Re: Question About "The Sportsmen" and "The Mellomen"

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Posted ByTom Wagner on December 22, 2003 at 16:49:13:

In Reply to: Re: Question About "The Sportsmen" and "The Mellomen" posted byTEADJones on December 22, 2003 at 13:55:28:

Ok, here is the history of "the split":

Thurl Ravenscroft was the bass of the group from 1938-1942. He left to join the Air Transport Command. He was replaced as bass by Gurney Bell. Thurl was promised his job back when he returned from the service. When he returned in 1947/1948 (after the Sportsmen had started on the Benny show), Gurney didn't want to give up the gig. His wife threatened to sue Jack Benny if her husband was replaced in the group. Jack not wanting the headaches, "fired" the group after the 47/48 season so they could straighten out the personnel issues and then he'd rehire them in the fall. Bill Days and Marty Sperzel wanted to keep Gurney and Max Smith wanted to keep Thurl. There must have been some hard feelings because Thurl blamed Bill Days for years (literally!) and Max would never tell me what the real story was and he said it would die with him ( it did, he passed away in 1999).

Thurl left the group, Bell kept his job. In protest, Max Smith "retired" from show business. A retirement that lasted a few months. In late 1948, Smith and Ravenscroft decided to form a group. They got Bob Hamlin (lead tenor) and Bill Lee (baritone) to join them and The Mellomen were formed. They figured that with The Sportsmen making personal appearances around the country that if they stayed in town and charged scale, they'd get most of the available jobs that The Sportsmen would be up for. It worked as the Mellomen became a VERY prolific group recording for all the labels and all the big stars. Bob Stevens, who replaced Smith in the Sportsmen, ended up several years after leaving that group replacing Hamlin in the Mellomen. Plus, John Rarig, the Sportsmen's Musical Director, did some arranging for the Mellomen as well.

So two different groups, but very similar :)

I'd be glad to answer any other questions on either group.


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