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

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Posted ByBill Days on January 25, 2004 at 02:07:12:

In Reply to: Re: Question About "The Sportsmen" and "The Mellomen" posted byTom Wagner on December 22, 2003 at 16:49:13:

Just a quick note here.

Bill Days was my father and I grew up knowing Bing Crosby, Jack and Mary Benny and, of course, all the Sportsmen and John Rarig. I happened across this page while searching the internet.

The story of Thurl's exit from the Benny show as reported by Mr. Wagner is essentially correct however, there really were no hard feelings per se, or if there were they didn't really last. Thurl and my father remained the closest of friends throughout their lives and they spoke often. After my parents moved to Reno, Nevada in 1988, Thurl would come and visit them. Max Smith and my father also kept in close contact throughout the balance of Max's life.

The story as it was told to me (the incident was before my time) was that when Thurl joined the armed forces, Gurney was hired to replace him. After the war, with the cast of the radio show all set, Jack and Mary Benny both were reluctant to make any changes and "preferred" that Gurney be kept on as the bass in the group.

There may have been some questions and perhaps some resentment over the decisions made by either the group and/or Mr. Benny, but both Thurl and Gurney were very warm, compassionate Christian men and our families often would socialize with each other even after the Sportsmen (and the Mellowmen for that matter) stopped traveling and singing.

My father and Thurl worked together often, most notably with Disney Studios and with the Johnny Mann Singers. Both of them appeared on albums together and sang in pictures and on television.

Thurl, of course, went on to do the voice of "Tony the Tiger" and sang the original song in the animated version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

In 1976, the whole group got together and traveled back to Philadelphia to do the Mike Douglass Show. It was a special show Mike was doing on old time radio. Don Wilson was there and others so it was a kind of reunion of sorts. Sadly, Jack had passed away a few years before that. I was lucky to have been able to travel along with them and sit in on the taping. It proved to be the last ever appearance of The Sportsmen because Gurney Bell died not long after that.

As for the threatened law suit, I actually never heard about that. I don't know who reported that and I am not saying that it didn't happen but I knew Gurney and Marge Bell for decades. I knew their kids and we frequented each other's houses. This doesn't sound to me like something she would do. She was a nice, sweet woman and a wonderful wife and mother.

My father passed away on May 6, 2002 in Reno, Nevada at the ripe old age of 91.

Hope this is helpful to you all out there. It's really nice to see that there is still interest in both the Sportsmen and the Mellowmen.

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