A Tribute to
James William Kerr
1922 - 2006

Milestones Memories of My Father The War Years
Texas A&M A Pilot's Story War Years Photos

I posted this note to a popular yahoo group

Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2006
From: Grady Kerr
Subject: A Personal Story and a Thank You
Hi guys
I must tell you a story and also say thank you.
Most of you know how "famous" I am in the barbershop world.   : )

Historically, as a 30 + year member of this singing society, I am often heard boasting of having more non-singing awards than others.
Throughout the years my father would join me for conventions and barbershop shows.  Unfortunately he would have to wear a name tag with his name highly visible and in big BOLD letters - Jim Kerr
More often than we could count someone would come up and ask him . . .  
"Hey, Are you Grady Kerr's Dad?". 
This happened so often that he was soon prepared with the rehearsed comeback line . . .
"No, He's MY son!"
He once joined the great Fort Worth Cowtown chapter and during the first weeks he was a guest they would introduce each to the membership before break. Sitting in front of my dad was a Barbershopper visiting all the way from England. They introduced this long distance guest to much delight of those attending.  When they got back to my dad he was introduced as a returning singer and thanked for coming back. 
"We want to recognize Jim Kerr again, welcome back!" (can you see this one coming?) 
The stranger from England turned around and asked in his traditional British accent . . . 
"Oh, are you Grady Kerr's Dad?"
Last night at the Vocal Majority's rehearsal they sang many great songs including the Armed Forces Medley. When they got to the Army Air Corps I was thinking of his many successful missions as a B-26 pilot in WWII. 
Music was important in our family. He turned me on to The Hi Lo's, Benny Goodman and all the Big Bands and I turned him on to the Suntones, the Vocal Majority and Barbershop. That just might have been an even trade.
I got to hear many of those great harmonies last night. It was very much needed and appreciated - more than they could have known.
After several months in a Houston hospital my dad passed away Thursday evening around 5pm at the age of 83.  It was expected and I was as prepared for it as I could have been. But being able to crawl inside that glorious VM sound and those incredible harmonies last night meant a great deal.
Among other things I have my dad to thank for this gift of music in my life.
Maybe today YOU should call who ever gave you this gift and tell them thanks?
Jim Kerr's Son

My note spawned these heartfelt comments
Memories And Other Influential Fathers

What a nice tribute you wrote about your dad.
I, also, think the big bands (with which I grew up, standing with my belly against the bandstand until the last man took his instrument case off the stage) and Barbershop Harmony (which I first learned about in 1947 from my dad's quartet, The Chord Huskers, from Lincoln, NE) are the most exciting as well as being the most satisfying styles of music to come from this blessed land.
I'm sorry to hear of your dad's passing. Mine died in 1964 at age 70, just two months before he and Mom planned to see the Sidewinders in San Antonio in 1964. They both left to us a great legacy of music.
Keep up your wonderful work with the Medallion, Grady. Your efforts help the members of AIC as well as all those who are able to read about AIC, realize what a valuable organization for the promotion, preservation, and propagation of Barbershop Quartet Singing The Association of International Champions really is.
Jerry Fairchild
Gold Medal Champs - Sidewinders 1964

I just saw your posting on the Harmonet about your father.  What a beautifully written tribute.  My sincere condolences to you for your loss. How ironic that you chose Thursday night to come hear the VM, and that we did the armed forces medley.  We truly believe, as I know you do, in the power of music.  To be able to reach out and touch people, to connect with them in times of happiness and sorrow is a God given gift we all share.  I’m glad we were able to do that on Thursday for you.
Like you, my father had a great influence on me and my musical career.  He was a violinist (Concertmaster) with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and played with them for 52 years, longer than anyone else in the history of the orchestra. And as important as music was to me while I was growing up, I knew it was a tough way to make a living, so I got into radio (thinking it would provide a more secure future….  It wasn’t!).  I moved around a good bit before returning to Dallas in’ 79.  After a 17 year career, I left radio in ’87 and haven’t looked back.  But the interesting part is that although I left radio behind, I never left the music behind.
My father passed away in 1990 at the age of 81.  And although there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss him or think of him, I know whenever I sing with the VM, sing a tag at an afterglow,  or play piano at church or at home, that he’s smiling at me.  I’m sure your dad will be doing the same.
Best wishes.
Nick Alexander
Emcee of the Vocal Majority - Dallas, TX

