Over the years, I’ve realized that my favorite musical instrument is the human voice.
A cappella eventually became the largest section of my music collection. At one point, I think I had 500 or so a cappella albums.
Here are my favorite professional a cappella bands. Collegiate a cappella has become its own genre, and will be covered in a later post.
These are “my” bands. The bands that helped shape who I am, roughly in order of how much they mean to me.
Dave Mattingly: The Musical, Part 5
- The Bobs
- Known For: Helter Skelter
- Memories: When I first saw that album came with a warning label that all the sounds were made on or by the human body, I knew I’d enjoy them. I’d always love when Gunner Bob’s Levi’s commercial would air. You wouldn’t have to argue hard to make the case that they
single-handedlyquartet-handedly created beatbox style a cappella as a genre. The musical world recognized it too, and awarded the band a Grammy for Best New Arrangement for their cover of Helter Skelter.
- Favorite Songs: Particle Man, March Fanfare, Banana Love, Helmet, Psycho Killer, Ring of Fire, You Can’t Do That
- Toxic Audio
- Known For: Turn the Beat Around
- Memories: My a cappella Pandora station first introduced me to Toxic Audio. They have a lot of originals, and also sing a good number of cover songs. For a few years, their CDs were the most frequently played music in my car. My son (young at the time) would sometimes sing along with me. It was our bonding music.
- Favorite Songs: Easter Island Head, Blinded Me with Science, God Must Have Spent a Little Less Time, Putting the Words in My Mouth, Walk the Dinosaur, Autumn Leaves, Can’t Stop the Beat
- The Acappella Company
- Known For: Elijah Rock
- Memories: The first song I heard from the Acappella Company was Elijah Rock, which is still a favorite. But I was told that the band was Rockapella, not this one. I spent a few years looking through Rockapella albums to find this song, to no avail. When I finally found the right band, I was thrilled to find an extensive repertoire of new a cappella music to explore.
- Favorite Songs: Give Thanks, We Bow Down, Only Truth, Rock of Ages, He Gave Her Water
- Known For: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
- Memories: Rockapella is more than just the theme song singers for Carmen Sandiego and Folgers commercials. Like The Bob’s, they obviously have chemistry and fun among themselves which infuses their music.
- Favorite Songs: Zombie Jamboree, Shambala, Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress, Bohemian Rhapsody
- The Trenchcoats / The Coats
- Known For: I Can See Clearly Now
- Memories: The Trenchcoats attack a cappella with enthusiasm and goofiness. I love that they jump into weirdness with both feet. They could almost qualify as a comedy band.
- Favorite Songs: All You Can Eat, Faith, Mary’s Nachos, These Boots were Made for Walking, 500 Miles, Down on the Corner
- Flying Pickets
- Known For: Only You
- Memories: I vaguely remember hearing “Only You” when it came on the radio in the ’80s, but didn’t pay much attention to it. It wasn’t until I started intentionally listening to a cappella bands that I rediscovered them, and was delighted to hear their blended harmonies.
- Favorite Songs: Monica Engineer, She Drives Me Crazy, When Doves Cry, Under the Bridge, Road to Nowhere
- Runners Up: Petra Haden, Amy X Neuburg, Regina Spektor, Charming Hostess, The Chromatics, Take 6, Priscilla Herdman, Christ’s Church for Our Community, Lady Siobhan, Swingle Singers