A Note From Your District Historian
Greetings Friends of the Illinois District and Happy New Year! I hope all of you had a wonderful and relaxing holiday season doing all the things you enjoy and making memories with friends and family. We’re launching the third year of “From the Vault” with this issue and we have lots of goodies for you this time. In this newsletter, we feature the life and times of an iconic barbershop emcee, celebrate the 45th anniversary of our 1978 district champs, look back at how our YIH festivals got their start, and feature a special artifact from the Buzz Haeger collection. We also remember one of the most famous television jingles in history and its ties to an Illinois barbershopper and his quartet. I hope you enjoy reliving these happy memories from years gone by!
Illinois District Historian
Originally from Mayfield, Kentucky, Robert “Bob” Cearnal moved to the St. Louis, MO area at age 5 due to his father’s job relocation. He was a gifted athlete at Jennings H.S. and later attended Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau on a basketball scholarship from 1958-62. While at SEMO, he met his beautiful bride, Jo Reed, and upon graduation, taught for six years at Marissa High School in Marissa, IL. In 1968, Bob was hired to teach English at Mascoutah High School, where he remained on the faculty for the next 32 years until his retirement in 2000.
Despite his lack of musical experience growing up (Bob played basketball instead), Bob always loved the sounds of four part harmony, particularly performed by barbershop quartets. Shortly after coming to Mascoutah, the head of the H.S. English department (who just happened to be a barbershopper with the nearby Belleville Chapter), asked Bob to join him one evening at a chapter meeting. Bob was hooked and has been a member with the Belleville Chapter ever since. While he started off singing lead, Bob soon learned that his strength was on the bass part.
It wasn’t long before Bob was singing in quartets. His first, The Accutones, won the St. Louis area championship and earned a second place finish in the 1975 ILL district contest. Later, after that group disbanded, Bob joined three other men to form Male Delivery, which went on to win the district championship in 1978. During that period, from 1976 until 1995, Bob was also the director of the Belleville Bell Notes (now Sounds of Harmony) Chorus.
Bob was always chosen to be the spokesman for his quartets, and that, in turn, inspired him to do more emceeing for shows. Bob credits one of the courses he created at Mascoutah H.S., “Studies in Humor,” for influencing and honing his emcee experience.
Always willing to share his talents with others, Bob organized an after school mixed a cappella group at Mascoutah named “HSHS” (High School Harmony Singers) as well as several quartets over the years. He has also served as a coach and emcee for district Youth in Harmony events.
Bob’s administrative contributions to the Chapter, District, and Society are endless. Over the years, he has served as a Chapter President, Membership VP, Program VP, Bulletin Editor, and Public Relations Chair. On the district level, he has served as Area Counselor, Division VP, Executive VP, was District President from 1983-84, a Society Board Member, and currently serves as a Trustee for the District IDEA Committee. He was chosen the 1973 Barbershopper of the Year and received the prestigious “ABE” (Award for Barbershop Excellence) in 1987. Bob was also recognized as the 1999 QCA Music Man Award winner. And if that wasn’t enough, Bob also was elected the Barbershop Society’s President in 1991, only the second time in district history that Illinois has had that honor.
A quartet man at heart, Bob has continued to sing in numerous foursomes throughout his career in barbershop, including the Mulligans quartet and SrQ. In 2003, Bob won the Central States District Seniors Championship with the Central Statesmen, which consisted of Bob and three men from The Ambassadors of Harmony Chorus, with whom Bob also sang.
Bob has emceed dozens of Society events over the years, including Mid-winter and International conventions. In 2013, Bob had the distinction of being the emcee for the Society’s 75th anniversary show at Carnegie Hall. In 2015, Bob was inducted into the Society’s Hall of Fame for Emcees when he received the Dave LaBar Award. He also boasts of having 70 “Men of Note” recruitment awards! Most recently, Bob was honored by the State of Illinois as the 2022 recipient of the Senior Hall of Fame for Performance Award.
His secret? Bob credits his lovely wife (and former ILL District First Lady) Jo Reed for keeping him going and encouraging him along the way. Bob and Jo Reed have a son (Scott), a daughter (Cindi), 4 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren.
Perhaps the best characterization of Bob comes from the man himself – “I’m a LEAD personality, with a BARITONE voice, singing BASS, wishing I could sing TENOR!”
