In December 1953, two San Rafael businessmen, Ivor Davies and Ed McKinney, held a meeting at Ed’s home to lay the groundwork for a new Marin County barbershop quartet chapter. Several friends were invited, and an evening of harmony ensued which was enjoyed so much by those in attendance that they came back two weeks later for more of the same.
The group soon outgrew the McKinney living room, and moved to a music room at Drake High School for regular meetings. An ad was placed in the Independent-Journal, and at the first meeting at Drake, 30 were present.
By March 1954, Ed had the charter for the new Marin Chapter in hand, with a roster of 35 members. Dave Stevens was acquired as director, and the group had an active quartet, “The Ingrams”, composed of Bob, Jim, Herb, and Rad Ingram.
The Marin Chapter of SPEBSQSA started out with a bang the likes of which has seldom been seen in barbershop circles before or since. The new chorus had its first parade and charger night, May 15, 1954, at Bermuda Palms auditorium with the “Travelaires” from San Jose as headliners. The organization, which had been born under the guidance of Mr. McKinnry, now had its first president, “Bene” Benefield, and included in its membership a quartet called the “Petaluma Roostaires”.
Under the name “Saltaires”, the Marin chorus entered and won the Northern California Preliminary Contest at Oakland under the capable direction of “Doc” Stevens, edging out the Eden and Berkeley choruses.
Concurrently, at a novice quartet contest, the “Ingrams” won first place, and a third place quartet, “The Marinated Four”, claimed Marin as their home chapter. This latter group was made up of Bob Flanders, “Hutch” Harnsberger, Bob Johnson and Dick Kreuzer.
On October 16, 1954, the newly organized chapter, having been officially in existence only five months, defeated 16 competing choruses to become the champion of the Far Western District.
Following this great coup, the boys from Marin had their hands full keeping up with chapter activities. The chorus appeared on the San Francisco show, November 27, and on January 22, 1955, had their first mid-winter festival at Bermuda Palms. Included on this program were four Marin chapter quartets: the “Ingrams”, the “Marinated Four”, the “Petaluma Roostaires”, and a new group called the “Four Most”, composed of Ken Carolan, Jim Heidinger, Tom Beyer and Jim Ingram.
The Marin chapter ended its first tremendous year by appearing on the Berkeley show in February.
In 1956 and 1957, the Berkeley chapter rose to the fore as the “big gun” in the Far Western District, moving Marin into second place, but still very much in the running.
The year 1958 started off with the Spring Festival of Barbershop Harmony at Marin Catholic Auditorium. Included in the program for the evening was “The Bayaires”, consisting of Ken Moran, Hal Johnson, Leo Miller, and Elmer Augustine, and the “Frisco Four” with Steve Carrick, Bob Ingram, Jim Ingram and Dave Stevens.
Marin chapter Chorus entered the 1958 Northern California regional Contest at Pittsburgh, and defeated Berkeley to take first place. Jim Ingram left San Francisco in December to join the “Music Man” road show.
The spring festival of Barbershop Harmony at Marin Catholic, July 18, 1959, was high-lighted by the appearance of “Chord Reporters”, with Wes Hiss, Tom Peyton, Whit Henry and H. E. McKinney (yes, the same old founder Ed McKinney). Also on the show were the “San Rafellows” with Steve Flood, Harold Valeschini, Claire Miller and Elmer Augustine; and the “Golden Gate Harmony Four” made up of Jim Heidinger, Steve Carrick, Ben Walton and Glenn Dawson.
San Rafael High School was the scene of the 1960 Barbershop Harmony Festival, featuring the “Harmony Party Convention” with Chairman George Croke. A new quartet, the “Tenders of Note”, made its appearance, consisting of Steve Flood, Frank Sutcliffe, Ben Walton and Ray Dallara.
The Marin Chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America, Inc., has since its inception by Messrs. Davies and McKinney been a motive force in our Society.