Tenor: Joe Schmitt
Lead: Fran Schmitt
Bass: Jim Schmitt
Bari: Paul Schmitt
Joe, Jim, Paul, and Fran Schmitt began singing together as a quartet in September, 1949 at their mother’s home in Two Rivers, WI. Two months later a local businessman and international president of the Barbershop Harmony Society, O.H. “King” Cole, heard them singing and invited them to visit the nearby Manitowoc chapter.
The brothers soon became members. The quartet received a great deal of help from two men in the chapter. Milt Detgen, the chorus director, arranged many of their songs and John Means, later to become president of the Society, became one of their coaches. In 1950 the quartet became Land O’ Lakes District champion. The brothers had made only about five public performances at the time.
While preparing for the international preliminary contest the following spring, they met Rudy Hart, another man who assisted them for many years as coach and arranger. Selected as one of four quartets to represent the district at the international contest in Toledo, the Schmitts began rehearsing at least once each day, met with Means three days per week, and learned two more songs.
In the semifinal contest round they sang in last position and earned a standing ovation. They won the international contest and the hearts of the audience.
Being a new quartet, they were in need of a repertoire. They went home and learned 20 songs before their first barbershop show in September. During their championship year the Schmitt Brothers sang 110 performances including the Ed Sullivan network television show and the Arthur Godfrey show.
In 1952 they made a two-week USO tour of military installations in Alaska.
In 1956 the Schmitts were featured in a color filmstrip explaining the Voice Expression judging category, produced by the Society. The production received an award as the best instructional film of the year.
Each year the quartet sang on a show produced by the Society’s Association of International Champions (AIC).
At the 1966 convention in Chicago the four brothers rented a bus and loaded their wives and 32 children aboard. All 40 of them appeared on stage at the AIC show.
The quartet became active as teachers at district and international schools and clinics. In 1980 the Schmitts received an award from the Wisconsin Music Educator’s Conference for outstanding service to school music.
The Schmitt Brothers from Two Rivers entertained barbershop audiences for 34 years, traveling more than two million miles and appearing on nearly 3,000 shows.