Centered around the Deutsch twins, Murray and Irving, the Quintones are best remembered today for their work with Charlie Barnet’s orchestra. Formed in the late 1930s, the five-piece vocal group featuring four men and one woman first recorded on Vocalion Records in 1938, where they sang for Tito and his Swingtette. In 1939, they teamed up with songwriter Buck Ram, who took over their musical direction, writing original novelty tunes for them. Ram secured the group more recording dates on Vocalion with backing by Barney Bigard’s orchestra in 1939 as well as an orchestra under Ram’s own direction in 1940, which included members of Count Basie’s band. That same year, they appeared on the CBS Dance Hour in April and became regulars on Fred Waring’s radio program.
By early 1940, the group’s relationship with Ram had soured and they parted company. Ram, however, claimed ownership of the Quintones name, and he would call clubs and theaters where the group was scheduled to play, threatening club owners with liability for using the name illegally. The Quintones themselves claimed that they had been using the name for “many years” and that Ram had done nothing for them but set up recording dates. The vocal group eventually settled with him in late 1940, paying $1200 to secure the rights to their name.
Aside from the Deutsch twins, other members of the Quintones in September 1939 were Buddy Sager, Jack Allison, and Daisy Bernier. By the end of the year, however, Bernier was gone, and June Hutton, half-sister of bandleader Ina Ray Hutton, had taken her place. The Quintones appeared regularly on radio, having their own fifteen-minute program from summer 1939 through early 1941. They also made guest appearances on several network shows, including Hobby Lobby and We the People, working with such artists as Benny Goodman, Bing Crosby, Bob Crosby, and Alec Templeton. In early 1940, the Quintones also spent time as part of Jan Savitt’s orchestra, touring with the band.
In late 1940, the Quintones went into rehearsal for the musical Hi Ya, Gentlemen, starring Ella Logan and ex-heavyweight boxing champ Max Baer. Hutton left the group at that time to take a solo role in the show. She was replaced by Patty Morgan, who had recently been vocalist for Al Kavelin’s band. The musical was a failure, however, and didn’t make it to Broadway.
In April 1941, the Quintones joined Barnet. Membership at the time included, aside from the Deutsch twins and Morgan, Al Lane and Lloyd Hundling. Hundling was a recent join, having quit Babe Russin’s orchestra, where he played trumpet as well as sang. He became a utility trumpet player for Barnet in addition to his singing role. The group made several recordings with Barnet in New York and then traveled with the band to the West Coast that summer, where tragedy struck in late August.
While driving in Los Angeles, Hundling failed to make a stop and ran into a truck carrying workmen, killing his passenger, noted Barnet guitarist Anthony ‘Bus’ Etri, and critically injuring Hundling himself. The driver of the truck reportedly died as well. Hundling was taken to Los Angeles General Hospital, where he went into surgery and was given very little chance to recover. He passed away a week later in the hospital’s prison ward. Only minutes before the accident, Hundling had received a citation for speeding, and when police searched the car and the two men at the scene, they found “reefers” in both Hundling’s and Ezri’s pockets. Officers went to the house where the pair were staying, which they shared with Barnet drummer Cliff Leeman and his wife. A search found a “quantity” of marijuana, including a reefer in the pocket of a shirt owned by Leeman. Both Leeman and his wife were arrested. They were later cleared.
To replace Hundling, the Quintones chose to bring in another female singer, Bobbie Canvin, who was one of Bing Crosby’s Music Maids. Both Canvin and Morgan were featured as soloists with Barnet during their time with the group, with Canvin recording. Unfortunately, though, the Deutsch twins had turned 21 that summer and were thus eligible for the draft. Murray received his letter in October. Irving tried to follow him into the army though was declared 4F. He then attempted to enlist in both the navy and the marines but was also denied.
Without the brothers, the Quintones broke up. Al Lane remained with Barnet, taking over as male crooner from Bob Carroll, who left the band at about the same time. Irving Deutsch eventually took a job as song plugger for the Leeds Music Company. Morgan and Canvin stayed together, forming a new quintet, the Mellowaires, with Sally Sweetland, Tony Paris and Lee Gotch. The Mellowaires signed with Capitol Records as a backing vocal group for the label’s artists. Canvin left the Mellowaires in late 1942 to join Tommy Dorsey’s band, where, known as Barbara Canvin, she took the place of Jo Stafford as soloist after the Pied Pipers quit in December. She remained with Dorsey through Spring 1943.
The name Quintones was back in use by as early as mid-1942 for a five-piece, later four-piece, band as well as for several other singing groups in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Hutton later joined the Stardusters, who became an integral part of Charlie Spivak’s band, and then the Pied Pipers, where she replaced Jo Stafford. ↩︎
A utility musician is one who steps in when another member is ill or otherwise unavailable. ↩︎