And so (with right index finger pointed up and waving in an increasingly circular manner), we thank Bob Cearnal for his many years of selfless contributions to our District and Society. Well done, Bob!
The original version of Male Delivery – from L to R: Al Mueller (tenor), Lyle Wilson (lead), Bob Cearnal (bass), Rich Pilch (baritone)
Male Delivery – version 2 with new lead, Wayne Bradshaw (2nd from left)
For this issue, we turn the page back to the mid 1970s – 1976 to be exact. That celebratory bicentennial year saw a new quartet form in the Illinois District – one that would go on to win top honors two years later and be featured on dozens of chapter shows as well as an appearance on NBC’s TODAY show. That quartet is Male Delivery, the 1978 Illinois District Champs celebrating their 45th anniversary this year!
The story of the quartet actually begins several years earlier. Bass Bob Cearnal (featured in the main story for this issue) had joined the Belleville Chapter in 1968 and one year later formed a quartet called The Accutones, which continued until 1975. Despite earning a 2nd place finish that year in the district contest, fate intervened and two of the members moved away, thereby breaking up the quartet.
In 1976, Bob was looking for a new group with which to sing. Bob sought out Eldred “Al” Mueller, a member of the Belleville Chapter as well as a dual member with the Collinsville Chapter. Mueller and fellow Collinsville Chapter member Rich Pilch had been members of the 1975 district quartet champs, Federal Reserve Notes. However, that quartet was short-lived and Mueller and Pilch found themselves looking for a new quartet the very next year, so Cearnal, Mueller, and Pilch decided to team up together. Now, their challenge was to find the right lead singer. After auditioning several leads, the guys settled on a barbershopper named Lyle Wilson from the Waterloo Chapter. They competed in 1977, refined their skills at Harmony College, and earned the top spot one year later.
Known for their comedic routines on stage, the quartet was very much in demand for chapter shows, and soon had a full performance schedule. However, family commitments intervened for Lyle, and the quartet was forced to look for a new lead if they were to continue. The trio began lead auditions and this time chose Collinsville Chapter member Wayne Bradshaw. Wayne was a perfect fit for the quartet and the group continued performing for the next several years.
During the time they were together, the quartet had a couple of interesting highlights. The first came in the early 1980s, when the quartet was invited down to Disneyland in Florida to participate in an event called “World Harmony Day.” The quartet strolled through the grounds, singing for passersby, and even got to sing with the famous Dapper Dans. The other came in the summer of 1984, when the group was featured on national television, singing on a TODAY show segment being filmed in St. Louis. The quartet was asked to promote the International barbershop convention that was going on at the time.
By 1987, Wayne and Rich had moved south to be closer to their families, and the quartet decided to call it quits. Sadly, Al has passed and is no longer with us. Rich still lives in Georgia, Wayne in Kentucky, Lyle in Waterloo, and Bob in Mascoutah, where he continues to be active in the district with his home chapter of Belleville.
For a little over a decade, these talented men “delivered the barbershop goods” near and far, delighting audiences along the way. We salute our (once and always) 1978 Illinois District Quartet Champions on their milestone anniversary – MALE DELIVERY!
Male Delivery as they appeared during their swan set – in the classic “Norman Rockwell” pose
Most adults of a certain age will remember one of the most famous jingles in advertising history – the telephone number from the Empire carpet commercials, but did you know that the jingle and the company’s TV spokesman was a legendary Illinois barbershopper?
Empire Today, LLC has been in the business of providing quality name-brand products for installing home improvements and furnishings for over 60 years. Formed by entrepreneur Seymour Cohen in Chicago back in 1959, Empire has grown tremendously over the years, thanks to the creative jingle written for the company by former copywriter and Illinois district barbershopper Mr. Lynn Hauldren.
In 1977, while working on the Empire Carpet account, Hauldren could not find an actor the company approved of for the role of “The Empire Man” in an upcoming commercial. Company owner and founder Seymour Cohen asked Hauldren to play the role himself. Dozens of commercials featured Hauldren as the Empire Man from the late 1970s until the early 2000s, when the company switched from live-action commercials to computer-generated ones, with Hauldren providing the voice-overs.
While most district barbershoppers will remember Hauldren from his comedy quartet, Chordiac Arrest, it was actually another group of his that is tied to the famous jingle. The Fabulous Forties was a Chicago-based, mixed a cappella quartet consisting of Joyce Cunningham (first tenor), Ken Eidson (second tenor), Hauldren on baritone, and (former Four Renegades member) Tom Felgen singing bass. The quartet formed in 1971 and was active for about 10 years. During that period, the quartet made the recording that was heard around the country to advertise the Empire carpet company.
