The Lettermen of the '60s are still making music today - although not necessarily together.Bob Engemann, Jim Pike and Tony Butala rose to fame and popularity over a quarter century ago, singing rich, romantic melodies such as "When I Fall in Love."
Engemann and Pike met at Brigham Young University in the 1950s and are still singing together today as the founders of the group Reunion, which also includes Ric de Azevedo. Butala now owns and performs under the Lettermen name.
Engemann said singing with Reunion is almost more fun than it was years ago when he, Pike and Butala were the Lettermen. "Then we had to do it. Now we book one-night concerts, fly out, perform and fly back."
"We don't want to tour and travel for weeks and months at a time like we did in those early years. The weekend concerts allow us to do our other respective jobs," said Pike, whose "respective job" is singing with the Four Preps.
When the Four Preps decided to make a comeback, they asked him to join. "I told them I would as long as they would book around my commitments to Reunion."
Engemann, 53, works for LDS Foundation raising money for Brigham Young University. "That's what I do for a living. Singing with Reunion is what I do for relaxation."
Third member de Azevedo is an associate TV producer with Warner Bros.
A native of Highland Park, Mich., Engemann moved to Van Nuys, Calif., with his family in 1952. Engemann's major love at that time was baseball. "I'm just an old baseball player turned singer, and my only real claim to fame is that I played on the same baseball team with Don Drysdale. My family was very musical."
At BYU, Engemann began singing with his brother, Karl, and his sister-in-law, Gerri. They became known as the Engemann Trio. "They would always tell me to get on key," Engemann said. It was at BYU that Engemann met Pike.
"We would try to double date with girls who loved to sing and then we would just sing our hearts out for hours at a time," Engemann said.
In 1959, Engemann joined the Army National Guard and spent six months in training.
While Engemann was gone, Pike joined a group in Nevada called Bill Norvis and the Upstarts. It was in Las Vegas that Pike met Tony Butala, a veteran nightclub singer and leader of his own group - The Foremost.
When Engemann finished basic training he, Pike and Butala got together and sang a few songs. "We liked the way we harmonized," he said. "And that was the beginning of the Lettermen."
Their first hit was "The Way You Look Tonight."
Engemann was told by his singing partners on his wedding day that the song was a hit. "I was standing in the reception line and all of a sudden Jimmy and Tony came charging through the church door waving one of those record magazines and yelling, `We've got a hit, we've got a hit.' It was a wonderful wedding present," said Engemann.
From there, the group took to the road, traveling 10 months out of the year.
Engemann, then the only married member, traveled with the group until 1968, at which time he sold his interest to Pike and Butala, making them equal partners. "Being gone so much was hard on my young family," Engemann said.
Pike left the group in 1975 when he developed voice problems. "At first my problem was a physical one," said Pike. "Singing all the high notes was taxing my voice."
Pike said that when the doctors told him that without proper care he could lose his voice permanently, "The (psychological) fear of losing my voice actually caused me to lose my voice."
Pike was a mute for nearly three years. "I had to write notes in order to communicate," he said. With therapy, Pike gradually regained his voice.
Engemann said Reunion has a basic show and as long as it works, they won't change it.