The Herald, Sharon,
PA Published Thursday, Dec. 4, 1997

The Four Dots sing a few songs while a Chaperones display lights up the halls of The Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Museum. (David E. Dale/Herald)


Hall honors unsung legends
* * *
Butala and Winner open up attraction
* * *

PHOTO A couple stops to take a look at some vintage photographs of the vocal group, The Four Lads. Photographs, clothing and records are on display on each floor of the three-story building while each case plays the bands more memorable tunes. (David E. Dale/Herald)

By Karen Coates
Herald Staff Writer

``Sharon will go down in history as being a mecca,'' said an excited Tony Butala. ``I'm so proud to be a part of this,'' the front man for The Letterman and Sharon native said.

Joined by his partner _ international businessman James E. Winner Jr., chairman of Winner International which markets The Club line of anti-theft devices _ Butala helped unveil The Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Museum for the media Wednesday night.

The roughly $500,000 museum took four years to plan and has been in the works for 18 months. Winner said he expects the Hall of Fame to help draw an estimated 1 million tourists to Sharon by 1999.

``When I was on tour with The Lettermen in the 1960s there was no notoriety for vocal groups,'' Butala said. ``Almost 30 years later, I see this dream becoming a reality.''

The three-story building which formerly housed Willson's furniture store has been remodeled into a star-studded museum. Fifty-three vocal groups contributed clothes, photos and record memorabilia for display in cases that can be prompted to play some of their most memorable tunes.

A street-corner singing performance can be admired through a theater window on the museum's second floor. Music fans may be dazzled by an aqua and silver-colored suit worn by Lamonte McLenore of The 5th Dimension, who topped the charts in 1967 with ``Up, Up and Away'' and in 1969 with its version of ``Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In'' from the Broadway play ``Hair.''


International businessman James E. Winner Jr., left, and The Lettermen's singer and original member Tony Butala celebrate the opening of The Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Museum on East State Street in Sharon. The founders first started planning the museum four years ago and opened it to the media Wednesday night.
(David E. Dale/Herald)

A Sha Na Na exhibit includes Reggie DeLeon's signature gold shirt and Donnie York's black sunglasses.

Other notable memorabilia includes one of The Lettermen's famous 1961 white letter sweaters with their distinctive L logo; a 1958 Life magazine cover of The McGuire Sisters; and a white and melon-colored dress worn by Phyliss McGuire in 1951.

PHOTO Johnny Angel and The Halos singer Jack Hunt (Johnny Angel) welcomes Vocal Hall co-founder Tony Butala on stage during the unveiling of the museum. Fifty-three vocal groups have displays in the museum. (David E. Dale/Herald)

A time line at the museum entrance traces the history of vocal groups from their start in the early 19th century _ inspired by African-American slaves and the beginning of gospel _ to the harmony of barbershop quartets. The time line continues through the age of ragtime and jazz to the present, paying tribute both to the singers and their songs.

``I'm just elated to be one of the chosen groups,'' said The El Venos band member Leon Daniels as he looked around the museum after helping serenade Winner's wife, Donna, on her 51st birthday, with the Marcels' Dick Knauss and Pittsburgh's Johnny Angel and the Halos band members Jack Hunt (Johnny Angel), Gary Daley, Phil Labas, Tony Impavido and Dan Daley.

The opening of the museum is a dream come true, Daniels said.

``It's been 41 years and they're still playing El Venos records from 1956 on the radio,'' he added with unabashed pride. ``That says something about the support of vocal groups.''

According to future plans for the museum, a schedule of vocal group appearances is being drawn up. A selection process for the induction of the first members of the hall of fame is also being worked out.

In addition, construction on the museum's Barbershop Building in the former Whitmer-Smith store has already begun. Work on the Gospel Building is scheduled to begin in early January 1998.

A ribbon cutting ceremony for the hall of fame was to be held at 9:30 a.m. today and doors opened to the public at 10.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $14.95 for adults, $12.95 for senior citizens, $7.95 for students and $3.95 for kids 8 and younger.

Back to TOP // Herald Local news // Local news headlines // Herald Home page

Internet service in Mercer County, only $20.95 a month!

Updated Dec. 4, 1997
For info about advertising on our site or Web-page creation:
Copyright ©1997 The Sharon Herald Co. All rights reserved.
Reproduction or retransmission in any form is prohibited without our permission.