Tim Hauser, Founder of The Manhattan Transfer, Dies at 72

Courtesy of JAG Entertainment

The singer launched the Grammy-winning vocal group in 1969; the surviving members vow to go on

Tim Hauser, the founder and singer of the innovative Grammy-winning vocal group The Manhattan Transfer, died Thursday from cardiac arrest in Pennsylvania, publicist JoAnn Geffen announced. He was 72.

The Manhattan Transfer, which covers a vast array of musical styles, have collected multiple pop and jazz Grammy Awards. Vocalese, their critically acclaimed 1985 album, earned 12 Grammy noms, second only to Michael Jackson’s Thriller as the most nominated album in history.

The group was expected to continue touring, with their next show scheduled for Oct. 23 at The Palace Theater in Manchester, N.H.

In 1969, while working as a Madison Avenue marketing executive, Hauser — a native of Troy, N.Y., who attended Villanova University and performed there with classmate Jim Croce — formed the first incarnation of The Manhattan Transfer with Gene Pistilli, Marty Nelson, Erin Dickins and Pat Rosalia. They recorded one album, Jukin’, on Capitol Records, but broke up a few years later.

Now driving a taxi, Hauser recruited Laurel Masse and Janis Siegel for another version of the group. Alan Paul, who was appearing in the Broadway cast of Grease, was recommended as an additional voice, and the foursome became The Manhattan Transfer on Oct. 1, 1972.

In 1974, they began performing regularly at cabaret venues throughout New York City. They were signed to Atlantic Records and released their self-titled debut in 1975, and their second single, a remake of the gospel classic “Operator,” gave them their first national hit.

The Manhattan Transfer hosted their own comedy-variety series for four weeks in summer 1975.

Their next two albums, Coming Out and Pastiche, brought them a string of Top 10 hits in Europe and produced a No. 1 song in Britain and France with “Chanson d’Amour.”

With Cheryl Bentyne on board in place of Masse in 1979, the newly formed quartet released Extensions, which earned the Transfer another smash with “Twilight Zone/Twilight Tone.” The vocal remake of the classic “Birdland” became recognized as the group’s anthem and brought them their first two Grammys.

In 1981, they became the first group ever to win Grammys in both pop and jazz categories in the same year — best pop performance by a duo or group with vocal for “Boy From New York City” and best jazz performance by a duo or group for “Until I Met You (Corner Pocket).” The next two years, they won consecutive Grammys in the category of best jazz vocal performance, duo or group.

After Vocalese, their next studio album, Brasil, won the Grammy for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocal.

Through the years, The Manhattan Transfer recorded with the likes of Tony Bennett, Bette Midler, Smokey Robinson, Laura Nyro, Phil Collins, B.B. King, Chaka Khan, James Taylor and Frankie Valli.

“Tim was the visionary behind The Manhattan Transfer,” the other members of the band said in a statement Friday. “We spent more than 40 years together singing and making music, traveling the world and sharing so many special moments throughout our lives … It’s incomprehensible to think of this world without him.”

Hauser produced the soundtrack to the 1991 film The Marrying Man, which starred Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, and appeared as Woody the bandleader in the movie.

He is survived by his wife Barb, children Basie and Lily and sister Fayette.

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