The Lettermen was a pop vocal trio that had a number of hits in the 60's, even though their style was quite different from many of the popular acts of the day.
The Lettermen formed in Los Angeles in 1960 and consisted of Tony Butala (born in in Sharon, Pennsylvania in 1940), Bob Engemann (Highland Park, Michigan, 1936) and Jim Pike (St. Louis, Missouri, 1938). They secured a recording contract Warner Brothers through Karl Engemann, Bob's older brother, who was a record producer there. They recorded two singles with little success, but when Karl moved on to Capitol Records as President of the Artists and Repertoire (A&R) division, he managed to have their contract with WB voided and signed them to a recording contract with Capitol.
The group's first big hit on Capitol came in 1961 with The Way You Look Tonight, which had been a number one hit for Fred Astaire in 1936. Toward the end of that year they had a bigger hit with When I Fall In Love, which Doris Day had brought to number 20 in 1952, and another in the spring of 1962 with Come Back Silly Girl. The group developed its own style, singing smooth harmonies. They became adept at choosing songs that would appeal to record-buyers, and this served them well as music tastes shifted to the British Invasion in the mid-60's. In 1965 they recorded Theme From "A Summer Place" for the movie A Summer Place, starring Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue.
Late in 1967 Bob Engemann left the Lettermen and was replaced by Gary Pike, Jim's younger brother. Early the following year this lineup came up with the group's second top ten hit (the first had been When I Fall In Love) with a medley, Goin' Out Of My Head/Can't Take My Eyes Off You. The final top forty hit for the group wih this configuration was Hurt So Bad in 1969, a #10 hit for Little Anthony and the Imperials four years earlier.
From 1962 to 1974, the Lettermen managed to put 32 albums on the charts, some of them compilations of earlier hits, among them A Song For Young Love in 1962, The Best of the Lettermen in 1966, The Lettermen!! ...And Live! in1967, and I Have Dreamed in 1969. Among other things, they recorded a number of songs with a theme of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, including the TKE Sweetheart Song. Karl Engemann went on to become Marie Osmond's personal manager and retained that role for many years. Jim Pike had problems with his voice and left the group in 1976 but Tony Butala kept it going for decades, during which time a number of personnel changes were made. The Lettermen have made many live performances, over 200 a year beginning in 1961 and continuing, as changes were made to the group, for over five decades. They never have broken up and continue to perform as this is written.
The Lettermen made their mark on 60's pop music and their music from that era is highlighted by singles such as When I Fall In Love and their medley Goin' Out Of My Head/Can't Take My Eyes Off You.
Return to Rock-and-Roll Page.
Return to Home Page.
Send email to the author, Tom Simon firstname.lastname@example.org.