Well I am betting that most of you might not know what SPEBSQSA means. The legend is that the creator of this alphabet soup deliberately made up a long string of letters in response to the Roosevelt’s New Deal creations of WPA, etc. Anyway not to belabor the point, the string of letters translates to: The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America. Perhaps the short version is just Barbershop Singing. Barbershop Singing in its true form is a quartet of four voices, Tenor, Lead, Baritone and Bass. The Barbershop form of singing is still popular around the world and contests are held to determine the best quartets and choruses of men and women.
How does this relate to Wild and Wonderful Wyoming? Well, four of us in high school were inspired by records and perhaps by the rather famous quartet called the Boomerangs who toured Wyoming. The Boomerangs were winners of several contests if my memory serves me right. So Russ, Bill, Jack and I decided we should learn some barbershop songs and with the aid of some published music for quartets we begin to practice at noon hour and whenever we could. We decided it would be cool (in those days) to wear Derby hats and call ourselves the Derby Four (photo shows left to right, Russ, Bill, Jack and Jim)
Soon folks heard about the new quartet in our home town of Riverton. Suddenly we were singing our songs for every group gathering, or at least it seemed that way. After we gained some confidence in our ability to sing our barbershop songs we worked up our courage to extend performances outside of town. I am not clear how it came to pass that we were invited by other high schools to perform at an assembly of all their students. Our most noteworthy performance was at Worland High School, a school we considered to be at least our equal in those days. So, at least a bit nervous, we showed up on the stage at Worland HS to perform before the entire HS body of students. How would this go over we wondered? Would we be booed off the stage, probably not since students were very well-behaved for the most part in those days. So the performance began with some trepidation on our part.
Once we got started it seemed to go well. In between our list of songs, Russ played the piano, a skill he had to the degree he could play seriously difficult classical music. All in all we relaxed and had fun and the nice reception by the students of Worland HS was exciting and gratifying.
The Derby Four was a fun and happy part of our HS experience. Something to remember with joy. Singing has always been a part of my life, even if confined to the shower these days. I hope SPEBSQSA never dies and this part of the American experience will live long into the future.