Group Gets Record Deal From YouTube

10-year-old video clip turns a group of college pals into a recording sensation.

ByABC News
December 8, 2008, 3:33 PM

Dec. 8, 2008— -- When they graduated from Indiana University a decade ago, 10 members of the a cappella group Straight, No Chaser thought they had closed the book on their dreams of making it big in the music industry.

"We put this to bed a long time ago," group member Ryan Ahlwardt said.

Little did he know that a decade after college, he and his college buddies would be playing packed houses in major cities around the United States and watching their newly released Christmas CD, "Holiday Spirits," climb the charts.

"It's been a wild turn of events," Ahlwardt said. "This whole year has been crazy."

Their newfound fame came by accident. Randy Stine, an original member of the vocal group, found an old video clip of the group performing and posted it on the Web.

"I just loaded it up to YouTube, just for the guys to see, just for fun," Stine said.

In their quirky version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" the group infused humor into the classic Christmas carol, interjecting songs like "I Have a Little Dreidel" and Toto's hit "Africa." (Watch here).

Click here to listen to more of Straight, No Chaser's music.

To Stine's surprise, 8 million people watched the video, one of whom was Atlantic records chairman Craig Kallman. He saw something special in the holiday Internet hit, so Atlantic offered the group a five-record deal and concert tour.

"I thought it was a joke. I thought, you can't be offering me, all of us, this amazing opportunity off a video on YouTube," said Michael Itkoff, a married dad who now lives in Atlanta. "Does he realize we're 30?"

The group reunited, taking a leap of faith to fulfill their dreams and working around the clock to record a Christmas album.

"All of this prospect of leaving all of this stability that I had spent many, many years building for myself and my family to do this music thing was kind of a tough thing to comprehend," Itkoff said. "We were able to rehearse and record the album on weekends so that everyone who had a job could work Monday through Friday. And weekends we rehearsed and recorded the album."

The group picked up where it had left off, enjoying time with college friends, reminiscing about college and telling the same jokes.