The Herald, Sharon,
PA Published Wednesday, Sept. 9, 1998


Hall of Fame to induct 8 vocal groups Oct. 30

By Erin Remai
Herald Staff Writer

The dream of Shenango Valley native Tony Butala continued to grow on Tuesday as The Vocal Group Hall of Fame announced its "Class of 1998" inductees.

Eight groups are the first to be inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame, which opened in May. They are

Greg Loescher, editor of Goldmine, a leading magazine for record enthusiasts, said the inductees were chosen through a readers' poll and votes by the hall's board of directors.

"It was a very honest, very representative poll," Loescher said.

In addition to the eight inductees, Loescher announced the winners of the Pioneers of Musical Style Award, which recognizes vocal groups prior to 1940 who contributed to the foundations of American vocal harmony.

The Boswell Sisters, The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, The Golden Gate Quartet, The Mills Brothers, The Ravens, and Sonny Til and the Orioles are all pioneer vocal groups who contributed to the art prior to modern recordings.

"We (Goldmine magazine) are really pleased to have been part of this," Loescher said.

"People of this area should be really proud to have (the hall) in their community."

The museum is the brainchild of Butala, member of the vocal group The Lettermen. Butala said he first got the idea while headlining a show in Las Vegas in the early 1960s. Butala met a busboy who was once a member of a vocal group. The group had since broken up.

"A solo artist, such as Chubby Checker, always has a name for himself," Butala said. "But independent group members get lost in the shuffle."

Butala wanted to do something to honor past group members who would otherwise be forgotten, so he began keeping a list of vocal group members he had met over the years. Then, inspired by actress Debbie Reynolds, who collected movie memorabilia, Butala began to collect vocal group memorabilia.

Once Butala had the vision and the memorabilia, he needed a location for the museum. In the late 1980s Butala approached both Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and Donald Trump's hotel in Atlantic City, but he was turned down. Then, Jim Winner of Winner International asked Butala a simple question, "Why not Sharon, Pennsylvania?"

"The dream I had all these years would still be a dream if it were not for Jim Winner," Butala said.

Johnny Angel, of the vocal group Johnny Angel and the Halos, described seeing his heroes immortalized in the hall of fame as the equivalent of a Little Leaguer meeting Babe Ruth, or Mark McGwire by today's standards.

"Some of the greats walked through this building," Angel said, who added that he had the opportunity to sing a cappella with members of the The Marcels and the Four Dots on the hall's stage.

The induction ceremony will take place on Oct. 30 at the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. Loescher said the inductees will be notified within the next few weeks.

"I expect they'll be thrilled and honored to be chosen," Loescher said.

The ceremony will be closed to the public. Jack Hunt, chairperson of the induction ceremony, will announce final plans for the ceremony and subsequent celebrations within the next two weeks.

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