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The Limeliters

On the back of The KINGSTON TRIO’s success in the late 50s, Los Angeles-based triumvirate The LIMELITERS (aka ex-GATEWAY SINGERS chanter Lou Gottlieb, Glenn Yarbrough and Alex Hassilev) became the folk-revival movement’s golden boys of the early 60s. Formed in 1959, and procuring their moniker from the famous Limelite club in Aspen, Colorado, the trio went from singing at the Hollywood Cosmo Alley venue to stints at San Francisco’s “hungry i”, which, in turn, led to a one-off deal with Elektra Records. The eponymous THE LIMELITERS (1960) {*7} showed Professor Gottlieb (who’d garnered a doctoral Musicology degree), tenor singer Yarbrough and baritone belter (and banjoist) Hassilev musically melding together on such intelligent, humour-fuelled cuts as `When I First Came To This Land’, `Malaguena Salerosa’, `The Bear Chase’, `Charlie, The Midnight Marauder’; their worldly muse experienced by way of Mexico (`Battle At Gandessa’), gypsy Russia (`Gari Gari’) and traditional fare from `The Hammer Song’ (a single) and `Lonesome Traveler’.
Subsequently signing to R.C.A. Records towards the end of the year, The LIMELITERS had two massive-selling LPs in 1961 (their debut also reached Top 40 status) by way of TONIGHT: IN PERSON {*8} – one of the funniest folk concert sets one will ever hear – and THE SLIGHTLY FABULOUS LIMELITERS {*6} – another live record, this time taking cowboy satire to a new level. Although they couldn’t buy a major hit single (`A Dollar Down’ having only peaked at No.60), the merry trio had a prolific and consecutive run of wry and witty Billboard successes through SING OUT! (1962) {*6}, the self-explanatory live set THROUGH CHILDREN’S EYES (1962) {*7}, FOLK MATINEE (1962) {*6} and another big gig-gle, OUR MEN IN SAN FRANCISCO (1963) {*6}. Together with television appearances, commercials and a gruelling 300-dates-a-year touring schedule (which nearly cost them their lives in a near-fatal plane crash in Provo, Utah), the amiable trio were understandably exhausted.
With MAKIN’ A JOYFUL NOISE (1963) {*6} and FOURTEEN 14k FOLK SONGS (1963) {*4} not making as big a commercial splash as their previous LPs, YARBROUGH was first first to bail out (to continue a solo career), his replacement being Ernie Sheldon. But by now the fickle future of folk had moved leaps and bounds, and the new folk-rock genre had no room for old fogeys like The LIMELITERS, The KINGSTON TRIO, etc. Impossible to continue outside the periphery of folk music, the group disbanded in 1965, leaving behind some LPs best forgotten except for LONDON CONCERT {*7}, a live one recorded in February ’63 with Glenn. The LIMELITERS have since re-formed on numerous occasions: in 1968 the original line-up released TIME TO GATHER SEEDS {*5}, in ’74 Stax records (yes, Stax!) issued a recent “reunion” gig, GLENN YARBROUGH & THE LIMELITERS {*6}, while the early 80s produced two ALIVE! IN CONCERT {*5 + *3} volumes, featuring Gottlieb, Hassilev and new boys Red Grammer and John Dalia.
When Gottlieb (who’d gone into comedy stand-up) died on July 11, 1996, Hassilev decided to try out a fresh LIMELITERS, alongside newest sidekicks Bill Zorn and Rick Dougherty (UNTIL WE GET IT RIGHT! {*5} was released in 1999). In 2004, Hassilev was joined this time by unknowns Andy Corwin and Mack Bailey, while the main man himself took a backseat (deputised by Gaylan Taylor to leave no original members!) for the trio’s most recent assault, RIGHT FROM THE START (2007) {*4}. Sadly, a LIMELITER original, GLENN YARBROUGH passed away on August 11, 2016.
© MC Strong/MCS 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2016

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