THE KINGSTON TRIO is an American folk and pop music group that helped launch the folk revival of the late 1950s to late 1960s. The group started as a San Francisco Bay Area nightclub act with an original lineup of Dave Guard , Bob Shane , and Nick Reynolds . It rose to international popularity, fueled by unprecedented sales of LP records , and helped to alter the direction of popular music in the U.S.
The Kingston Trio
In 1961, the Trio was described as "the most envied, the most
imitated, and the most successful singing group, folk or otherwise, in
all show business" and "the undisputed kings of the folksinging rage
by every yardstick." Music historian
* 1 Formation, 1954–1957 * 2 Era of peak success, 1957–61 * 3 Change and a second phase, 1961–67 * 4 Hiatus and the New Kingston Trio, 1967–1976 * 5 The third phase, 1976–2017 * 6 Trademark and roster changes, 2017
* 7.1 Initial criticism * 7.2 21st-century perspectives
* 8 Influence
* 8.1 On folk and pop music * 8.2 On musicians * 8.3 On the music business
* 9 Awards and honors * 10 On Billboard\'s album charts * 11 Discography and videography * 12 See also * 13 References * 14 External links * 15 Further reading
Dave Guard and
Bob Shane had been friends since junior high school at
Punahou School in
After graduating from high school in 1952, Guard enrolled at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, while Shane matriculated at nearby Menlo College . At Menlo, Shane became friends with Nick Reynolds , a native San Diegan with an extensive knowledge of folk and calypso songs—in part from his guitar-playing father, a career officer in the U.S. Navy. Reynolds was also able to create and sing tenor harmonies, a skill derived in part from family singalongs, and could play both guitar and bongo and conga drums. Shane and Reynolds performed at fraternity parties and luaus for a time, and eventually Shane introduced Reynolds to Guard. The three began performing at campus and neighborhood hangouts, sometimes as a trio but with an aggregation of friends that could swell their ranks to as many as six or seven, according to Reynolds. They usually billed themselves under the name of " Dave Guard and the Calypsonians". None of the three at that time had any serious aspirations to enter professional show business, however, and Shane returned to Hawaii following his graduation in late 1956 to work in the family sporting goods business.
Still in the Bay Area , Guard and Reynolds had organized themselves somewhat more formally into an entity named "The Kingston Quartet" with friends bassist Joe Gannon and vocalist Barbara Bogue, though as before they were often joined in their performances by other friends. At one engagement at Redwood City 's Cracked Pot beer garden, they met a young San Francisco publicist named Frank Werber, who had heard of them from a local entertainment reporter. Werber liked the group's raw energy but did not consider them refined enough to want to represent them as an agent or manager at that point, though he left his telephone number with Guard. Some weeks later (and following a brief period in which Reynolds was temporarily replaced in the quartet by Don MacArthur), Guard and Reynolds invited Werber to a performance of the group at the Italian Village Restaurant in San Francisco, where Werber was so impressed by the group's progress that he agreed to manage them provided they replace Gannon, in whose professional potential Werber had no faith. Bogue left with Gannon, and Guard, Reynolds, and Werber invited Shane to rejoin the now more formally organized band. Shane, who had been performing part-time as a solo act at night in Honolulu, readily assented and returned to the mainland in early March 1957.
The four drew up a contract as equal partners in Werber's office in
San Francisco, deciding first on the name "Kingston Trio" because it
evoked, through its association with
ERA OF PEAK SUCCESS, 1957–61
Werber imposed a stern training regimen on Guard, Shane, and Reynolds, rehearsing them for six to eight hours a day for several months, sending them to prominent San Francisco vocal coach Judy Davis to help them learn to preserve their voices, and working on the group's carefully prepared but apparently spontaneous banter between songs. At the same time, the group was developing a varied and eclectic repertoire of calypso, folk, and foreign language songs, suggested by all three of the musicians though usually arranged by Guard with some harmonies created by Reynolds.
