The Buffalo Bills were crowned International Quartet Champions of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America in 1950. This signaled a new era in Barbershop Harmony as their big sound, combined with the work of several talented arrangers gave them a popularity not yet achieved by other Society quartets. A famous conductor and radio personality, Meredith Willson, had been playing their records on his radio show and called them “his favorite quartet”.
When Wilson decided to write a musical about his home town, Mason City, Iowa, in 1957, he put a quartet into the plot that was patterned after the Rusty Hinges, an actual quartet recalled from his boyhood. He went to Buffalo to meet The Buffalo Bills and urged them to come to New York and audition for the role of the Iowa quartet. Their audition was a rousing success and required a move to New York which presented other career opportunities such as joining the Arthur Godfrey radio and television shows.
In addition to the Broadway musical, the quartet also appeared in The Music Man Movie in 1962. During this time the quartet continued to sing on Society Chapter shows all over the country and for the Armed services. When the curtain rang down on their career The Buffalo Bills has performed 728 concerts, 216 TV shows, 1,510 performances on the legitimate stage, 626 conventions, 675 radio shows, 672 night club and hotel appearances, 137 state fairs and a major motion picture. They also produced 15 record albums before closing out their careers on May 24, 1967 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. A record unmatched by any Society quartet before or since.
All of this exposure brought barbershop back into the spotlight and made more people than ever
aware of this unique American art form. Today there are approximately 800 barbershop Chapters with some 25,000 members throughout the world, including the Harrisonburg, Virginia Chapter which meets every Monday night from 6:30 to 9:00 pm at the Covenant Presbyterian Church at 546 West Mosby Road in Harrisonburg. Potential members and guests are always welcome.
– Michael Calhoun