"Presenting the Salamanders of 1951-1952, singing songs old and new for your entertainment—." That's how Bob Whittemore's octet was introduced on its first recording made on a cold winter night in a small studio in Boston. Bob had returned for his senior year from a summer in Germany after having led a Theta Chi quartet, The Oxmen, the previous school year. He felt that UNH needed an octet in the tradition of Yale's Whiffenpoofs and Bowdoin's Medibempsters. His proposal of "Salamanders" for a name was unanimously adopted, although to this day Bob can't explain where it came from (some of the group would like to claim it was a unique, potent German cocktail that he "discovered" there).
The premiere of the group that first year was at UNH Song Fest with Bob Todd '53 and Merrill Dodge '52 (bass), Joe Copp '54 and Bud Johnson '53 (baritone), Bob Whittemore '52 and Lee Perkins '54 (lead), John Lyon '52 and Norm "Whitey" Merrill '52 (top tenor). Other performances were at the Woodchopper's Ball, the Homecoming dance and the Dad's Day luncheon. Building the repertoire, especially with "homegrown" arrangements like Katie Malone and Mississippi Mud by music major Bob Whittemore, established the double-male quartet as a unique addition to campus life.
Graduation, as always, presents challenges to campus organizations and the Salamanders had to find new recruits for the '52-'53 school year. Joe Copp took over as director/arranger and led Paul Lamothe '56, Bob Todd, Pete Brooks '54 (bass), Ted Levy '55, Joe Copp (baritone), Lee Perkins (lead), Tim Craig '54 and Ken Jeffrey '54 (top tenor) in two very busy and rewarding years, making a recording, performing at several schools like Endicott, Colby-Sawyer, Northfield, Ridgewood (N.J.) High School, and making a spring tour of UNH alumni clubs up and down the East Coast, including Springfield, Hartford and Philadelphia.
Although the Salamander name would survive only a few more years, by 1956 the group had expanded to 10 members under the direction of Pete Dunlop '56 and had set the cornerstone for what would become a very prominent and successful organization, "The New Hampshire Gentlemen," performing to sell-out crowds at venues such as the Johnson Theater. But before that were the days of a much smaller campus when many students were veterans, no one had a computer or cell phone; when ice hockey was played on a cold outside rink, classes were routinely conducted on Saturday mornings and never cancelled because of weather. Those were the days; the salad days; — or perhaps, for many looking forward to their 60th reunions, the Salamander Days?
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