Lynn Hauldren passed away in 2011, however his memory lives on each time the catchy jingle “800-588-2300 EMPIRE (TODAY)!” is heard.
Lynn Hauldren, as he appeared in a 1980s commercial for the Empire Carpet Company.
Hauldren with the quartet that made the Empire jingle famous – The Fabulous Forties. From L to R – Felgen, Hauldren, Cunningham, and Eidson.
In 1998, Hauldren recorded an Empire commercial advertising their “Sweetheart Sale” that featured his then quartet, Chicago Natural Gas. Members included Ray Henders (tenor), Ken Eidson (lead), Lynn Hauldren (baritone), and Phil Schwartz (bass).
This issue’s featured artifact is an interesting one, indeed. In 1971, the Society witnessed the retirement of one of their most popular quartets, The Four Renegades. Their swan song was an appearance on the Bloomington “Sound of Illinois” Chapter show on February 27th of that year.
During the show, Chapter President Paul Sennewald and Chapter Secretary Forrest Stahly (father of Bloomington barbershopper and former Ideals tenor Jim Stahly) presented a plaque to each member of the Renegades on behalf of the chapter, honoring the quartet’s achievements as District champs (1957), International champs (1965), and in appreciation for the numerous times the group appeared on Bloomington chapter shows, including 1958, 1965, 1968, and 1971.
One of those plaques, presented to Renegades tenor Warren “Buzz” Haeger, was among his cherished belongings that now reside in the archives, where it remains in safekeeping.
(Click image to enlarge.)
The 1st District Youth In Harmony Festival
As past issues of From the Vault have shown, the concept of “youth in harmony” within the district is nearly as old as the Society itself, tracing its roots back to the late 1940s. Along the way, there have been numerous contests and events that have exposed young people to barbershop harmony, but perhaps none have had the widespread impact as the district’s annual Youth in Harmony festivals. The district routinely offers five such events during the month of October, reaching over 1000 students annually.
The concept of a barbershop music “festival” dates back to the late 1990s. At the time, the VP for the Young Men in Harmony program (as it was known in those days) was Decatur barbershopper Ervin “Mac” McGlasson. In 1997, he became friends with Rich Hansen (barbershopper and newly hired history teacher) at nearby Mt. Zion High School and pitched the idea. For the program to work, it needed support from a music educator. Rich’s colleague and MTZHS choir director Connie Mulligan (whose father was a barbershopper with the Coles County Chorus) was intrigued by the idea and Mac, Connie, and Rich went to work planning what would become the first youth barbershop festival in the state.
On Saturday, October 17th, 1998, a grand total of 23 boys from Mt. Zion Jr./Sr. High School were in attendance for the inaugural event. Jim DeBusman from the Barbershop Harmony Society served as the clinician. District President Bob Squires was on hand to witness the event and the guest quartet was none other than the 1981 International Champions, The Chicago News, which graciously offered their services for free! The program was so successful, it eventually expanded to a larger venue in Bloomington, invited more schools, was held during the week, and included girls as well as boys. Sponsorship was shared between local BHS and Sweet Adelines chapters and Region #5 YWIH Coordinator Michelle Adams joined Rich in planning the event. Attendance soon blossomed into several hundred students and Rich, (who took the reins of District YMIH VP upon the death of Mac) along with Michelle, helped sponsor other chapters to launch their festivals beginning in the early 2000s.
The recent COVID pandemic put a temporary halt to these festivals, but several events, including the original Central Illinois festival, restarted in the fall of 2022 and plan to continue. Today, the festivals are overseen by Evan Patrick (District VP for YIH) and Rebecca Adams (Michelle’s daughter). They include the original Central Illinois festival held in Bloomington, as well as events in Sterling, Northbrook, Springfield, and Charleston.
Jim DeBusman rehearses with the group of boys in the choir room at Mt. Zion High School on Saturday, October 17, 1998.
The Chicago News belts out a tag as they entertain the audience on the evening show at the first youth festival. The group included Ray Henders (tenor), Butch Koth (lead), Joe Sullivan (baritone) and Tom Felgen (bass).
A local news clipping announcing the event