Biography

The Crew Cuts was a vocal group popular in the early and mid-'50s that had a smooth vocal sound in the manner of The Four Preps, The Four Freshmen and The Four Lads (in fact, an early version of the group contained two members who later joined The Four Lads).

The members of the group--Rudi Maugeri, Pat Barrett and brothers John Perkins and Ray Perkins--attended school together at St. Michael's Cathedral School in Toronto. Maugeri and John Perkins formed a quartet they called The Jordanaires with Frank Busseri and Corrado Codarini (both of whom eventually joined The Four Lads). In 1952, after graduating high school, Maugeri and Perkins got together with Pat Barrett and Ray Perkins and formed a group called The Four Tones. They changed their name to The Canadaires when a Toronto disc jockey booked them on his weekly music show. They soon quit their full-time jobs to pursue a music career, and sang in clubs in the Toronto and Niagara Falls areas. In 1953 they got a spot on Arthur Godfrey's New York-based radio and TV show, "Talent Scouts", and came in second place. When they returned to Toronto they started getting better bookings, and got a gig opening for Gisele MacKenzie at the Casino Theatre. They later got booked to appear on a TV show in Cleveland (OH) called "The Gene Carroll Show". They met up with DJ Bill Randle, who liked their sound but not their name, and changed it to The Crew Cuts. He also got them an audition with Mercury Records, which signed them to a contract.

Their first few records for Mercury went nowhere. At the time it wasn't uncommon for many radio stations to refuse to play records by black singers or black groups, even if a record sold well in black areas. Many labels signed white vocal groups to re-record those particular songs to make them more "acceptable" to listeners--in other words, to "whiten" them up--and then released them to an unsuspecting public that believed them to be original material (Pat Boone, for one, had a major hit when he re-recorded Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally"). Mercury execs heard a record by a black group called The Chords named "Sh-Boom!", which hadn't been released yet. They thought it would be a perfect song for the group to cover, and in May 1953 The Crewcuts' version of "Sh-Boom" was released and stayed on the charts in the US and Canada for nine weeks at the #1 spot, was the second best-selling record of 1954 (the first was Kitty Kallen's "Little Things Mean a Lot") and the first "rock and roll" song to reach the #1 spot on the chars.

The "covering" of black groups died out by 1956, when kids began to hear the actual original records of the songs, and bought them in far bigger numbers than they bought the covers. It didn't seem to affect the group's popularity, however. They appeared in numerous traveling rock shows that spread over the US and Canada. In addition to doing original songs (including their own compositions, which was somewhat unusual at a time when most groups sang whatever their labels gave them) they still performed and recorded covers, including one of The Nutmegs' "Story Untold" and The Penguins' "Earth Angel". Both of the songs were big hits, especially in Europe, and Mercury sent the group to the continent for a tour, which was a major success. By 1956 their career was starting to wane, however. They stopped recording covers and their non-cover songs saw dwindling sales. After the failure of their 1958 album, "Music a La Carte", Mercury dropped them.

They signed with RCA Victor, which released a few of their songs on that label but farmed most of their records to its less prestigious labels, like Warwick and Whale. The group also released ten albums between 1959-62, to little success. They finally disbanded in 1964. They reunited in 1977 for a live performance in Nashville, and an occasional date over the next few years. In 1980 Pic-a-Dilly Records issued a compilation album of their songs that had never been released, called "The Wonderful Happy Crazy Innocent World".

The group was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1984, and made an appearance on a PBS fund-raising special with many groups from the "doo-wop"era, called "Magic Moments--The Best of '50s Pop".

After the group disbanded Rudi Maugeri became a DJ in Los Angeles and New York City and kept his hand in the production end of the business. He died of pancreatic cancer in his home in Las Vegas, NV, in 2004. Pat Barrett died on July 27, 2016.