I read your very touching tribute to your Dad just now on the internet.  I will always remember your Dad just sitting in a chair listening - mostly with a smile - as we rehearsed in the apartment on Sunday afternoon.  He sure was proud of you - and it showed. 
More importantly, I remember singing for the reunion of your dad's B-26 group reunion - and how proud he was that we sang the Jim Clancy arrangement of the tune many thought should have been the Air Force anthem - I think it really impressed him and the rest of the group as well.  I know it brought back memories for them.
I know your Dad is well now - and I also know, with some healing time, you also will be OK.
God bless your Dad - and keep you safe also.
Bob Connelly, Jr.
bass of The Boys Next Door
Barbershopper from Dallas, TX

I was touched by your email today and it brought back so many memories of my own dad who passed away at only 75 years.  Unlike your dad, my dad was not the musical one in the family.  But as the years went by and he got to know how much music meant in my life, he began taking a bigger interest in my concerts and shows.  I remember in 1977, about 7 years after my mom and dad had divorced, I was with the Livingston Dapper Dans and we were in the International Contest that happened to be in Philadelphia (my home town) that year.  Although my father had not been in the same building as my mother since their divorce, he came to Philadelphia (knowing my mother would be there) and got a ticket for the chorus contest from the "bulletin board"  stood in the back of Convention Hall and watched his son as he sang in front of 10,000 "home district" folks.  He always told me he was so proud of my involvement with barbershop even though he didn't always understand it.
The night he died, I kissed him and he said he wanted me to know that evn though he didn't always go to the shows and concerts I was in, he was really proud of my musical accomplishments.  Three days after he died, I received in the mail my copy of  Gas House Gang's recording of "Still trying to be like Dad" and I cried.  I think you know that every year on the anniversary of his death (May 11).  I play GHG and dedicate it to the memory of MY dad.
I envy you for having your father as part of your barbershop life and for the years you spent together....oh and by the way, I called my Mom tonight to thank her for bringing music into my life.
God Bless, Friend
Rich Taylor - Host of The Harmony Network Internet Radio - Barbershopper from New Jersey

I am so saddened by hearing of the loss your dad. I lost my father at age 8 and never really got to know or have a father. In many ways I very envious of the relationship you and your dad shared. On another note, I am so sorry that your hurt is MUCH worse than mine because you did know your dad for so many years.
God be with you my friend.
Bob Coant
fellow COTS Instructor - Barbershopper from New York

We are sorry to hear of the passing of your dad.
Our thoughts are with you and the rest of the family.
Jay & Kathy Hawkins / Jim & Rosemary Miller
Louisville, KY - Society Photographers

Sorry to hear about your Dad.... it's not easy even when you "expect" it.
Hang in there buddy.
Bruce Checca
COTS Coordinator, Barbershopper from New York

Seeing Grady last night and reading his story makes me proud and glad to be a barbershopper and a member of the VM family.
For me, the person who got me into barbershopping was the older attorney who occupied the office next to mine when I was an assistant district attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1995. I had heard that he was a singer who sung in a barbershop chorus, and I thought it might be something fun to try. I had sung a bit with friends in college, but nothing serious. So, I bought a Bing Crosby Irish CD, learned the melody to "That Tumbledown Shack in Athlone," gathered up my courage and asked if I could sing a little bit of it to him in his office to see if I might be good enough to try out for his chorus. I am sure I was awful, but he was delighted and said of course I was good enough, and took me to my first rehearsal of the New Mexi-Chords. When I walked in the door and heard that bass sound, I was hooked. By the way, the attorney in the office next to mine was Jim Law, original lead of the Side Street Ramblers.
I am very thankful to others who have helped me stay in barbershopping along the way, including my vocal teachers, Paul Barrientos and Jim Casey. Also, my old quartet lead, Howard Huttel. And of course, the two great directors I have had the luck to sing for Farris Collins and Jim Clancy.
Lars Isaacson
Lead, Dallas Vocal Majority

I am sorry to hear of your dad's passing. You had something in your life time that a lot of boy's growing up never had and that is a great father who shared and gave you one of the great pleasures in life (Music) and i know many other things that a boy growing up would have with a dad that you had.
WWII veteran's are my hero's i remember as a kid looking in the evening paper with full pages of pictures of soldiers that were killed in action, wounded in action, and missing in action. Tom Brokaw was right they truly are "The Great Americans".
I am glad you found comfort with your barbershop family last night
Woody Kneebone
Barbershopper from Pennsylvania

I am saddened to learn of Jim's death - when Jim was working here at CCRD, he & I often worked together doing the Jumble puzzle in the newspaper while having lunch - my Dad (he died in 1991) always worked that puzzle - I think Jim was my substitute Dad - Jim was always most kind to me & always had a good story to tell - I am sorry for your loss
Flo Baker