The first major break for
The Kingston Trio
At the same time, Werber was attempting to leverage the Trio's
popularity as a club act into a recording contract. Both Dot Records
Liberty Records expressed some interest, but each proposed to
record the Trio on 45 rpm (revolutions per minute) singles only,
whereas Werber and the Trio members both felt that 33⅓ rpm albums
had more potential for the group's music. Through Jimmy Saphier,
The group's first album, Capitol T996
The Kingston Trio
The album sold moderately well—including on-site sales at the
Hungry i during the Kingston Trio's engagement there through the
summer—but it was DJs Paul Colburn and Bill Terry at station KLUB in
Salt Lake City whose enthusiasm for a single cut on the record spurred
the next development in the group's history. Colburn began playing
"Tom Dooley " extensively on his show, prompting a rush of album sales
in the Salt Lake area by fans who wanted to listen to the song, as yet
unavailable as a single record. Colburn called other DJs around the
country urging them to do the same, and national response to the song
was so strong that a reluctant
"Tom Dooley" (1958) The non-orchestrated acoustic sound of this hit record, which has been recognized as a seminal recording in the history of American popular music by the National Recording Registry . -------------------------
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The success of the album and the single earned the Kingston Trio a
Despite the Kingston Trio's nearly unprecedented success in record sales, by early 1961 a rift developed and deepened between Guard on one side and Shane and Reynolds on the other. Guard had been referred to in the press and on the albums' liner notes as the "acknowledged leader" of the group, a description never wholly endorsed by Shane and Reynolds, who felt themselves equal contributors to the group's repertoire and success. Guard wanted Shane and Reynolds to follow his lead and learn more of the technical aspects of music and to redirect the group's song selections, in part because of the withering criticism that the group had been getting from more traditional folk performers for the Trio's smoother and more commercial versions of folk songs and for the money-making copyrights that the Kingston group had secured for their arrangements of public domain songs. Shane and Reynolds felt that the formula for song selection and performance that they had painstakingly developed and rehearsed still served them well.
Furthermore, over $100,000 appeared to be missing from the Trio's
publishing royalties (an accounting error eventually rectified) and
that created an additional irritant to both sides: to Guard because he
regarded it as inexcusable carelessness and to Shane and Reynolds
because it highlighted what they perceived as Guard's propensity to
claim individual copyright for some of the group's songs, including
"Tom Dooley " (though Guard eventually lost a suit over copyright for
that number to
The situation became intolerable for all concerned, and Dave Guard resigned from the Kingston Trio in April 1961, though pledging to fulfill group commitments through November of that year. Shane, Reynolds, and Werber bought out Guard's interest in the partnership for $300,000 to be paid over a number of years and moved to replace him immediately. The remaining Trio partners settled quickly on John Stewart , a 21-year-old member of the Cumberland Three, one of the myriad of groups that sprang up hoping to imitate the Kingston Trio's success. Stewart was already well-acquainted with Reynolds and Shane, having sold two of his early songwriting efforts to the Trio, and he was a proficient guitarist, banjoist, and singer who seemed to the partners to be perfectly positioned to replace Guard. Stewart began rehearsing and recording with the group nearly immediately, commencing public appearances with the Trio in September 1961.
According to Shane, "We did nearly as well with John as we did with Dave." Six of the group's next seven albums between 1961 and 1963 continued to place in Billboard's Top Ten and several of the group's most successful singles, including " Where Have All the Flowers Gone? " and "Greenback Dollar", charted as well.
