The Brothers Four - by Carol Caffin
On July 4, 1959, The Brothers Four flew to New York for the first time, checking into two cheap rooms at a midtown hotel. "We ate at the Automat, 'cause that was all we could afford," laughs Flick, "and every day, we walked to Columbia Records," using their studios to research, rehearse and ultimately, to record, their first album, The Brothers Four (1959). In 1960, The Brothers Four spawned the single "Greenfields," which slowly and steadily garnered airplay, until what Flick remembers as "this worldwide, giant momentum" turned it into a bona fide hit and one of the most recognizable songs of the day.
While The Brothers Four were busy making records and touring the world, the powers at Columbia were looking for new ways to pair their "big properties" with up-and-coming artists. "As a result," says Flick, "when the John Wayne movie The Alamo came out, and Columbia picked up the score, they suggested we record 'The Green Leaves of Summer'," which went on to become one of the group's biggest hits.
The Brothers Four continued to perform and record, and were particularly strong on the college circuit. "From 1960 to 1964," recalls Flick. " we were extremely busy, because that's when the college concert circuit was really born." The circuit, which began primarily with jazz concerts, had grown to embrace other music forms, as well as comedy, and was particularly receptive to the new wave of folk groups on the scene.
"At that time, we were doing 250 to 300 one-nighters a year, mostly on college campuses." In between, The Brothers Four packed all of the important clubs of the day, including Basin Street East and the Village Gate in New York, and the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C.
The advent of The Beatles and the British Invasion, together with the emergence of folk/rock and Dylan's "going electric," changed things a bit, and for a while, popular folk music seemed passe'.
Over the past four decades, The Brothers Four have also built an ever-growing loyal legion of fans in Europe and Asia, and are particularly strong in Japan, where they tour every year. They have also noticed a definite resurgence of popular folk music in the States during the past seven or eight years, says Flick, noting a "steady growth in concert attendance" since 1990. "It's something much deeper than nostalgia," says Flick. "I think people are really genuinely rediscovering and connecting to this American music. And we're very happy to accommodate them."
The Brothers Four, now including veteran folk performers Mike McCoy and John Hylton along with Bob Flick and Mark Pearson, are booked in concert halls throughout the world well into the future. Many of their US shows have been presented in tandem with Community Concerts Association of America, which has membership associations in cities throughout the country. Currently you can catch The Brothers Four on the road across America performing as part of the brand new "This Land is Your Land" live all-star folk concert tour, inspired by the recent PBS folk music special.
"We'll be doing lots of cities per season for them," says Flick, "and that will take us to every state in the country." In addition, some film and TV projects are in the works in Asia. "We're looking forward to creating some new recordings as well," says Flick, who is also excited about the group's new website, www.brothersfour.com, which fans can access to check out tour schedules and other information.
In 1999, Folk Era Records, the Naperville, Illinois based label which recently released two acclaimed titles by The Brothers Four (Greenfields & Other Gold and The Tokyo Tapes) will continue its celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Folk Era and The Brothers Four 40th Anniversary.
"We're proud and happy to be part of the Folk Era family," says Flick. "These guys are just wonderful people, they know the music, they love the music, and they're in this business for the music." And the music, says Flick "is still what it's all about."