Great Barbershop Oaks From Little Acorns Grow

Les Weiser, Feb 25, 2009

This little tale comes under the heading of “It’s amazing what happens when you talk to people about the Masters of Harmony.”

Almost exactly 10 years ago, while working as a financial consultant for Merrill Lynch, I took a ride out to Malibu to visit Michelle. She was one of my long-time clients and she wanted a face-to-face meeting to discuss her investments. I arrived on a sunny afternoon, briefcase in hand, and rang her doorbell.

Her significant other answered the door, escorted me to their living room, and offered me an iced tea while I waited for Michelle to come to our meeting. Those of you who have been around for 10 years or more know that that significant other was Mr. Dick Van Dyke. Dick and I made small talk and I mentioned that I sang barbershop with the Masters of Harmony and in a quartet called . I remember how excited Dick got when I mentioned our hobby. He told me of his fine memories singing barbershop many years previously and reminded me of his many performances in The Music Man. It so happened that I had a bass-part-predominant polecat learning tape in my car. I offered the tape to Dick and asked him if he’d like to do some singing with my quartet. His response was, “When?”

A week or so later I showed up at his home with Mutual Fun (Art Taylor, Lefty Parasson, Dave Briner, and me). Dick had learned all of the bass parts to the polecats and was eager to sing with us. Dave graciously gave Dick his spot in the quartet and a fun evening was had by all. A few weeks later Mutual Fun with Dick on bass was invited to appear on Diagnosis Murder. He actually wrote a quartet number into a DM script! The rest is history. Dick joined the Society, attended many barbershop shows, became honorary chairman of Harmony Foundation, sang with Mutual Fun at the 1999 International Convention, and formed his own quartet, The Vantastics.

Over the last 10 years, Dick Van Dyke and The Vantastics have performed at several barbershop shows and many charity events all over the Southland. You’ll be able to enjoy their performance in Anaheim this summer as they headline the AIC Show. As I said, it’s amazing what happens when you talk to people about our “hobby!”


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