Remembering Tim Hauser of Manhattan Transfer

It was sixteen years ago and it felt like yesterday.  I was working for Goldmine magazine, the record collector’s biweekly publication, and had been asked by my editor to come to Sharon, Pennsylvania to cover the inaugural class of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

And that’s where I first met Tim Hauser.  Tim was the lead singer of Manhattan Transfer, one of the best jazz / vocal harmony groups I ever heard.  We talked about the possibility of a Manhattan Transfer cover story for Goldmine, would he and the rest of the group agree to an interview.  He said that would be great.

A few months later, I was in New York City, with an exclusive interview with Tim and the rest of Manhattan Transfer – Janis Siegel, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne.  The interview went well, and it later became the basis of my second cover story for Goldmine.

And then came all the concerts.  For years, I would always associate Christmastime with a visit to New York City, then to the Blue Note Jazz Club where Manhattan Transfer would perform during the holidays.  After the performances, I would get to chat with Tim and the band.  It was a treasured moment and I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with one of my favorite artists.

Tim Hauser loved his association with jazz music and with music education.  When his high school was damaged by Superstorm Sandy, he and Manhattan Transfer performed a benefit concert for the school.

He loved the Los Angeles Dodgers, he loved his vintage restored Mercury cars, and he loved manufacturing his own pasta sauce – in fact, he recently hosted a successful Kickstarter program to bring his sauces to store shelves.

Yesterday, I received word that Tim Hauser passed away.  He was 72.  This message was left on Manhattan Transfer’s Facebook page.

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news of Tim Hauser’s passing with you all… As many of you know, Tim was the visionary behind The Manhattan Transfer. We spent more than 40 years together singing and making music, traveling the world, and sharing so many special moments throughout our lives… It’s incomprehensible to think of this world without him.

We join his loving wife, Barb, his beautiful children, his family, and the rest of the world in mourning the loss of our dear friend and partner in song.

Janis, Cheryl and Alan

Rest in peace, Tim Hauser.  Thank you for nearly five decades of great music and wonderful performances.  Thank you for all that you’ve done.  And most of all, thank you for being a good friend.

Tim Hauser’s first recorded work was with the doo-wop group The Criterions, here’s their first and only hit, “I Remain Truly Yours.”

Manhattan Transfer, “Java Jive.”

Manhattan Transfer, “Operator,” their first Top 40 hit.

“Chanson D’Amour,” the band’s first international #1 hit.

“Twilight Zone,” a way-cool dance track.

“Boy From New York City,” their biggest U.S. hit.

“Four Brothers,” one of their most famous ventures into the sounds of Vocalese, in which the artists’ voices replicate musical instruments, as in this case; a reinterpretation of Woody Herman’s band.

“Soul Food To Go,” an excursion into Brazilian soca music.

“Santa Claus is Coming To Town,” as performed on the TV show Home Improvement.

From his 2007 solo album Love Songs, here’s Tim performing the song “Love Wise.”

And finally, “Heart’s Desire” / “Unchained Melody,” as performed on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Miss you already, Tim.



A once-in-a-lifetime vocal concert – for charity

My friend Tim Hauser is part of the jazz vocal quartet Manhattan Transfer, and he’s also a really great guy.

Which is why I’m passing this message along, in the hopes that some of my readers, whether from the Capital District or worldwide, would be interested in supporting this effort.

Read on, and whatever you can offer to help Tim in his charitable efforts would be fantastic.


Dear friends and family,

As most of you know, my high school, St. Rose in Belmar, New Jersey, suffered immense damage in Hurricane Sandy. The devastation is estimated at over five million dollars in damage, primarily due to the need to remove all of the mold in two of the first floor school buildings, and in the basement of the old building. The damage caused to the music and art departments was estimated at $250,000, i.e., total destruction. Some things absolutely cannot be replaced, such as valuable art portfolios of the students and teachers.

Myself and my partners, Alan, Cheryl and Janis – are pleased to let you know that on Thursday, March 28, 2013, The Manhattan Transfer, along with The New York Voices, and Jon Hendricks will present “An Evening of Vocalese” at The Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey. This is the first time this concert has been presented in the NY/NJ area. All of the proceeds from this concert will go toward the restoration of St. Rose’s Music and Art Departments.

We don’t often get the chance to perform with these great artists. Jon is now 91 years old, and has the energy of young man – he’s absolutely amazing. The New York Voices are one of the greatest vocal groups around, and we will all be doing our own songs, as well as doing some musical pieces together.

If you cannot attend the concert, we would ask you to please make a donation. As I probably mentioned from the stage, I was a student at St. Rose, and when I saw what the storm did to the school, I was heartbroken. I know in my heart that if each one us contributes something, we can repair this damage.

