1962 The Lettermen – Come Back Silly Girl
Tony Butala and two other singers started a vocal group in the late fifties. Jackie Barnett hired them after an auction to portray a 1920s vocal trio named The Rhythm Boys in The Newcomers of 1928 revue at the Las Vegas Desert Inn in 1958. Jackie named the new group The Lettermen. The revue moved to Miami for a few weeks. Gary Clarke and another singer joined Tony as replacements for the two members who left the group. After the revue ended, the group disbanded and Tony and Gary joined Bill Norvis and the Upstarts and began singing in lounges. After a few months, Gary left the group and Jim Pike took his place.
Tony and Jim left the Upstarts and form their own group. Jim and Bob Engemann had met back at Brigham Young University and sung together in Los Angeles until Bob joined the California National Guard. He contacted Bob and invited him to join their new group. The group decided to use the Lettermen name that Tony had sung under in the past.
Bob’s older brother Karl had a job as a record producer at Warner Brothers Records and helped the group get a recording contract there. They recorded and released two singles in 1960 that failed to perform well. Karl moved to Capitol Records as the new head of A&R and got the Lettermen out of their WB contract and signed them with Capitol.
The group released The Way You Look Tonight as their first single on Capitol in 1961. The single peaked at #13 on the Hot 100. Their next single, When I Fall In Love, did even better, and reached #7 later that year.
Walter Brennan had a hit in 1962 with Old Rivers. Jim and Bob recorded a parody of the song, The Son Of Old Rivers. Captiol Records released their single credited to Tony, Bob, and Jimmy on the label. The single immediately vanished and didn’t even get included on their first album.
In 1960, Steve Lawrence recorded a single written by Barry Mann. The single, Come Back Silly Girl, failed to chart and was quickly forgotten.
The group’s first album contained their cover of that song. The single version of Come Back Silly Girl came out in 1962 and put the group back on the charts. It reached #17 on the Hot 100 and got as high as #3 on the Adult Contemporary (AC) chart.
The Lettermen recorded countless albums and singles over the next decade. While they only had three more top forty singles on the Hot 100, they scored 13 more top ten singles and more than another dozen top forty singles on the AC chart.
Tony, the final original member to appear in concerts, announced his semi-retirement from performing in 2019.
The group’s lineup changed over the years, but a group of Lettermen has appeared in concert continuously. The Lettermen have continued to release albums periodically, including six Christmas albums since 2014.
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