Keep It Going

Johnson had an early hand in keeping the O.G. going as a permanent institution. Following his graduation in 1970, he stayed on at Illinois for a master’s degree and remained a member of the Glee Club, although only a “coach,” and not a member, of The Other Guys. His Yale friend, a fellow Moline resident named Lawrence Eyre, had by this time completed a stint as a member of the venerable Whiffenpoofs at Yale, and their 1970 l.p. (wow -- vinyl!) became another rich source for purloined arrangements for The Other Guys, thanks to Johnson. He lifted off and wrote down such numbers as “Sunshine Girl,” “The When You and I Were Young, Maggie, Blues,” “Quiet Girl” and “One Minute More” and helped teach them to the 1970-71 O.G. These songs became popular standards for the next few years. (At the 25th reunion in 1994, one highlight was Dennis Grube, one of the O.O.G., reprising his solo on “One Minute More” while his son, Paul Grube, ’94, the music director of the 1993-94 Other Guys, joined him on the duet -- a real Kodak moment. ) Another arrangement which Johnson contributed as an O.G. alum early on was his own arrangement of “Mama, Look Sharp” from the Broadway musical 1776.
The addition of some stolen Whiffenpoof songs, to augment the stolen Friars songs, came just in time. In the fall of 1970, the VMGC accepted an invitation to sing a joint concert with the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor, and it just wouldn’t do to sing a bunch of Friars arrangements in front of The Friars’ home crowd. The Other Guys, naturally, presented “Sunshine Girl” and “The When You and I Were Young, Maggie, Blues,” along with a published travesty of the quartet from the Verdi opera, Rigoletto. All in all, it was a highly successful venture into the lion’s den. (As an example of “what goes around, comes around,” Johnson eventually became a member of The Friars himself, while attending the University of Michigan Law School in the mid-1970’s, and helped The Friars steal some of those same arrangements from The Other Guys which the O.G. had stolen from the Whiffenpoofs. In subsequent years, The Other Guys and The Friars actually exchanged some of their original arrangements, too. “Mama, Look Sharp” by the O.G. and “Breakin’ Up Is Hard To Do” by The Friars come to mind. And the two octets even had a series of home-and-home joint concerts, starting in the 1980’s.)
The job of keeping The Other Guys going during the first decade was largely accomplished by the creative fellows who came up with new arrangements. Extraordinary musical contributions during the early years came from Jim Powell (now deceased), Mike Scoggin and Dave Bender, among others. Two of the most enduring arrangements for the O.G. were the work of Greg Magill (“My Romance”) and Michael Hanley (“Corner of the Sky”). These men are in a real sense also “founders” of The Other Guys, because they kept passing the torch.
A word of gratitude is also due to Dr. Barrington Coleman, who succeeded William Olson as Glee Club director in 1996 (shortly before Olson’s tragic and untimely death). Dr. Coleman continued Olson’s generous and essential support for The Other Guys as an integral part of the Glee Club, a factor that has been indispensable in the continuing success of the octet. Coleman even expanded the role of the octet as elite small-chorus singers in certain Glee Club repertoire.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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