bay Open. It was in 1958 also that they met Bob Loose, who was to become their permanent coach and close friend. After working with him for only three months, they won the Mid-Atlantic District championship.
But then the hills got steeper. Although they placed eighth in their first international competition in 1959, it would be 1965 before they again reached the finals and ’69, in St. Louis, before they won their first medal, a fourth-place bronze. But the next year, in Atlantic City, 12 years of work and dedication paid off, and the Oriole Four were the new champs.