My Bicentennial tour and secret shame

In honor of the upcoming 40th anniversary of a unique musical service organization, former members have been asked to share some of their experiences. This is my contribution.

Re-Creation 2 Main Stage PittsburghBack in the mid-seventies, while attending Penn State for my degree in meteorology, I had the fabulous opportunity to tour with the singing group Re-Creation during its first two years. It was the Bicentennial and we sang a patriotic show in state parks and a Christian program in churches.

We performed at Third & Independence Streets in Washington, D.C. on July 4, 1976 and witnessed a fly-over of the Concorde jet.

We sang at a track meet in Pittsburgh and met the legendary Jesse Owens, who joined us in singing the National Anthem. He stood right behind me and, I must say, demonstrated why he was known for something other than his dreadful singing. He dropped out halfway through: Quitter!

Our unnamed barbershop quartet, Uncalled Four, charmed pre-selected females in our audiences everywhere we pasted on our handlebar mustaches.

We demonstrated musical choreography for The Pennsylvanians and Fred Waring himself.

We recorded an album (on vinyl!) in Buffalo, NY, then drove to see Niagara Falls at 2 am. It was dark.

We shared a huge stage and an audience of 50,000 with folksinger Burl Ives at the National Boy Scout Jamboree. The big guy sang Big Rock Candy Mountain and wore a Boy Scout uniform complete with knee socks and tasseled garters. The scouts themselves clamored for our autographs—but only the girls’.

We flew to Las Vegas for the National Recreation and Park Congress and performed on stage before Robert Redford gave the keynote address.

We opened a ballgame in Three Rivers Stadium between the Pirates and the Cubs. The jolt of hearing ourselves on the loudspeakers a full measure after we had sung it nearly shocked us into confusion.

We learned to dress six to a tiny closet and tie our ties without looking in a mirror.

We filmed a couple of songs at the Penn State audiovisual studio. Mr. Brooks, our director, had predicted that 10 years from then, we’d be able to go to any library and see ourselves on a “videocassette.”

After performing at the VA Hospital in Lyons, NJ, our accommodations for the night included sleeping on the auditorium floor of the newly opened Environmental Education Center in Somerset County. In the morning we received a tour of the facility and after I graduated, I started my career right there.

But along with all the terrific memories, I can finally reveal our secret shame: we caused the demise of an entire industry: the design, manufacture and distribution of… The Leisure Suit. As the height of fashion, it peaked just that one summer. That’s because the six of us guys in the group toured the country wearing our lime green leisure suit every day with the two-tone green vinyl shoes and the open collar, pointy-lapelled rayon shirt with big green triangles on it. One look at us all decked out like that, and there simply was no stopping its demise. Yes. I accept my share of the responsibility.

It was the best of times and I made the best of life-long friends. I remain truly grateful for the life-changing mentoring and memories.

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