"Greenback Dollar" (1962) The second troupe of the Kingston Trio with John Stewart : altered vocal blend as the group moves away from adapted traditional songs and into singer-songwriter covers. -------------------------
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Beginning in 1964, however, the Kingston Trio's dominance in record
sales and in concert bookings began to wane, due partly to the number
and popularity of imitators in the pop-folk world and also to the rise
of other commercial folk groups like
Peter, Paul and Mary
By 1966, Reynolds had grown weary of touring and Stewart wanted to strike out on his own as a singer-songwriter, so the three musicians and Werber developed an exit strategy of playing as many dates as possible for a year with an endpoint determined to be a final two-week engagement at the Hungry i in June 1967. The group followed this strategy successfully, and on June 17, 1967, the Kingston Trio ceased to be an actively performing band.
HIATUS AND THE NEW KINGSTON TRIO, 1967–1976
Following the Hungry i engagement, Reynolds moved to Port Orford, Oregon and pursued interests in ranching, business, and race cars for the next twenty years. Stewart commenced a long and distinguished career as a singer-songwriter, composing hit songs like "Daydream Believer " for The Monkees and "Runaway Train" for Rosanne Cash . He recorded more than 40 albums of his own, most notably the landmark California Bloodlines , and found chart success in the top forty with "Midnight Wind", "Lost Her in the Sun", and "Gold", the latter reaching number 5 in 1979.
Bob Shane decided to stay in entertainment, and he experimented with solo work. He recorded several singles, including a well-received but under-marketed version of the song "Honey " that later became a million-seller for Bobby Goldsboro , and with different configurations with other folk-oriented performers. Though finances were not an immediate concern—the Kingston Trio partners Werber, Shane and Reynolds still owned an office building, a restaurant, other commercial real estate, and a variety of other lucrative investments —Shane wanted to return to a group environment and in 1969 secured permission from his partners to use the mutually owned group name for another band, with Reynolds and Werber insisting only that Shane's group be musically as accomplished as its predecessors and that Shane append "new" to the band's title.
Shane agreed and organized two troupes under the name of "The New Kingston Trio". The first consisted of guitarist Pat Horine and banjoist Jim Connor in addition to Shane and lasted from 1969 to 1973, the second including guitarist Roger Gambill and banjoist Bill Zorn from 1973 until 1976. Shane tried to create a repertoire for these groups that included both the older and expected Kingston Trio standards like "Tom Dooley" and "M.T.A. " but that would also feature more contemporary songs as well, including country and novelty tunes. The attempt did not meet with any significant success. The only full-length album released by either group was The World Needs a Melody in 1973 (though 25 years later FolkEra Records issued The Lost Masters 1969–1972 , a compilation of previously unreleased tracks from the Shane-Horine-Connor years), and its sales were negligible. Though both troupes of the New Kingston Trio made a limited number of other recordings and several television appearances, neither generated very much interest from fans or the public at large.
THE THIRD PHASE, 1976–2017
The 1981 Reunion Concert: Nick Reynolds, Bob Shane, Dave Guard
In 1976, Bill Zorn left the New Kingston Trio to work as a solo performer and record producer in London. Shane and Gambill replaced him with George Grove, a professionally trained singer and instrumentalist from North Carolina who had been working in Nashville as a studio musician.
The same year, Shane secured from Werber and Reynolds the unencumbered rights to use the band's original name of the Kingston Trio without the appended "new" in exchange for relinquishing his interest in the still-profitable corporation, whose holdings included copyrights and licensing rights to many of the original Trio's songs. Since 1976, the various troupes headed and owned by Shane have performed and recorded simply as the Kingston Trio.
The Shane-Gambill-Grove Kingston Trio existed from 1976 through 1985, when Gambill died unexpectedly from a heart ailment at the age of 45. The nine years of this configuration was to that point the longest period of time that any three musicians had worked together as the Kingston Trio, and the group released two albums of largely original material.
