The Four Lads

F.M. Kirby Center

QUESTION:  What was F.M. Kirby's first name?
A). Frank
B). Fred
C). Fess
D). Fey

We have dedicated the last few blogs to three of the Fabulous Four:  The Four Lads, The Four Aces, and the Four Freshmen.  That's because, on one fabulous night in 1987, January 22nd, all three bands got together to entertain the good people of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.  The American Treasure Tour has a poster celebrating that night displayed right in our Toy Box. We;ve talked about the bands; today, we would like to tell you a little bit about the venue. 

What is now the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts was originally the Comerford Movie Theater.  Located on Public Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre, PA, the theater opened their doors on August 18, 1938 to people wanting to see Tyrone Power and Don Ameche in Alexander's Ragtime Band.  Comerford was a theater chain at the time, and this was to be their cornerstone theater - Art Deco architecture, five separate lobbies, large oval mirrors and tall fluted columns were dominated by a gorgeous chandelier comparable to the one that graces the Empire State Building.  It evoked awe-inspired reactions in those who walked through its doors. 1949 saw a lost lawsuit by Comerford. Paramount took over the theater and continued to entertain audiences until the late-1970's, when commerce moved out of the city center and multiplex theaters opened in the suburbs. The Paramount struggled. Many of its interiors were removed, the building deteriorated, and it was being threatened with destruction. In 1985, local hero Albert Boscov, king of a popular department store, saved the theater with the help of the a number of donors including the prominent Kirby Foundation, named after F.M. Kirby I, the founder of the famous F.W. Woolworth 5 and Dime, another local hero. The restored theater re-opened on December 21, 1985 and has been open ever since as a performing arts center. Only rarely are movies ever shown in the space (including a 2006 return of Alexander's Ragtime Band), but events such as the Fabulous Four concert continue to draw crowds to this now-iconic destination.

Check out their website for what they have coming up!

ANSWER:  B). Fred Morgan Kirby.

The Four Lads

QUESTION:  The original name of the Four Lads was Otnorot.  What inspired the name?
A). A Native American tribe.
B). It translates to "The Four Lads" in Tagalog.
C). It is the name of their hometown.
D). It was the nickname of Frank Busseri

We continue our discussion that we began yesterday about the Fabulous Fours. We started with the Four Aces, and move on today to the Four Lads.  Like the Aces, the Lads started singing together right around 1950. They were schoolmates in Toronto's St. Michael's Choir School (yes, that's a real thing) - Corrado "Connie" Codarini sang bass, John Bernard "Bernie" Toorish was tenor, Jimmy Arnold sang lead and Frank Busseri doubled as baritone and the band's manager. (Novel side note: schoolmates of the Lads would found the Crew-Cuts two years later and score a massive hit with the song "Sh-boom.")

The Four Lads released their first single in 1952, "The Mocking Bird" - a minor hit that paved the way for their first gold record, the memorable "Istanbul (Not Contantinople)," famously remade by They Might Be Giants in 1990.  Other songs reached gold status as well: "Moments to Remember," "No, Not Much," "Standin' On The Corner," and "Who Needs You?"  It was enough to sustain the Lads through the decades. Although their line up has changed due to changing priorities and the challenges of mortality, they continue to entertain audiences to this day.

ANSWER:  C). It was the name of their hometown.  Sort of.  It's actually Toronto backwards.