Introduction to The Four Lads
One of the notable Canadian groups who made waves during the 50s music scene in the United States were The Four Lads. The traditional pop group hailed from Toronto, Ontario, from where they got one of their first names as the Otnorots (“Toronto” spelled backwards). The group also performed under the name The Jordonaires. Corrado Codarini (“Connie”), John Bernard Toorish, Rudi Maugeri and John Perkins were all mates at the St. Michael’s Choir School, singing of course gospel songs. When Maugeri and Perkins left the band, James Arnold and Frank Busseri then joined Codarini and Toorish to form a new group. They intended to call themselves as The Four Dukes, but when they learned that an American group already used that name, they instead changed it into The Four Lads. After performing in local clubs around Toronto, they soon moved to New York and initially worked as backup vocalists for some of singer/musician/record producer Mitch Miller’s artists. One of these artists was Johnnie Ray, whose 1951 hits “Cry” and “The Little White Cloud That Cried” included the Four Lads on backing vocals. The Four Lads’ first own single was “The Mocking Bird” in 1952, which entered the Top 40. It would take two years before they achieved their first Top 10 hit with “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” barely making it to the chart. In 1955 and in 1956, they achieved their highest-charting hits: “Moments to Remember” and “No, No, Not Much” respectively, both of which peaked at #2 on the Hot 100. The Four Lads would go on to achieve other Top 10/certified-gold singles: “Standing in the Corner,” “Skokiaan,” “Who Needs You,” “Put a Light in the Window” and “There’s Only One of You.” When “Standing on the Corner” was re-released in 1960, it became their sole UK hit at #34. Codarini left in 1962; Johnny D’Arc and Sid Edwards took his place. D’Arc died in 1999, Arnold in 2004, and Codarini (who owned a restaurant in Ohio and became an expert bartender) in 2010. Years later, the current group is reformed with new members, with Busseri the remaining original member. They were honored as an inductee into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1984 and Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Four Lads’ formation and early years
The Four Lads were a vocal quartet formed in 1950 in Toronto, Canada, consisting of Corrado bass “Connie” Codarini (born c. 1930 – died in 2010), tenor John Bernard “Bernie” Toorish ( born on March 2, 1931), lead James “Jimmy” Arnold (born on January 4, 1932 – died on June 15, 2004s), and baritone Frank Busseri who was also the band’s manager. Friends since childhood, they started to perform together at St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto. Codarini and Toorish later formed another group called The Crew Cuts, recruiting two schoolmates Rudi Maugeri and John Perkins.
Before they settled with the name The Four Lads, they had gone through several changing of names such as The Otnorots (“Toronto spelled backwards), The Jordonaires (not referring to Elvis Presley’s background singers) and The Four Dukes. However, they discovered a certain group from Detroit called The Four Dukes so they soon changed their name to The Four Lads. During that time, Codarini and Toorish was again with Arnold and Busseri, after Maugeri and Perkins left The Crew Cuts to pursue their studies.
The Four Lads’ recording journey
Still as The Four Dukes, in 1950 they were just starting to perform at local clubs when they were recruited to go to New York by impresario Julius Monk, who suggested changing their name to The Four Lads.
Not long thereafter, The Four Lads were spotted by Mitch Miller (Miller was an American oboist, conductor, recording producer and recording executive and A&R man) who would help them to get signed to Columbia Records. At first, they were asked to do backing vocals for artists Miller was working with, including Johnnie Ray whose hits (“The Little White Cloud That Cried” and “Cry”, 1951) helped them to be known in the industry.
In 1952, they released their first own single on Columbia “The Mocking Bird” which was also the group’s first hit, registering at #23 on the pop charts. It was followed by a string of bigger hits: “Somebody Loves Me” (#22, 1952), “Down by the River” (#17, 1953), “Istanbul” (#10, 1953), “Gilly Gill Ossenfeffer Katznelle Bogen” (#18, 1954). The song “Istanbul” earned their first gold disc.
The Four Lads’ later years
Personnel changes occurred as years went by; in 1962, Codarini was replaced by Johnny D’ Arc who stayed with the group until 1982 while in the early 1970’s, Toorish was replaced by Sid Edwards.
The 72-year old Arnold was claimed by lung cancer in Sacramento, California. In 1999, D’Arc died at the age of 60. Codarini died on April 28, 2010, in Concord, North Carolina, aged 80. The new Four Lads is now headed by Busseri, who is the only original member remaining. The current group continues to perform live.