Thank you for sharing the great story of your Dad. As you know I grew up in West Texas where my Dad was one of the driving forces for Barbershop. Thanks to him I was washed with Barbershop all my life and he told me about the VM and gave me my first LP of them when they were just getting started.
Think of your Dad smiling down on you each time you sing and give  that great smile of yours right back to him.
You and I are very lucky to have been given this gift of song by our Dads'.
Mo Rector probably has your Dad in a quartet right now.
Take care and God Bless you.
Russell Shaner
Dallas Vocal Majority

Thank you for sharing your story about your Dad and the meaning of his loss to you.
My dad passed away two weeks before I was scheduled to judge an International Prelim contest in JAD.  I tried to cancel, but it was too late to get a replacement.  My lovely wife convinced me that my Dad would want me to continue with my life and that it was OK to judge this contest.
I was fine throughout the contest until UPTOWN SOUND came on stage and sang "My Father, My Friend, My Pal."  This fine quartet's performance touched me deeply and I overscored that performance by almost 20 points.  For me, that was the right score at that time and I make no apologies for it.  To this day, that song brings back all of the fine times I shared with my Dad and how much I miss him.
I'm sure both of our Dads know how much they were appreciated, even if we never did do a good job in articulating it.
Hummmmmmmmmbly yours,
Jim West
Barbershopper from LaVale, Maryland

Sorry to hear about your Dad -- I got my interest in singing from my Dad, his twin brothers and Grandfather. My Grandfather was a circuit preacher in central Texas, he and his three sons were a gospel quartet that traveled all over the hill country, singing and preaching.
Grif Griffin
Houston Tidelander

Your story is very touching and deeply appreciated here. My Dad was an old Minstrel Show end man and taught me the old songs when I was very young. I share your sentiment about thanking those who introduced us to singing. In that, I share your loss, too.
May your Dad find the peace he deserves knowing that his legacy is secure in your continuing appreciation of music. And don't worry, I'll bet he knows how much you appreciated his gift.
Everett H. Nau's son - Ev
Harmony Foundation Rep and Barbershopper from Chicago, IL

I am not a subscriber to the Harmonet, but Rick passed on your note about your dad.  I want you to know that you have my condolences.  Your story is similar to mine, but I lost my dad last June.  The great thing about barbershopping was that it was the conduit for both of us to share time and talent together.  There is just something special about singing with your dad that almost nothing else can replace. 
You and your family are in our prayers. 
Long live Jim Kerr.
Bill Rashleigh
Barbershopper from Wisconsin and BHS Staff member

What a beautiful tribute, my friend.
Someday I'll tell you about a TV personality (me) and his mother - a very accomplished businesswoman and an internationally recognized Sorority leader.
God Bless, Grady - er - Jim Kerr's son. 
Dick Johnson
Graphic Artist, The Medallion
Chicago, IL

I had not heard about your dad passing away and I want express my sympathies. It sounds like you had a wonderful relationship and there is nothing that can replace that. I feel very much the same way about my dad (who passed away 10 years ago) and understand your loss. It's good that you have the memories of the music you shared.
Lynn Trapp
Director, Siouxland Barbershop Chorus

Thank you for sharing your memories with us. I'm very sorry for your loss.
Very truly yours,
Daryl T. Meek
Barbershopper from New Jersey

Grady - my sympathy on the passing of your father.

My father never was a member but he told me about the society and that's how I started as a teen in 1978. Our Harmonet buddy Jack Martin grabbed me not 2 minutes in the door, told me to sing, and I've been singing ever since. Jack took me under his wing and taught me everything about barbershop. Thanks, Jack - I love you, man!

Kevin Keller
Former Vocal Majority Member

I second that thought Grady! I on the other hand am not sure who it was who introduced me to this wonderful hobby of ours.  I think I maybe just stepped right up and introduced myself!
Anyway, I am sure your dad still is smiling down on you and there with you in all your musical adventures.
My sincere condolences on the loss of your dad.
Cindy Schlicht
Sweet Adeline from Minnesota

Lovely tribute buddy, I know he will be missed.
Sounds like the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.
Rich Evans
San Antonio Barbershopper

When I was 14 the choir director of my church in San Jose, CA, came to me and said "Keith, you are now singing in the choir!"  In a rather timid voice I replied "No I'm not".  And he said in a VERY FIRM voice.  "Oh, yes you are!!!"
I've been singing ever since, including an a cappella men's chorus of 12 voices while I was in college and we made a record.  At that time we sang one barbershop song, but I didn't figure out the song was published by SPEBSQSA, even with legal music in hand.  It took another 23 years for a co-worker at IBM to introduce me and still another 10 years for my life style to make time for barbershop.  I'm in my 13th year and loving it.
But back to age 14, I have huge thank you for Dr. David Yoder for pushing me into the choir loft.  It is the gift of a life time.  If any of you know him, please tell him my thank you.  I believe he taught at a university in the state of Washington some years ago.
Keith Eckhardt
Barbershopper from Florida