If you wish to purchase tickets to “An Evening Of Vocalese”, you may do so at this web address.

The date again is Thursday, March 28, 2013. There are a limited number of tickets which include a “Meet and Greet” with the artists.

If you wish to make a contribution, you may do so online at this web address.

I wish to thank all of you for your willingness to help our effort as it’s greatly appreciated.

Like I’ve been saying, “If everybody can do something for the Jersey Shore, it could be fixed!”



This is personal.  How many of us have had our lives touched by natural disasters like Irene or Sandy or Katrina?  And now, here’s a chance to help restore a beloved school and get to see a fantastic jazz vocal concert, probably a concert for the ages.

It’s definitely worth the trip and it’s definitely worth the contribution.

You won’t regret it.

The Vocal Group Hall of Fame and an Ohio Pep Boys

It’s the autumn of 2008.  I’m on my way to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame induction ceremony and concerts, which were to be held over four consecutive days in Youngstown, Ohio.  My 1991 Pontiac 6000 – the car I hearted before I got my 2005 Saturn Ion) has been checked over and all is fine for the long road trip from Albany to Ohio.  I’m going to spend a few days along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, hobnobbing with doo-wop groups and vocal harmony groups and inductees and past inductees and photographing it all and having a great time.  That’s the most important thing.  Having a great time.  I’ve been part of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame since it opened way back in 1999, and I’ve made many friends in the music industry through contacts there.

Everything started out great.  I had lunches and dinners and get-togethers with people that I hadn’t seen in ages.  And at one point, I’m eating lunch at the hotel, and across the way was Gretchen Christopher.  Gretchen, along with Gary Troxel and Barbara Ellis, were the harmony trio known as the Fleetwoods.

We talked for a while – she told me stories of how the Fleetwoods recorded their biggest hits like “Come Softly To Me” and “Mr. Blue” and “Tragedy” and “Outside My Window,” and it was fantastic.  You don’t get a chance at this kind of oral history.  And I enjoyed every minute of it.

“Oh my,” she said, looking at her watch.  “I have to get to the Chevrolet Center for rehearsals.  When is the shuttle bus scheduled to arrive?”

“Don’t worry,” I said, “I’ll give you a lift in my car.”

“Thanks,” she smiled.  “I just need to get my gown for tonight, and I’ll meet you in the lobby in five minutes.”

See, one of the benefits of working with the Vocal Group Hall of Fame is that, when necessary, I’ve shuttled artists from the hotel to the performance venue and back.  Okay, you’re going to say I’m doing grunt work, but you know what – when else are you going to have the opportunity to chauffeur Mary Wilson (Supremes), Martha Reeves (Vandellas), Ross Barbour (Four Freshmen), Duke Fakir (Four Tops), Claudette Robinson (Miracles), Jon “Bowzer” Baumann from Sha Na Na, and members of the Clovers, the Manhattan Transfer and the Harptones?  Yeah, I did.  Not all in one car, the Pontiac wasn’t THAT big.

Back to my story.

Gretchen Christopher brings down this white chiffon evening gown, and I load it carefully into the back seat of the Pontiac.  Then we drive to the Chevrolet Center in Youngstown, Ohio, a few miles from our hotel.

Of course, I’m concentrating on driving, and I absent-mindedly turned on the car radio.  Now bear in mind, my Pontiac 6000 had an aftermarket Alpine car stereo deck, which meant that I could listen to music on my iPod (which was tethered in my glove box) and control the iPod with the car stereo deck.  I was listening to some oldies before I arrived at the Hall, and the next song on the playlist – curiously – was the Fleetwoods’ “Mr. Blue.”

I’ve often said that whenever I’m singing along with the radio, the only three appreciative audiences I have are the steering wheel, the shower head or the computer monitor.  And as I’m absent-mindedly singing along to one of the oldies on the radio – “I’m Mr. Blue… whoa-a-whoa, when you say you’re sorry…”

“That’s sweet.  You have a great singing voice, Chuck.”

I discovered I had a fourth appreciative audience member.  It was Gretchen Christopher of the Fleetwoods, whose #1 hit I was just singing in the car.  I turned about seven shades of crimson.  Oh my God, this is a professional singer whose career is based on these recordings, and here I am, some vocal hack who couldn’t cut it at a karaoke concert…

It didn’t matter.  I thanked Gretchen for the compliment, and inside I’m thinking oh my God, I never thought this would happen to me…

I dropped Gretchen Christopher off at the Chevrolet Center, and headed back to the hotel.  Oh my God, one of the Fleetwoods thought I had a great voice, oh my God, this is an amazing day –

Continue reading “The Vocal Group Hall of Fame and an Ohio Pep Boys”

Rest in peace, Carl Gardner. Just tell those hoodlum friends outside… you ain’t got time to take a ride.

