The Doo Wop vocal group The Four Coins, known for their great harmonies and lush string backed orchestrations, hit the top of the music charts in the late 1950s selling millions of records and performed around the world over a 17 year career. In 1957 they recorded their biggest hit, ‘Shangri-La’, which reached number 11 in the US charts, sold a million copies, and earned a gold record. It was the most-played record of 1957 and has become an all time classic. Their 1958 single "The World Outside" sold over 900,000 copies. They had 10 hit singles that each sold 500,000 or more copies. Their Billboard Hot 100 hits include "Memories of You" "One Love, One Heart", "Wendy, Wendy", "My One Sin", and "I Love You Madly". They recorded 100 singles and threes album on Epic, MGM Records, Jubilee Records, Vee Jay Records, Corona Records, and Roulette Records They recorded songs written for them by composers O.B. Massingill, Richard Hayman, Burt Bacharach, Neil Sedaka and Donald Costa. The Four Coins were honored for their music with their induction into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
The Four coins were seen on many popular television shows during the 1950s and 1960s, appeared a movie, and toured the world several times. They performed three times on the Ed Sullivan Show and appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand four times. They also appeared on the Perry Como Show, the Tonight Show, Steve Allen, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Joey Bishop, Julius LaRosa and the Patti Page show. In the 1957 rock and roll film "Jamboree" they performed the song “A Broken Promise" appearing with Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Jimmy Bowen. The Four coins toured 48 weeks a year for 15 years. They worked the clubs in Los Vegas, the Copacabana and Latin Quarter in New York, and the Copa and Twin Coaches in Pittsburgh, the Palladium in London, the Fountain Blue Hotel in Miami and clubs in Atlantic City. The Four Coins performed in New York with Tony Bennett and toured the Far East with Nat King Cole. They toured Japan five times and appeared in South America, Mexico, Canada, Taiwan, Korea, and the Philippines.
Canonsburg Band Beginnings
In 1952 cousins George Mantalis, Jim Gregorakis, and George Mahramas, all of Greek origin, played horns together in a dance band at Canonsburg High School. They joined with their high school friend Bobby Vinton to form the “Band of Tomorrow" orchestra. On their way to gigs the cousins would sing in harmony to pass the time. During Christmas season In 1952 Michael Mahramas joined with his brother George and his cousins George and Jim to form the harmonizing vocal group the "Four Keys". They appeared on the KDKA-TV talent contest the "Wilkins Amateur Hour" in January of 1953 singing the Gaylords's song "Tell Me You're Mine." The show's viewers voted them winners awarding them the $1000 grand prize. They left Vinton’s band in early 1953 and landed a regular 54 week gig at the Blue Ridge Inn on Saw Mill Run Blvd in the Overbrook section of Pittsburgh earning $250 a week..
The Four Coins recorded a demo at a downtown Pittsburgh studio in November of 1953 and were signed by the studio's owner George Heid to his Corona Records label. Corona released their first single "High Noon"/ "Hot Toddy," in early 1953 and "I'll Make the Best Of It" in early 1954.
In 1954 Canonsburg orchestra leader Lee Barrett took the Four Keys to Cincinnati to audition with General Artist Corp agent Danny Kessler. Kessler, who also managed Johnny Ray, became their manager getting them signed to a recording contract with Epic.
Hitting it Big on Epic Records
Once on Epic Records, they changed their name to the Four Coins. Epic released their first single "We'll be Married" in August of 1954. Their first Epic releases ‘We’ll Be Married", "I Love You Madly," and "Memories of You," all reached the Top Thirty on the charts. "Memories of You" was the title song for the movie the "Benny Goodman Story" in 1955. They had seven chart hits on Epic including ‘Shangri-La’ in 1957.
Their producer offered them a $50,000 signing bonus to move with him to MGM records. In 1960’s they recorded on MGM Records, Jubilee Records, Vee Jay Records and Roulette Records, making several personnel changes.
Michael Mahramas left the Four Coins in 1959 to become an actor. He appear on the Untouchables, Death Valley Days, The Virigian, and "Have Gun, Will Travel". Jack Mahramas took his brother Michael's place. The last time that Jack and George Mahramas, George Mantalis and Jim Gregorakis sang together was in Omaha, Nebraska in 1965. During the mid 1960s the three Mahramas brothers George, Jack, and Michael formed the Original Three Coins. They later changed their name to the Brothers James. Tommy Richards and Ronnie Fiorento were later members of the group.
Breakup and Civilian Life
Tired of the constant traveling that kept them away from their families the group disbanded in 1970 leaving show business. After coming off the road the group members rejoined their families and went into business careers. Jim Gregorakis became the owner of several laundromats, gas stations, and beer distributorships in the Canonsburg area. He also served as a Canonsburg borough councilman. George Mahramas became the maitre d' at Christopher's Restaurant on Pittsburgh's Mount Washington. Jack Mahramas became a paint store manager in Brentwood, Pa. Michael Mahramas moved to Pompano Beach, Fla. where he became a real estate appraiser. George Mantalis relocated to Palm Beach, Fla where he became co-owner of a mobile communications company.
The City of Canonsburg honored The Four Coins on July 4, 1987 making them grand marshals in the 4th of July parade and holding a reunion concert at Canonsburgh Memorial Stadium. A road in Canonsburg was renamed "Four Coins Drive".
Reunited in 2003
In 2003 their fans persuaded them reunite to perform two reunion shows at the Pepsi Roadhouse near Pittsburgh. The response of their fans convinced them to reform. In 2004 they appeared in Atlantic City at the Trump Taj Mahal taping a performance of "Shangri-La” for T.J. Lubinsky's PBS special "Magic Moments: The Best of '50s Pop." They taped an appearance on the PBS "My Music" at the Mountaineer Racetrack in 2006. They have continue to perform on Doo Wap shows around the country.
The lineup now includes George Mahramas singing lead, his brother Jack Mahramas singing baritone, George Mantalis singing tenor, and Jim Gregorakis singing bass.