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The Kingston Trio

Without question, The KINGSTON TRIO are the biggest-selling folk outfit in the history of popular music, amassing as they have no less than five chart-topping LPs and a handful of near-misses; oh, and of course a No.1 single, `Tom Dooley’, a song penned in 1868 as “Tom Dula”.
Formed 1956, in Palo Alto, California, the trio of singing guitarists Dave Guard, Bob Shane and Nick Reynolds began playing clubs in San Francisco, which grew into opening for the likes of comedienne Phyllis Diller.
Towards the end of ’57, the trio inked a deal – through producer Voyle Gilmore – with Capitol Records, who saw them perform their spontaneous repertoire at the city’s Purple Onion. Nationwide tours followed, although immediate success didn’t come by way of their debut platter, `Scarlet Ribbons’, rather their second, the aforementioned 3 million-seller, `Tom Dooley’. Recorded in only 3 days, THE KINGSTON TRIO (1958) {*6} topped the LP chart for one week only, a folk-pop cocktail of traditional fare (`Three Jolly Coachmen’, `Saro Jane’ and `Sloop John B.’ among them), Guard originals (`Scotch And Soda’ and `Little Maggie’) plus two from TERRY GILKYSON/The EASY RIDERS (`Fast Freight’) and WOODY GUTHRIE (`Hard, Ain’t It Hard’).
Albums such as …FROM THE “HUNGRY I” (1959) {*7}, STEREO CONCERT (held back until 1960) {*6}, THE KINGSTON TRIO AT LARGE (1959) {*6}, HERE WE GO AGAIN! (1959) {*7}, SOLD OUT (1960) {*6}, STRING ALONG (1960) {*7}, MAKE WAY (1961) {*6} and GOIN’ PLACES (1961) {*5}, were delivered in quick succession, all mainly repeating the same formula and containing the odd harmony-fuelled Top 20 hit, including `The Tijuana Jail’, `M.T.A.’ (aka the Metropolitan Transit Authority) and `A Worried Man’.
Then out of the blue, in 1961, Guard decided to leave and found another folk outfit, The WHISKEYHILL SINGERS, his quick replacement being JOHN STEWART. Saddled beside some group originals, John brought to the table two of his own songs, `Coming From The Mountains’ and `When My Love Was Here’ for CLOSE-UP (1961) {*7}, while other sources were represented by the ALMANAC SINGERS/WOODY GUTHRIE (`Reuben James’), The JOURNEYMEN (`Oh, Sail Away’), Leo Maguire’s `Whistling Gypsy’ and the worldly `O Ken Karanga’.
With a near-Top 20 remake of PETE SEEGER’s `Where Have All The Flowers Gone’, and a third live set, COLLEGE CONCERT (1962) {*7}, The KINGSTON TRIO were back in full spiritual swing. SOMETHING SPECIAL (1962) {*5}, NEW FRONTIER (1962) {*5}, THE KINGSTON TRIO #16 (1963) {*6} – featuring final Top 10 hit, `Reverend Mr. Black’ – and SUNNY SIDE! (1963) {*4}, continued their feel-good folk sojourn. Of course, there were others such as TIME TO THINK (1963) {*4}, the live BACK IN TOWN (1964) {*4}, THE KINGSTON TRIO (NICK – BOB – JOHN) (1964) {*4}, STAY AWHILE (1965) {*4}, SOMETHIN’ ELSE (1965) {*4} and CHILDREN OF THE MORNING (1966) {*4}, but their golden era was over – The BEATLES and DYLAN ruled the earth.
When they band split in 1967, STEWART subsequently released a plethora of singer-songwriter albums; a belatedly-released live double-LP (recorded at the Sahara Tahoe Hotel in July ’66), ONCE UPON A TIME {*7} hit the lower regions of the Top 200 in summer ’69.
Bob Shane re-formed the act as The NEW KINGSTON TRIO, alongside Pat Horine and Jim Connor for 1973’s THE WORLD NEEDS A MELODY {*4}. In 1976, Shane enlisting newbies Roger Gambill and George Grove as the help on ASPEN GOLD (1979) {*6}, 25 YEARS NON-STOP (1982) {*5} and LOOKING FOR THE SUNSHINE (1983) {*5}.
Not content with one reunion, The KINGSTON TRIO have had several; sadly, Guard died on March 22, 1991, STEWART and Reynolds respectively followed him into folk heaven on January 19, 2008 and October 1, 2008 (both in San Diego); Gambill died in the late 80s prior to 1994’s live album, LIVE AT THE CRAZY HORSE (1994) {*5}. Non-originals George Grove, Bill Zorn and Rick Dougherty (the latter two from The LIMELITERS) now make up the 2005-2015 line-up that have produced three sets: LIVE AT THE HISTORIC YUMA THEATER (2006) {*5}, GLAD TIDINGS FROM THE KINGSTON TRIO: A Folk Flavored Christmas Collection (2009) {*4} and the brand-new studio record BORN AT THE RIGHT TIME (2012) {*5}; the latter featured Shane in a guest role.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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