So sorry to hear of your loss.  I too remember who introduced me to our wonderful hobby.  I was one of Tom Wickenheiser's nearly 50 Men of Note. In the summer of 1969, I was singing in a high school quartet.  Tom was acquainted with our bass's Dad.  He brought us to the Minnetonka Clipper Chorus's rehearsal in Hopkins, MN.  For me, it was love at first chord.  Through our quartet, Tom was credited with FOUR Men of Note(s) when we all joined a few months later. I am the only one who became addicted and became a life long member.
Last November, my wife Jeni and I were fortunate enough to attend the Twin Cities Barbershop Luncheon.  Tom was there and we had a wonderful time.  Tom had been suffering from several serious bouts with cancer (lung, brain, etc.) and I hadn't seen him during that time.  At that luncheon, we sat with him and he was, for the most part, his old self.  We reminisced and had a wonderful time.  Only three weeks later, Tom succumbed to his cancer.  What a GREAT loss to our Society.  He will be missed. 
Russ Born
Barbershopper from Red Lodge, MT

First of all, to Grady, our thoughts and our prayers are with you.
Your post got me to thinking about who I would thank for bringing me into barbershopping and I realized there's no one person I can thank.
I attended Newark State College in Union, NJ.  (You may know it as Kean University.)  During the first semester of my sophomore year, I pledged Sigma Theta Chi Fraternity.  This was fall of 1968.  In April of every year, all the fraternities and sororities would hold a singing contest called Greek Sing.  We would sing two song, chorus style.  We would bring in judges.  It was very hotly contested.
The year before I pledged, one of the guys got a summer job in a place with a member of the Montclair NJ chapter.  They got to talking.  One thing led to another and we began going to visit every so often.  The guys in the chapter were friendly and sang pretty well.  They allowed us to borrow arrangements for our contest.
In April of 1971, my senior year, I directed my fraternity.  We won.  We performed a Smile Medley of Smile Darn Ya Smile and Let A Smile Be Your Umbrella, arrangement credited to Frank Tortorelli of the Hallmarks, a top ten quartet 1968-1970.  The second song was Today, originally performed by the New Christy Minstrels.  Yes, I changed the tag - it was my first tag.
I was hooked.  I joined the Montclair NJ chapter.  My first contest with Montclair was the North Atlantic Division (of M-AD) contest in June 1971.  It was hosted by the reigning International Champion Dapper Dans of Harmony from Livingston NJ.  Coincidentally, the contest was held at Newark State College.  We won.
So, who do I thank?  Do I thank Lenny DiNardo, who directed Greek Sing during my sophomore and junior years?  Do I thank Artie Dolt, my first director?  How about Jim Gregory, the Montclair president my first two years. How about Lou Selby, who was the guy who worked with my fraternity brother who told us about the whole thing?  George Hulst, the first guy that talked arrangement to me?  Don Albanese, the baritone administrative section leader?
Or do I thank them all?
Marty Israel
Barbershopper from New York

Mr. Grady Kerr, not only do I give my condolences to you and your family, but thank you for talking so about your father. I too can relate, my father introduced me to Barbershop when I was ten and I lost my Dad to Cancer when I was fourteen. I was never so crushed and hurt, but, I always thought that I was close to my Dad as long as I sang.  I have to thank, many people in my lifetime for "Encouraging" me as a kid to sing. In particular, Mr. Fred King! Little did I know 40 years later what had happened to me was the GREATEST feeling and Life this world could know and offer, I can only hope you find peace and fond memories of your dad. I know I do and the Society as I knew it. God Bless you and your Family at this time. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Bob "Diz" Disney

My grandfather and father sang in a barbershop quartet in the LOL District
back in the late 1940's - before I was born - so I knew about barbershop
from what family members had told me. I never realized women sang
barbershop until 1994 when I saw a notice about a Sweet Adeline chorus'
rehearsals in the local paper back up in Green Bay, WI. I mustered up the
courage and went to the very next rehearsal alone not knowing a soul. The
ringing chords got me hooked too and I've been doing it ever since. So I
guess I can thank Dad and my grandfather for this obses....er..hobby I love.

Peggy Bagby, tenor
Sweet Adeline - OK City