THE MID STATES FOUR
The Mid States Four. A quartet was organized by four employees at the Bell & Howell Company. Marty Mendro, lead; Forrest Haynes, baritone; and Bob Corbett, bass. Haynes had been a member of a quartet that was one of the last to appear on the Keith road show circuit on stage and radio. Mendro, a soloist in church choirs during his younger years, was introduced to barbershop harmony at Bell & Howell during World War II. The foursome became 6th place international finalists in 1945 and 1946 and were Illinois District champions in 1946.When three of the quartet members left Bell & Howell, the group changed its name to the Mid-States Four. The president of the Mid States Insurance Company had taken an interest in the quartet and offered to sponsor them, providing uniforms and expenses in return for jobs done for his firm if they would use the corporate name.
Art Gracey, formerly with the Fort Dearborn Four of Illinois, joined the quartet replacing Corbett, who was forced to give up singing with the group due to the pressure of business obligations. The quartet finished third at the international contest in Milwaukee in 1947 with Bob Rodriguez singing tenor. Rodriguez, later known as Bob Mack, had studied voice in Chicago. The Mid-States Four were second at Oklahoma City in 1948 and became the Society’s eleventh quartet champion in Buffalo in 1949. The quartet became famous for its ability to combine smooth styling of currently popular songs with madcap comedy and serious barbershop ballads. They were featured on barbershop chapter shows throughout the United States and Canada and appeared with many big-name entertainers on commercial shows.
In 1950, during the Korean conflict, The Mid States Four traveled more than 24,000 miles, doing a total of 33 shows for more than 52,000 United Nations troops. Their schedule took them to the front lines as well as to recreational areas and hospitals in Korea and Japan. They left the show circuit around 1966 but came out of retirement in 1982 with Phil Hansen replacing Art Gracey who had died. They performed in the Association of International Champions show at the 1983 international convention in Seattle. Hansen came from a singing family and was a veteran of several quartets, among them the Memories and Madness Quartet. With the addition of Hansen to the quartet, all four members were now residents of Florida. Tenor Bob Mack died in the spring of 1988. The quartet made a cameo appearance on the golden anniversary Association of International Champions show with Don Barnick of the 1979 Champion Grandma’s Boys and 1992 Champion Keepsake filling in as tenor.