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Puerling, Gene (31 March 1929-25 March 2008)

Arranger and vocalist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who idolized The Four Freshmen, The Mel-Tones and The Modernaires, and used them as inspiration for the singing ensembles he put together while still attending high school.

The Shades were one of those groups and they, in a roundabout way, morphed into The Hi-Lo’s.  Bob Strasen, a baritone, was in both groups.  Gene added Clark Burroughs and Bob Morse, and the Hi-Lo’s were born.

In 1956, they landed a steady gig on Rosemary Clooney’s television program.  It would not be their last foray into TV.  They also appeared on Steve Allen’s and Nat King Cole’s programs and Frank Sinatra’s TV specials.

In the 1960s, they joined Sinatra’s Reprise Records, shifting their focus from pop to bossa nova and folk, trying to keep up with the times.

The times, however, passed The Hi-Lo’s by, and they disbanded in 1964, a casualty of the rock-and-roll era.

Undaunted, Gene moved to Chicago, Illinois, which was rich with commercial work, and it was here he met Len Dresslar and Bonnie Herman, planting the seeds for The Singers Unlimited.  One short of a quartet, Gene drafted latter-day Hi-Lo Don Shelton into the group.  They were intended to be a commercial-jingle group, but success found them when their rendition of “The Fool on the Hill” captured the imagination of Oscar Peterson.  He helped get them signed to the German label, MPS, and collaborated with them on their first album, 1971’s In Tune.  They went on to release fourteen albums in the next nine years.

In 1982, Gene won a Grammy for a vocal arrangement of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”, recorded by The Manhattan Transfer.  Other artists for whom he arranged include Chanticleer, Don Comstock and Linda Ronstadt.

Gene passed away on 25th March 2008 of difficulties due to diabetes.  Fortunately for budding arrangers, many of his vocal arrangements are available in sheet-music form.  A couple of links are listed below.

The Oscar Peterson Trio and The Singers Unlimited recordings
Sesame Street (Bruce Hart/Joe Raposo/Jon Stone)

The Singers Unlimited recordings
Michelle (John Lennon/Paul McCartney)