Maxine Pinkney is a good friend of mine; she was the widow of Bill Pinkney, one of the original members of the classic R&B group The Drifters.  Pinkney, who was a member of the Drifters alongside Clyde McPhatter, sang bass for the vocal harmony group, and it’s Pinkney’s voice that can be heard on their version of “White Christmas.”

And today, Maxine alerted me that we lost another member of the vocal harmony family.  Carl Gardner Sr., the last surviving member of the group The Coasters, passed away Sunday.  He was 83 years old.

Gardner and Bobby Nunn were members of another harmony group, The Robins, and it was their version of the Lieber-Stoller song “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” that helped the songwriting duo earn a contract with Atlantic Records.  Gardner and Nunn left the Robins, moved from Los Angeles to New York City, and formed the Coasters – becoming, in effect, the top doo-wop group for Lieber and Stoller’s hit songs.

Their catalog included such classics as “Charlie Brown,” “Young Blood,” “Searchin’,” “Little Egypt,” “Poison Ivy,” and the legendary “Yakety Yak.”  Quentin Tarantino fans will recall their song “Down in Mexico” from the soundtrack to the film Death Proof.

“Charlie Brown” “Searchin'”
“Poison Ivy” “Yakety Yak”

And like Bill Pinkney, Carl Gardner continued to tour and record with his Coasters for many years.  His son, Carl Gardner Jr., currently sings lead for the touring Coasters.

I should note that Carl has also fought against the proliferation of fake Coasters groups – the ones that have popped up over the years, the ones whose members are younger than the songs that they sing, the ones that claim to be the originals, but have less claim to the Coasters’ legacy than I do.  Carl worked with the Vocal Group Hall of Fame to preserve his rights to the name “The Coasters” and to not get undercut by touring copycat groups.

In 1987, the Coasters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  A dozen years later, they were enshrined into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

Rest in peace, Carl Gardner.  The legacy of your music will live on for generations.  And your fight to protect your trademark against copycat imposter groups will never be forgotten.

A vocal harmony legend turns 100 years old Friday

I stay in touch with the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Pennsylvania-based organization devoted to the history of musical harmony and doo-wop.  I’ve covered every one of the organization’s Hall of Fame inductions and concerts for the past decade, and have developed long-lasting friendships and professional working relationships with the Hall’s organizer, Tony Butala (who is also the lead voice on the harmony trio The Lettermen), as well as CEO Bob Crosby (who worked as a television producer for many years) and Tracy Rogers (who joined the Hall staff in 2002 and has worked tirelessly ever since).

Harold Jackson of the Ink Spots, holding one of his group's original recordings. Photo by Chuck Miller.

During one of the Hall’s inductions, among the guests and performers attending was Harold Jackson, at that time the last original surviving member of the vocal harmony group The Ink Spots.  Your knowledge of the Ink Spots may be remembering Fred Sanford intoning “If I Didn’t Care” on an episode of Sanford and Son, but the Ink Spots were one of the most popular vocal harmony quartets – they, along with the Mills Brothers, the Modernaires and the Pied Pipers, defined the music of the 1940’s and pre-rock 1950’s.  In 1989, the Ink Spots were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; ten years later, they became part of the inaugural class of inductees into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

The Ink Spots recorded for the early record companies Victor and Decca; in fact, Harold Jackson is the last surviving member of the Ink Spots whose voice can be clearly heard on the Decca recordings.  And Mr. Jackson is going to celebrate his 100th birthday this Friday.

To celebrate this milestone from one of the music industry’s legacy groups, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame wants as many people as possible to send birthday wishes to Harold Jackson.  A birthday e-mail may be sent to Mr. Jackson, care of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, by simply clicking here.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Jackson at the Vocal Group Hall of Fame inductions.  That’s my copy of an old Decca 78 he holds in his hands in the above photograph.  His bass vocals were still tight and strong when his Ink Spots performed at one of the Hall’s induction concerts.

Here’s some examples of the Ink Spots’ sweetest recordings.

“If I Didn’t Care” (from a 1950’s music video) – that’s Mr. Jackson speaking the bass vocals in the middle of the song.

“Java Jive,” a classic track, great great stuff.

“I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire,” a song you might recall as being used in advertisements for the video game Fallout 3.

So let’s send Harold Jackson of the Ink Spots a happy 100th birthday, and thanks for all the great songs!