St. Michael's Choir School was founded in 1937 as a private school to train a professional boys' choir for St. Michael's Cathedral in downtown Toronto. Sacred music, however, is not what the school was best known for in the heady rock and roll days of the 1950s.
The Four Lads and the Crew Cuts, two of the best-known vocal groups of the time, were alumni of St. Michael’s. They began as the Four Dukes in 1947 and after several name changes, the Four Lads debuted in 1950. Thanks to Mitch Miller, of “Sing Along With Mitch” fame, they were recruited to sing back-up for Johnny Ray. Soon they had hits of their own with Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (1953), their first gold record, Moments to Remember (1955); No, Not Much (1956), Standin’ on the Corner (1956) and Who Needs You (1957).
After graduating from St. Michael’s, two members of the original Four Lads went on to form the Crew Cuts, one of the first white groups to record rock and roll versions of black rhythm-and-blues hits. Thanks to a cover of an R&B number called “Sh’ Boom,” they had a number one hit in 1954. Though the slightly provocative lyrics were a distance from the repertoire of St. Michael’s, the former choir boys’ vocal training shone through.
By Gary Cristall