It was during this period as well that
More than twenty years had passed since
Dave Guard had left the
group, but residual tension surfaced between Guard and Shane in an
The Wall Street Journal
Following the 1985 death of Roger Gambill, Kingston Trio personnel changed several times, though Shane and Grove remained constants. Bob Haworth, a veteran folk performer who had worked as a member of The Brothers Four for many years, initially replaced Gambill from 1985 through 1988 and again from 1999 through 2005. In 1988, original member Nick Reynolds rejoined the band until his final retirement in 1999. When heart disease forced Bob Shane's retirement from touring in March 2004, he was replaced by former New Kingston Trio member Bill Zorn. A year later, following Haworth's departure, Grove and Zorn were joined by Rick Dougherty, who had performed for a time with Zorn as second-generation members of another popular folk group from the 1960s, The Limeliters .
Both the Grove–Zorn–Haworth and Grove–Zorn–Dougherty troupes
of the Kingston Trio released original CDs and DVDs, and the latter
configuration toured extensively for 12 years under the direction of
the only surviving original member Bob Shane, now sole owner of the
TRADEMARK AND ROSTER CHANGES, 2017
In July 2017, Billboard reported that a lawsuit has been filed in Los Angeles by Josh Reynolds, who is the son of Nick Reynolds, a founding member of the band, and his cousin Gerald "Mike" Marvin. Defendants include founding member Bob Shane and his wife Barbara Childress, along with performers George Grove, William Zorn and Richard Dougherty, and also Nikki Gary, who books concerts. The lawsuit alleges that Shane and his associates accepted $100,000 from the Reynolds group in exchange for exclusive rights to use the trademarked name of the band, but then allowed Grove, Zorn and Dougherty to perform as the Kingston Trio at concerts booked by Gary.
On August 11, 2017, the case against Grove, Zorn, and Dougherty was dismissed with prejudice in the same Los Angeles court and consequently cannot be re-filed.
In early August, 2017 sole owner of the Kingston Trio Bob Shane announced the licensing of the trademark that he owns to a new group of investors who are making changes to the band's personnel. Shane announced on the group's official website www.kingstontrio.com that
I am pleased to announce the Kingston Trio legacy will be carried forth by Josh Reynolds, Mike Marvin and Tim Gorelangton, who will begin performing as the Kingston Trio in October 2017. As you all know, Josh is the son of founding member, and my friend and partner Nick Reynolds, and Mike Marvin is Nick’s cousin. Rounding it out is Tim Gorelangton, one of the only people Nick ever recorded with outside the Trio. It was Nick Reynolds’ and my fondest hope that Josh and Mike would carry on the Trio and family legacy.
FOLK MUSIC LABEL
Almost from its inception, the Kingston Trio found itself at odds
with the traditional music community. Urban folk musicians of the time
Frank Proffitt , the Appalachian musician whose version of "Tom Dooley" the Trio rearranged, watched their performance of his song on a television show and wrote in reaction, "They clowned and hipswung. Then they came out with 'This time tomorrow, reckon where I’ll be/If it hadn't a' been for Grayson/I'd a been in Tennessee.' I began to feel sorty sick. Like I’d lost a loved one. Tears came to my eyes. I went out and bawled on the ridge." Proffitt had learned the song from his father and his grandmother, who had known Tom Dula and Laura Foster, the killer and the victim in the actual 1866 murder related in the song. Both Proffitt and fellow North Carolina musician Doc Watson sang the older version of the tune, which had "a lively mocking tempo... that retained some of the ghastliness and moral squalor of an actual murder," according to folk historian Robert Cantwell, who also notes that the Kingston Trio's version of the song left out several verses from the traditional lyric. The slower, harmonized Trio version of the Dooley song and other traditional numbers struck Proffitt as a betrayal of "the strange mysterious workings which has made Tom Dooly live..." As recently as 2006, folk traditionalist and influential banjo master Billy Faier remarked: "I hear and see very little respect for the folk genre" in their music and described the Trio's repertoire as "a mishmash of twisted arrangements that not only obscure the true beauty of the folk songs from which they derive, but give them a meaning they never had."
