In the fall of 1996, Indiana University student Dan Ponce hand-picked ten friends to create the campus’s first a cappella group— Then.. 10 years later..

Ponce chose the members not only for their outstanding voices, but for their personalities. Purposefully avoiding the stereotype of the traditional college a cappella group, they treated themselves more like a local band that just happened to use their voices as their instruments.

The formula worked: it wasn’t long before they were headlining concerts, and within two years, they were touring nationally. In 1999, with college graduation looming, the members of Straight No Chaser chose their replacements—putting a plan in place to ensure that the new tradition they had created would continue on with successive generations of IU undergrads.

Then, in April 2006, Indiana University decided to host a reunion concert for the original members. In honor of the event, one of the members posted clips from one of their 1998 concerts on YouTube to share with the other founding members. Suddenly, concert footage that was nearly a decade old was being seen worldwide… and see it they did, in mind-blowing numbers. With no promotion, Straight No Chaser’s version of "The 12 Days Of Christmas" (interpolating Toto’s "Africa") received more than seven million views in December of 2007 alone, becoming the hottest viral video of the season.

In a turn of events that the spiritually inclined might describe as a "higher power" moment, Atlantic Chairman/CEO Craig Kallman happened to be among those millions of viewers. "It was completely random and totally unexpected," says Kallman. "I was surfing YouTube to check out what was new, when I saw this brilliant, fresh, and totally compelling performance. And then I saw how many hits they were getting, and I had something of an epiphany. So I emailed Randy right away." Randy, not surprisingly, thought it was some kind of prank. "The head of Atlantic Records emailing me at 8 a.m. New Year’s Day and saying he was interested in our group? I thought, ‘yeah, right.’" Fortunately, Randy decided to check it out anyway, and he and Dan soon found themselves having dinner with Craig in L.A. Within a few days, the entire group flew to Atlantic’s offices in New York, and a deal was in the works. Here’s the rest of the story on video.

Originally posted 2009-12-23 01:02:43.