There is always perfect harmony in the home of Autie Goodman, retired and living in Pahrump with his wife and son.
Goodman was a musician and vocalist with The Four Freshmen, the original group dating back to 1948 and known for performing jazz, and classic pop in the style of a barbershop quartet.
Goodman’s son, known in the music industry as Terry Nails, moved from Florida to live with his parents, bringing together two talented musicians from different musical eras under the same roof.
Goodman used to live in Las Vegas for almost 40 years before coming to Pahrump in 1999 after he retired from The Four Freshmen.
“We love it out here, it’s so quiet and nice,” Goodman said.
Born and raised in Burns, Oregon, Goodman was about 12 years old when he heard world-renowned Artie Shaw play the clarinet. He told his dad that’s what he wanted to do.
He got his first clarinet in the mail, took some lessons and his interest in music just continued from there.
Goodman started playing a tenor sax in his teens so he could join a group in Burns.
Another one of his idols and friends was the late Buddy DeFranco, Goodman calling him the “greatest jazz clarinet player that ever lived.”
He moved to Portland, Oregon after serving time in the military, got married and lived in Phoenix for a short time before relocating to Las Vegas where his professional musical career took off.
“Music’s the only thing I’ve ever done good,” Goodman said.
His son, Terry Nails, with a background as a rock musician has performed and recorded music with a sound far different from The Four Freshmen.
“He’s a good guy, he’s done a lot of stuff too, different than what we did, but he still has the talent that he got from his mother and I,” Goodman said.
Goodman said that his son has a lot of jazz in him and is a good bass player.
In the 1960’s, Goodman was with a group called The Modernaires and later joined a band working at the former Hacienda Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas before being invited by Bob Flanigan, the last original member of The Four Freshman, to join their group in 1977. Goodman performed with them for fifteen years.
After moving to Pahrump, Goodman entertained for about three years at the now closed Tommasino’s restaurant with owner/musician Tom Saitta and well-known Vegas pianist Tommy Deering.
“Tommy Deering told me one thing,” Goodman said. “‘You didn’t become a musician, you were born a musician’.”
Goodman, a multi-talented musician, sang solos, played the drums and the saxophone while with The Four Freshmen. The other group members also sang and played instruments including keyboard, trombone, bass and guitar.
“We were very busy, I’ll tell you, we were self-contained,” said Goodman, as he pointed to a photo of the group playing at the Dunes in Vegas. “If we went somewhere and they didn’t have a band, we didn’t care, we just set up, did our own thing anyway.”
Goodman’s career with The Four Freshmen took him all around the world, including stops in about 20 different countries and every state in the union.
He got to meet many musical icons such as Sammy Davis Jr., Vic Damon and Nat King Cole, whom Goodman described as “the greatest singer that ever lived,” calling him his “idol”.
Goodman also worked in popular jazz singer Billy Eckstine’s big band for a time.
Perry, his wife of 63 years, is still very smitten with Auti and, of course, a longtime loyal fan.
She said no one can play the alto sax as good as him and he is the greatest vocalist.
“He phrases when he sings, he doesn’t blah, blah, blah, you know, the lyrics,” she said. “He gives you the whole thing as if he’s written a poem or a love song.” She refers to him as the “greatest love song singer” who still gives her the chills and has a beautiful voice.
They met in Oregon in a club where Autie was singing.
“And what a voice he had and beautiful blue eyes, adorable,” Perry Goodman said.
Autie Goodman said that Perry is musically inclined even though she has never performed.
“We sing and laugh a lot,” Perry Goodman said.
“Terry and I both have that disease, if somebody says a phrase that’s in a song, we immediately sing it,” she said.
“We’ve always got some musical thing going,” Autie Goodman said.
His favorite song was one written by Ken Albers, “It Could Happen to You.” It was the greatest arrangement that Goodman said he ever sang.
Other hits performed by The Four Freshmen over their six-decade history include “Graduation Day,” “It’s a Blue World” and “Day by Day” and the list just goes on.
Over the years the names and faces of the group have changed multiple times from when two brothers, Ross and Don Barbour, both deceased, started a barbershop-type quartet with a different name while college freshmen in Indianapolis.
Ross Barbour, the last of the original Four Freshmen was 82 when he died in 2011.
Referring to a 1986 photo cover of The Four Freshmen on the Las Vegas magazine What’s On, Goodman remarked that it was the best, most talented group they had.
He and Flanigan left the group in 1993 when Flanigan retired since Goodman didn’t want to work without him. Flanigan, who managed the group and owned the name rights, died in 2011 at the age of 84.
A new group of performers still tour under the The Four Freshmen name.
“They’re good kids, they’re really good guys,” said Goodman, adding that for him true The Four Freshman ended with the departure of Flanigan.