However, Trio members never claimed to be folksingers and were never
comfortable with the label. The liner notes for the group's first
album featured a quotation from
Dave Guard asserting that "We are not
folksingers in the accepted sense of the word." Guard later told
journalist Richard Hadlock in
Over the years, the Kingston Trio expanded its song selection beyond the rearranged traditional numbers, calypso songs, and Broadway show tunes that had appeared on its first several albums. In an obituary for Nick Reynolds (d. October 1, 2008), Spencer Leigh wrote in Britain's Sunday Independent :
Looking at their repertoire now, it is apparent that the Kingston Trio was far more adventurous than is generally supposed. They introduced "It Was A Very Good Year" in 1961, later a standard for Frank Sinatra, and they were one of the first to spot the potential of English language versions of Jacques Brel's songs by recording "Seasons in the Sun" in 1963. They encouraged young songwriters including Hoyt Axton ("Greenback Dollar"), Rod McKuen ("Ally Ally Oxen Free", "The World I Used to Know") and Billy Edd Wheeler ("Reverend Mr Black"). Best of all, in 1962 they introduced listeners to one of the most poignant songs ever written, the anti-war ballad "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" by Pete Seeger, formerly with the Weavers.
Further, Peter Dreier points out that "the group deserves credit for
helping to launch the folk boom that brought recognition to older
folkies and radicals like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and for
paving the way for newcomers like Joan Baez,
ON FOLK AND POP MUSIC
The Kingston Trio's influence on the development of American popular music has been considerable. According to music critic Bruce Eder writing for Allmusic .com:
In the history of popular music, there are a relative handful of performers who have redefined the content of the music at critical points in history—people whose music left the landscape, and definition of popular music, altered completely. The Kingston Trio were one such group, transforming folk music into a hot commodity and creating a demand—where none had existed before—for young men (sometimes with women) strumming acoustic guitars and banjos and singing folk songs and folk-like novelty songs in harmony. On a purely commercial level, from 1957 until 1963, the Kingston Trio were the most vital and popular folk group in the world, and folk music was sufficiently popular as to make that a significant statement. Equally important, the original trio—Dave Guard, Nick Reynolds, and Bob Shane—in tandem with other, similar early acts such as the Limeliters, spearheaded a boom in the popularity of folk music that suddenly made the latter important to millions of listeners who previously had ignored it.
Discussing his earliest musical influences in a 2001 Rolling Stone
There were other folk-music records, commercial folk-music records, like those by the Kingston Trio. I never really was an elitist. Personally, I liked the Kingston Trio. I could see the picture...the Kingston Trio were probably the best commercial group going, and they seemed to know what they were doing.
In his autobiography
In February 1982, Chicago Tribune writer Eric Zorn praised the Kingston Trio's impact on the popular music industry, claiming that "for almost five years, they overshadowed all other pop groups in America." He also noted that they "so changed the course of popular music that their impact is largely felt to this day."
Jac Holzman , co-founder of the originally folk-based Elektra Records
, remarked that his formerly struggling company's new-found prosperity
in the late 1950s resulted from "
The Kingston Trio
Among the many other artists who cite the Kingston Trio as a
formative influence in their musical careers are comedian, actor, and
Steve Martin ,
Lindsey Buckingham of
ON THE MUSIC BUSINESS
The C.F. Martin 284 in 1960 for a Number 6 ranking * Most Weeks Charting An Album by Decade, 1960–69: 1089 for a Number 4 ranking * Most Weeks With a Number 1 Album in a Calendar Year: 22 in 1960, tied for a Number 4 ranking; 18 in 1959, tied for a Number 7 ranking * Most Consecutive Weeks at Number 1 Chart Position: 15, tied for a Number 8 ranking
DISCOGRAPHY AND VIDEOGRAPHY
Main article: The Kingston Trio discography
* The Trident , a restaurant in Sausalito , offshoot of Trident Productions, the trio's production company with Frank Werber.
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The Kingston Trio