Tenor: Harry Conte
Lead: Tom Palamone
Bass: Bill Conway
Bari: John “Jiggs” Ward
Anthony “Zebo” DiPerro first instilled a love for barbershop harmony in Tom Palamone. The two were part of a quartet that rattled the walls in the back room of Zebo’s Pittsburgh grocery store in 1938. Palamone sang lead, Harry “Chummy” Conte was tenor, Zebo sang baritone, and “Turp” Marcanello was the bass. Zebo knew hundreds of songs and quite a few parodies that he taught the quartet.
They never used a pitchpipe; the lead would hang out a note and off the quartet would go, woodshedding the harmony.
In 1946 the quartet, then known as the Allen Club Four, went downtown to the Fort Pitt Hotel and joined the Pittsburgh Chapter of SPEBSQSA. The quartet attracted the attention of Maurice “Molly” Reagan, founder of the chapter, who was an accomplished arranger of quartet music.
After a month under Reagan’s coaching, the Allen Club Four decided to take a shot at the 1946 international quartet competition in Cleveland, Ohio. They placed a respectable sixth.
Zebo sang with the group a few months more, then the demands of his business compelled him to reluctantly part from the quartet. He was replaced by John “Jiggs” Ward who had sung bari with Bob Holbrook, lead of the 1941 champion Chord Busters, in the Serenaders quartet in the 5th Marine Corps Division during the final years of World War II.
Bill Conway took over the bass spot when Marcanello left Pittsburgh to sing with a band in New Jersey. Eighteen months later, still under the tutelage of Reagan, the quartet, renamed the Pittsburghers, won the gold medal at the 1948 international competition in Oklahoma City.
The quartet continued singing for three more decades and underwent a number of personnel changes. In 1955 Tom O’Malley moved into the lead spot and Palamone moved up to tenor when Conte dropped out. O’Malley had sung lead in the 1952 Johnny Appleseed District Champion Four Maldehydes. By the end of the decade, Conway was replaced by Dutch Miller at bass. In 1963, Nick Kason, who had sung with the Selectones, took over the bass part.
Two years later, the name Pittsburghers was retired when Jiggs Ward decided to withdraw, leaving Palamone as the only remaining member of the championship foursome. With Jack Elder, formerly of the Town and Country Four, singing bari, the group continued to do show dates as the Pittsburgh Four.
The Pittsburgh Four was active until the 1980’s when Tom O’Malley died.