The Beginning of the Legacy
Shortly after the class of 1955 arrived at Middlebury in the Fall of 1951, Pete Baldwin's interest in quartet singing led to some singing action in Painter and Hepburn Halls. By February seven were practicing on a regular basis. WRMC announcer Bob Arel noting the double quartet was short by one designated the name of the group the Dissipated Eight. This name has stuck! The D8 made it's debut at the Ides of March Dance, March 15, 1952. Photographs from the Spring of '52 show Pete Baldwin as first tenor, Ellis Baker and Les Streeter singing second tenor, Bob Johnson and Pete Gray carrying baritone, while John Ackerman and Ed Opler sang second bass.
In the Fall of 1952 Mint Dole, John Hammond and Jack Harrington, all class of '56, and wanting to form a quartet joined forces with the D8. Mint joined Pete singing first tenor, Ellis continued singing second tenor with Les Streeter, John Hammond and Jack Harrington took over the baritone section, and Seward Highley, '55, joined John Ackerman singing second bass. Now we were eight! By the Fall of '53 with Ron Potier stepping in to Les Streeter's position, the roster was set for the '53, '54 and '55 seasons.
The "D8" sang at various occasions on campus during '52 and '53 and then began to sing outside the college at civic organizations in the state. From time to time the "8" journeyed to Burlington to spend lively evenings singing with the men of the Burlington Chapter of SPEBSQUA (Society for the Promotion and Encouragement of Barber Shop Singing). In the Spring of '53 the group was invited to Smith College, its first college engagement outside of Vermont.
During '53-'54, the "8" appeared at Greene Mountain College, St. Lawrence University Winter Carnival Ball, and the Syracuse University Spring Formal. The highlight of the year came when the D8 was invited to audition for the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout TV Program in New York. This provided a few exciting days in New York with the group singing everywhere from CBS to the German American Club.
With four members graduating in the Spring of '55, Ron Potier was elected to succeed Pete Baldwin as leader. Auditions were held campus-wide to insure an on-going tradition. Also in the Spring of '55, the D8 cut its first album, which, according to the editorial of the Middlebury newspaper, "did not do justice to the group," and is remembered to this day by the toilet flushing in the background as the recording proceeded in a friend's apartment! Successive albums have been produced in professional studios much to the relief of those who have enjoyed the well-blended singing of the group.
The '54-'55 season included a number of appearances including a return engagement to St. Lawrence, participating with the Saints and Sinners, Yale Whiffenpoofs, Princeton Nassoons, and groups from Williams, Amherst and Brown. With this concert, the Dissipated Eight was recognized abroad.
Prior to their graduation, the class of '55 original members of the D8 welcomed Ted Smith to replace Pete Baldwin and Ed Hopkins to take over for Ellis Baker. Ron Aushlund and Jules Auger stepped into spots being left by Seward Highley and John Ackerman, and George Sims joined John Hammond and Jack Harrington in the baritone section thus making the D-8 nine in all. In due course George Sims replaced Ton Potier as leader, and Jules Auger succeeded David Bridges '55 as Business Manager.
The Present Day D8
Today, the Dissipated Eight continues on in the tradition of the original octet, maintaining the example of energetic dedication established by the group's founding members while continuing to push the boundaries of a cappella as we know it. Producing numerous records over the years, the D8 has compiled a vast archive of music from the past five decades.
After a lull in recording during the turbulent 60's and 70's, where Vietnam and Watergate were the focus of most Midd students, the D8 went through a renaissance with the release of the White Album in 1980 (so as not to be confused with The Beatles "White Album," they made the cover all black!). This album reflected a move away from the pure barbershop foundation into more modern genres including arragements by The Grateful Dead and America. This album was followed by another in 1982 called South of the Border, which was published just in time for the D8's first long distance tour. D8 business managers of the time managed a coup when they convinced Midd administrators to give the group college credit (and some money!) for winter term "off campus." The tour entailed a sleepless, yet adventure-filled month of performances along the eastern seaboard to Florida in a barely-held-together caravan of Volkswagon Rabbits (a precursor to today's annual Bermuda Tour).
The first compact disc ever produced by the group, Super 8 (1990), and the follow-up, A Moveable Fest (1993), both presented a mix of classic tunes with new songs. Then, during the summer of 1996, the D8 recorded an album of all new music, called Clapping Joes, which would soon be named "Best Collegiate Male Album of the Year" by the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America. The very first track, For What It's Worth, was also recognized as "Best Collegiate Male Song" and featured on the third Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) CD compilation.
After yet another intense recording session over the summer of '97, the Dissipated Eight managed to repeat their success on Clapping Joes: Eighps was named "Best Collegiate Male Album of the Year," and the Dave Matthews track, Satellite, was included on BOCA #4. Soon after Eighps's successful release, the Dissipated Eight suffered an extreme loss when seven of its strongest veterans graduated in the span of a semester.
The group rose above the loss of seasoned veterans and bounced back to achieve enourmous success in 1998/1999. The group recorded a new album, Altitude, which was released in the fall. BOCA once again chose a song from the D8's new album, this time choosing the slower Toad the Wet Sprocket tune, Windmills. While nominated for Best Album of the Year, Altitude did not take home the prize, but the D8's own Chris Molina won Best Solo of the year for A Wink and a Smile!
The D8 entered the millenium with the lofty ambition to repeat their tried and true tradition of releasing back to back albums, and followed up Altitude with the first D8 album of the millenium, No Sleep for Dreaming (The Sunday Brunch Album). The album attracted a number of nominations, and received the runner-up award of Best Arrangement for Black or White, put together by Andy Mitton.
2002 brought with it a number of important mile-markers for the group. They put out their seventh album in just over ten years, Eight Balls, with In the Meantime featured on the Collegiate A Cappella Music Organization's first compilation album, Top Shelf A Cappella. 2002 was also cause for celebrating 50 years of D8's outstanding a cappella tradition. And what would the golden annivesary be without a little reminiscing? Alumni John Hadden ('83.5) and Jim Briggs ('90) were kind enough to put together The Golden Jubilee: 50 Years of Dissipation, a two-disc set including songs from all of our 50 years. Thanks guys!
In 2005, the group released the breathtaking Out of the Ashes album, in which soloist Mike Olcott was nominated for best male soloist for his performance in Superstition. January 2007 saw the release of After Hours, one of its most diverse collections of arrangements. And two years later, in January 2009, D8 celebrated the milestone release of its tenth album, the organically fresh and environmentally friendly Vocally Grown. Even more recently, the D8 returned to Allston, MA in December of 2010 to record Stand Up Eight, the group's newest CD. Just having been released in November 2011, the album features songs from new artists such as Jason Mraz or The Killers as well as those written by old-timers like The Beatles or The Eagles.
The group continues to perform all over New England (as well as Bermuda!) at private venues, other colleges, and high schools alike. With 60 years behind them, they look forward to continued success through the blending of traditional and contemporary a cappella.