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Viral A Cappella Group Straight No Chaser Performs in Milwaukee

Andrew Zaeh

The holidays are a time where wishes come true. The a cappella group Straight No Chaser was granted many wishes this year.

Straight No Chaser started as a college a cappella group at Indiana University in 1996, and came to national attention after a YouTube video of one of its performances went viral. The group signed with Atlantic Records in 2008 and has since put out albums covering a variety of genres.

This year, Atlantic Records gave the group the chance to collaborate with musicians who influenced the singers. Their wish list came true, and they recorded with artists like Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, and Sir Paul McCartney for their new albums Under the Influence and Under the Influence:  Holiday Edition.

The group will be singing songs from those albums at a concert Tuesday night at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee.

The new albums aren't the first time successful musicians have made their mark on the former college singers. Randy Stine, founding member of Straight No Chaser, says the group's was influenced by a jazz teacher, who introduced him to some Thelonious Monk albums, including Straight No Chaser. Though he suggested this name and others to the group, none stuck - until they needed to introduce themselves at their first concert. One group member said Straight No Chaser, and it stayed.

After graduating, the group went their separate ways and was not reunited until Indiana University’s 10-year reunion. It was around that time that Stine transferred the fateful video of one of their performances from Betamax to YouTube. Atlantic Records found it and asked Stine to discuss a contract deal with the group; the rest, as they say, is history.

The 10-member group has since recorded eight albums and has performed for many sold out concerts. Stine says what makes the group special is that they attract a wide audience.

“Our music is kind of all genres, crosses all generations,” Stine says. “We have had people come to the show with literally four generations coming through the line. We joke around that our age is 8 to 80.”

As their new albums suggest, their wide audience also includes many established musicians, including the former Beatle McCartney. Stine says the group initially didn't think McCartney would be willing to record with them.

But dreams seem to come true for this group, and though he was the last person to sign on to the project, McCartney recorded his holiday classic "Wonderful Christmas Time" with the group in Las Vegas. It's currently making the rounds on holiday radio stations and has been well-received on YouTube and with concert audiences.

Audiences will hear a mixture of holiday songs and their standards at Tuesday's concert. As always, they will be singing without instruments, but Stine says that audiences do not even notice.

“We also love hearing when people come through after our show say that ‘I didn’t even miss the instruments!’ We did our job. We want people to feel like they are hearing everything they can get from a band or orchestra.”

Straight No Chaser will perform at the Riverside Theater tonight and will sing songs from their new albums Under the Influence and Under the Influence: Holiday Edition.

Watch the YouTube video below to hear the full song, "Nutcracker" off "Under the Influence: Holiday Edition."