The clean-cut West Coast-based Four Preps are best remembered for a string of Top 100 hits during the late ’50s and early ’60s, including “Twenty Six Miles (Santa Catalina),” “Big Man,” “Down by the Station,” “Lazy Summer Night,” “Got a Girl,” “It Ain’t Never,” “Moon River,” “Lollipops and Roses,” “My Special Angel,” and others. Ultimately, the Four Preps’ biggest influence can be heard via their impact on Brian Wilson, whose harmony-driven production for the Beach Boys was a direct antecedent of the Four Preps’ sound.
The original group — Bruce Belland, Ed Cobb, Marv Ingraham, and Glen Larson — were discovered by Capitol Records A&R exec Nik Venet while performing at a Hollywood High School talent show in 1956 and were signed shortly afterwards to a long-term contract. By the end of the year, the wholesome milk-fed group charted their first single, “Dreamy Eyes.” Before long, there were changes to the lineup, with former Diamonds’ original lead vocalist David Somerville joining the group as a replacement for the departing Larson. For eight years, between 1956-1964, the Four Preps charted on the Top 100 13 times, but by the mid-’60s, they were beginning to sound a bit outdated. Their last chart hit “A Letter to the Beatles” was a desperate attempt to stay hip, but the days of button-up sweaters, crew cuts, and four-part vocal harmonies were waning, and they knew it. The Four Preps continued to record until 1967.
Bruce Belland has had an amazing career since the group disbanded. His songs have been recorded by a wide variety artists, including Willie Nelson, Johnny Mathis, Roy Clark, Sammy Davis, Lena Horne, Donny Osmond, T.G. Shepherd, Herman’s Hermits, the Mouseketeers, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He has since branched out to television, becoming one of the most sought-after writers in Hollywood and even co-starred for four years on TV’s Ozzie and Harriet. He is now a senior network TV programming executive and has provided countless voices for animated features, including the Disney classic Jungle Book, and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of the Arts and was cited in the Congressional Record for his co-authoring of the Official Anthem of the Bi-Centennial of the U.S. Constitution.
Ed Cobb, likewise, has had an impressive career. He has received 32 Gold and Platinum records for producing and/or sound engineering such artists as the Lettermen, the Standells, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, and Pink Floyd, been nominated for three Grammies, and received two Record of the Year Awards for Sound. He has produced, co-produced, or written records with sales in excess of 40 million, including such landmark hits as “Dirty Water,” “Every Little Bit Hurts,” “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White,” and “Tainted Love.” He’s also a champion horse breeder and was recently elected President of the Idaho Racing Commission.
In addition to his musical achievements, Somerville has acted in countless dramatic roles on such shows as Star Trek, The Fall Guy, Quincy, McCloud, and General Hospital and is also one of the most in demand voice-over artists in Hollywood.
Today, there’s a new group of Preps on the oldies scene — appropriately enough, they’re called the New Four Preps — whose performing lineup includes Belland, Cobb, Somerville (a.k.a. “the three tenors of Pop”), and Jim Yester of the Association; together they represent accumulated record sales in excess of 100 million, including 29 hit singles, 15 gold albums, and 13 Grammies.