THE FOUR LADS
The Four Lads is a popular Canadian male singing quartet. In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the group earned many gold singles and albums. Its million-selling signature tunes include “Moments to Remember,” “Standin’ on the Corner,” “No, Not Much,” “Who Needs You,” and “Istanbul.”
The Four Lads made numerous television appearances including the award-winning PBS special, Moments to Remember.
The current incarnation of the group features the original member Frank Busseri (bass), plus Don Farrar (lead tenor), Aaron Bruce (second tenor), and Alan Sokoloff (baritone).
The original quartet grew up together in Toronto, Ontario, and were members of St. Michael’s Choir School, where they learned to sing. The founding members were Corrado “Connie” Codarini, bass (died April 28, 2010); John Bernard “Bernie” Toorish (born March 2, 1931), tenor; James F. “Jimmy” Arnold (January 4, 1932 – June 15, 2004), lead; and Frank Busseri, baritone and group manager. Codarini and Toorish had formed a group with two other St. Michael’s students, Rudi Maugeri and John Perkins, who were later to become founding members of another group, The Crew-Cuts.
The group was known variously as The Otnorots (a name taken from the name “Toronto” spelled backwards) and The Jordonaires (not to be confused with a similarly named group, The Jordanaires, that was known for singing background vocals on Elvis Presley’s hits). When Maugeri and Perkins left the group to concentrate on their schoolwork, Codarini and Toorish joined with Arnold and Busseri in a new quartet. At home, they practiced until they achieved their clean-cut harmonies, whether for spirituals, sacred music, or pop.
They originally called themselves The Four Dukes but found out that a Detroit group already used that name, so changed it to The Four Lads. In 1950 they began to sing in local clubs and soon were noticed by scouts. Recruited to go to New York, they were noticed by Mitch Miller, who asked them to do backup for some of the artists he recorded. One of these artists, Johnnie Ray, became a major hit in 1951 with “Cry” and “The Little White Cloud That Cried” with the Four Lads backing him. This made them well known. In 1954 in Manhattan, the Four Lads had a recording session and decided they needed young voices. Lillian Pasciolla, and her friend who was President of the Four Lads Fan Club were visiting and were invited to sing “Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer” with them. They are both in the original recording along with the Four Lads.
Their first single was “The Mocking Bird” on Columbia’s Okeh label , released in 1952, with “I May Hate Myself in the Morning” on the B-side. “The Mocking Bird” was re-recorded for release on the Columbia label twice in subsequent years.
In 1953 they made their own first gold record, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”, which launched them to stardom and kept them busy throughout the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S. and Canada.
Their most famous hit was “Moments to Remember” in 1955, and their next best known was “Standin’ on the Corner”, from the Broadway musical production of The Most Happy Fella, in 1956. A gospel album with Frankie Laine took them back to their roots and produced the hit single “Rain, Rain, Rain”. Their songs have appeared on numerous compilation albums and re-issues in the 1990s and 2000s.
Codarini was replaced in 1962 by Johnny D’Arc (who remained with the Lads until 1982), and Sid Edwards replaced Toorish in the early 1970s.
Arnold died of lung cancer in Sacramento, California, at the age of 72, while D’Arc died in 1999, aged 60. Codarini died on April 28, 2010, in Concord, NC, at the age of 80. Connie also owned a restaurant since the early 1980s in Medina, Ohio called Penny’s Poorhouse, named after his wife. They came to Medina showing Great Danes and didn’t leave until the restaurant was sold in 2007. Codarini was well known in the area for being an authentic bartender by making drinks from scratch and not taking short cuts.
Today, a reconstituted group, with original singer Busseri, sings to the nostalgia crowd.