Culture / Entertainment

The Senior Citizens’ Version of the Backstreet Boys Rock Houston, Charm the Ladies: Grandmas’ Boyfriends is a Group of Eightysomethings Who Make Them Swoon

BY // 10.11.18

There’s no doubt about it. Stan Boyer hit the right note when he formed his seniors-only Houston barbershop quartet 14 years ago. In over a decade, members have come and gone, but the core members haven’t changed their tune. The crooners call themselves Grandmas’ Boyfriends.

Harmony — and apostrophe placement— are everything.

“We’re all grandfathers, hence the name Grandmas’ Boyfriends. But people will put ‘Grandma’s Boyfriends’ and I say wait a minute, that’s not our name! There’s a big difference between one grandma’s boyfriends or all grandmas’ boyfriends,” Boyer laughs.

The 87-year-old original grandmas’ boyfriend had sung his entire life, but he didn’t enter the foursome variety until 1986. That year, he retired from his job at Shell after his wife passed away. For him, retirement had a good ring to it — literally. He began singing with different groups, which led him here.

Here meaning venues across the region, whether it’s Houston proper, Katy, Sugar Land, Richmond or beyond. Grandmas’ Boyfriends serenade elementary schools, retirement communities, churches and baseball stadiums. Their old-school style has struck a chord in Space City.

They sang at a man’s 100th birthday party once. Compared to him, they looked like whippersnappers.

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Still, age is just a number. But four isn’t — it’s what you need for a proper group. Lead, bass, tenor and baritone.

“Barbershop has certain rules, how they write the harmony. It’s a really thrilling way to sing. It’s kind of a dying art, unfortunately,” Boyer says.

“I sing the baritone part. It’s a fun part because part of the time I’m above the lead, and part of the time I’m below him. I throw in the chords that kind of give you the goose bumps.”

That’s the reaction Grandmas’ Boyfriends are after. They appeal to a wide audience, an audience that they want to keep smiling, and especially singing.

“It’s just a fellowship. It’s just the fun we have entertaining people. We get so many good reviews. It’s really rewarding,” Boyer says. “To be able to sing different places, brighten people’s days, whether it’s a church, a luncheon, a rest home.”

They aim for songs the crowds will know, with a nostalgic catalogue of patriotic tunes, old classics, church hymns and more. Think a four-piece, a cappella rendition “Hello Mary Lou,” “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Wait Til the Sun Shines Nellie,” “Everybody Wants to go to Heaven,” “In the Still of the Night” and beyond.

One in particular stands out. “One hundred percent of the time, everybody knows ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.’ We find so many people singing along with us. We like to have songs where people can interact with us — that’s the fun of us,” Boyer says.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is another example. And if you bring it up, Boyer will sing you a few bars without missing a beat.

A Music Education

Grandmas’ Boyfriends throw a little education into the mix, along with the music to your ears. The tenor in the group likes to warm the audience up before the performances. For people that aren’t all that familiar, he’s ready to teach them what it’s all about.

And the bass, John Mealus, adds in some background for each individual song. The bass is a former schoolteacher, and he’s been a Grandmas’ Boyfriend for more than 10 years.

“He makes it very interesting for people,” Boyer says of his friend.

In a little bit of serendipity, Boyer and the lead are tall, while the gentlemen in the middle are a little on the shorter side. You can tell this baritone’s pleased by the symmetry.

They get their gigs through word of mouth and repeat performances. “They must like our program. We’ll perform five or six times, or put us on a regular rotation,” Boyer says. The quartet will even get gigs immediately after gigs, with stunned audience members coming up to them after the performance to inquire if they’d sing at another event.

“We sang at Dulles Elementary School for their Veteran’s Day program. My grandson was in school there. They asked us to sing the “Star Spangled Banner.” We sang it right there and after we were through singing, the color guard from Dulles High School was there,” Boyer says.

“He said ‘I’ve never heard it sung so beautiful in my whole life. There’s a basketball game tonight. Would you want to come and sign that national anthem for us?’ We were all free, so we did,” Boyer chuckles.

While they’re pros at parties, geniuses at gatherings and charmers at church functions, Grandmas’ Boyfriends have also proved they can knock it out of the park for big crowds.

“We played for the Skeeters Baseball Stadium one time in the City of Sugar Land. They had their Fourth of July celebration there. I think that’s our biggest audience to date — 5,000 people got to hear us,” Boyer says.

Hopefully, some of them were grandmas.

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