UNT College of Music acquires collection of Grammy-winning vocalist and vocal arranger Gene Puerling

Music Special Collections Librarian Maristella Feustle, left, and Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies Jennifer Barnes look over the Gene Puerling Collection recently acquired by the UNT Music Library.

The UNT College of Music has received music written by the late Grammy-winning vocal arranger and renowned vocalist, Gene Puerling, along with musical scores, instrumental arrangements and other memorabilia from Puerling’s widow, Helen.

The Gene Puerling Collection arrived at UNT on Oct. 27 and now resides in the Special Collections section of UNT’s Music Library on the fourth floor of the UNT Willis Library. The collection is accessible for the entire UNT community and guests by special arrangement. Those who would like to access it should give the Music Library staff at least one day’s notice to make the collection readily available. Contact the Music Library staff at musicref@unt.edu or (940) 565-2860.

Included in the collection of the renowned vocalist and vocal arranger for The Hi-Lo’s! and The Singers Unlimited is music written by Puerling from his earliest days, beginning in the 1940s, until his death in 2008. The instrumental arrangements that often accompanied Puerling’s vocal arrangements will also be included in the collection, including music penned by Frank Comstock, Patrick Williams, Roger Kellaway, Rob McConnell, Les Hooper and Clare Fischer. In addition to musical scores, the collection will contain memorabilia related to Puerling’s life and work, including letters of admiration from renowned musicians, scripts from live television programs, and countless recordings made throughout his life.

“Gene Puerling’s vocal arrangements are the gold standard by which all other vocal writing that utilizes jazz harmony is measured,” said UNT Director of Vocal Jazz Jennifer Barnes. “Acquiring this collection is not only beneficial to our students here at UNT, but guarantees that both future generations of vocal musicians and fans of Puerling’s music around the world will have access to his music for years to come.”

Puerling wrote intricate, harmonically complex arrangements and his pieces for The Hi-Lo’s! and The Singers Unlimited influenced countless future vocal groups, including The Beach Boys, The Manhattan Transfer, The Real Group and Take 6. Although it was his vocal writing for The Hi-Lo’s! and The Singers Unlimited that earned Puerling a total of 14 Grammy award nominations, as well as the respect of musicians around the world, it was an arrangement written for The Manhattan Transfer of “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square” in 1982 that won him the coveted award. In addition to the Manhattan Transfer, Puerling received commissions to write for other professional vocal groups, including The Real Group and Chanticleer, as well as solo artists like Linda Ronstadt and Gloria Estefan.

“This collection will serve multiple purposes for our students: as material for performance, as examples for the study of arranging and as manuscripts that will be edited for publication,” said John Murphy, chair of UNT’s Division of Jazz Studies.

The Gene Puerling Collection will complement two other collections maintained collaboratively by the UNT Music Library and the Division of Jazz Studies, the Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson Collections. Kenton, a famed jazz orchestra leader, gave UNT a collection of arrangements in 1962 and bequeathed the remainder of his collection to UNT in 1979, while the Ferguson Collection came to UNT in 2008.

“The Puerling Collection, along with our other 100-plus music special collections, is another avenue by which we can offer our community performance and research experiences which are uniquely ‘UNT;’ they can’t be replicated elsewhere,” said Maristella Feustle, music special collections librarian at the UNT Music Library.

Gala concerts and other events to celebrate the Gene Puerling Collection and feature the music of Gene Puerling are being scheduled for the weekend of April 16-18, 2015. For further information and up-to-date information on events related to the collection, visit jazz.unt.edu/genepuerling.

More information about Gene Puerling

Gene Puerling was the vocal bass-baritone in the highly popular male vocal quartet, The Hi-Lo’s!, from 1953 until 1964, with a period of revival from 1978 until their last performance together in 1992. Garnering three Grammy award nominations during that time, The Hi-Lo’s! appeared in concerts across the U.S. and Mexico as well as appearing on television shows hosted by Nat King Cole, Steve Allen, Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney. When fellow Hi-Lo’s! member Don Shelton moved to Chicago to pursue non-touring studio work, Gene joined him there soon after, and the two of them formed The Singers Unlimited (adding Bonnie Herman as lead vocalist and Len Dresslar as the bass) as an outlet for singing more complex music than the jingles that comprised their livelihood as studio singers. Legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson heard their revolutionary multi-track overdubbed recording of Puerling’s arrangement, “Fool on the Hill”, and was so impressed that he shared it with his German record label, MPS, who signed them to a contract immediately. The Singers Unlimited recorded 15 albums, including collaborations with Peterson’s trio, the Rob McConnell and Pat Williams Big Bands and several a cappella albums.

About the UNT College of Music

The UNT College of Music is one of the largest and most respected comprehensive music schools in the country. More than 1,600 music students attend UNT each year, participating in more than 50 widely varied ensembles and pursuing specialized studies in performance, composition, music education or music scholarship. UNT faculty members and students have made appearances on the world’s finest stages and have produced numerous recordings, many receiving Grammy awards and nominations. Distinguished UNT alumni can be found around the globe, in top music ensembles, opera companies, universities and schools.