Tenor: Al Kvanli
Lead: Bill Thornton
Bass: Gary Parker
Bari: Brian Beck
In 1973 four dedicated, determined young men from Dallas, with two years of grueling, almost daily work behind them, “came out of nowhere” in Portland to win the international title on their first try.
The Dealer’s Choice thus became the first quartet in 21 years (since the Four Teens in 1952) to collect the gold in its first international competition (a feat also duplicated by Acoustixin 1990). They were (from top to bottom) Al Kvanli, Bill Thornton, Brian Beck, and Gary Parker.
The championship was the goal they had set for themselves in 1971, and with one change of personnel (Bill moved from bari to lead, replacing Louie Mullican, when Brian arrived), they made it in less than two years.
Ten weeks after Brian joined the quartet it placed fifth – out of the money – in the 1972 international prelims. It was the last contest the D.C. would fail to win. They passed up the international contest in Atlanta that year to attend a Society HEP (Harmony Education Program) school in Racine, WI.
They came back raving about the talents of Harlan Wilson, Don Clause and other faculty members, and with 54 hours of cassette tapes of their training sessions. Rehearsing over and over the HEP school techniques, they won the Southwestern District contest in October 1972 and the international prelims in March. Then the work intensified – a minimum of one rehearsal each day of the contest songs, each run-through timed by stopwatch. They lived with their contest material 24 hours a day.
In Portland they “followed the book” – bypassing the fun and late hours, rehearsing steadily, keeping their voices in shape (and drawing curious glances from other contestants) by speaking seldom and humming constantly into small hand towels.
It all paid off, as the retiring champs, the Golden Staters, hung gold medals around the necks of the “unknown” Dealer’s Choice.