The Rooftop Singers iTunes Tracks

Erik Darling

+ {The Rooftop Singers} + {Darling & Street}

Born September 25, 1933, Baltimore, Maryland, singer DARLING was raised in the New York suburb of Canandaigua, an upbringing that led him to moving with the shakers alongside the city’s Washington Square in-crowd. When the Tunetellers trio changed their moniker to the TARRIERS, singers DARLING, Bob Carey and Alan Arkin (yes, that one!) found their 15 minutes of fame through two 1956 Top 10 hootenannies, `Cindy, Oh Cindy’ (a sea shanty credited alongside Vince Martin) and `The Banana Boat Song’ (a Jamaican folk song calypso-fied by HARRY BELAFONTE). That year also found DARLING as musical accomplice to The KOSSOY SISTERS’ LP `Bowling Green’.
In a busy year in ’58, accomplished banjo plucker and tenor vocalist Erik superseded the outgoing PETE SEEGER in The WEAVERS, while he also delivered one eponymous set for Elektra Records; not forgetting an album as The FOLK SINGERS, alongside Dylan Todd, Don Vogel and Caroly Wilcox. Adapting a versatile, part-storyteller aplomb, ERIK DARLING {*7} threw up an array of traditional/spiritual dirges including `Pretty Polly’, `Cumberland Mountain Bear Chase’, `Salty Dog’ and `Aboline’ (the latter penned by BOB GIBSON).
Notable as much for his frequent session work (ED McCURDY’s `Son Of Dalliance’ was one such credit), virtuoso strummer DARLING released two albums for the Vanguard imprint, TRUE RELIGION (1961) {*7} and TRAIN TIME (1964) {*7}; from the former LP, `St. John’s River’ was subsequently adapted into QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE’s country-rawk take of `Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You’.
Squeezed somewhere in between these sets, Erik left the WEAVERS to form his own folk-pop outfit, The ROOFTOP SINGERS. Alongside Willard Svanoe and Lynne Taylor (and accompanied by Wendell Marshall on bass, Bobby Donaldson on drums; on debut at least), the folk/jazz trio took an old Gus Cannon & the Jugstompers number from 1929, `Walk Right In’, sending it soaring to No.1 (Top 10 in Britain). Parent set WALK RIGHT IN! (1963) {*5} was something of a loose cannon, firing in all directions by way of `Houston Special’ (ragtime), `Travelin’ Shoes’ and `Somebody Came Home’ (gospel), `You Don’t Know’ and `Ham And Eggs’ (blues), `Cool Water’ (C&W) and `Ha Ha Thisaway’ (children’s; and sung by Lynne); `Tom Cat’, meanwhile, gave them their final Top 20 hit.
With more sanitized blues on show, the folk harmonies continued on GOOD TIME! (1964) {*7}, a marked improvement on their debut highlighting tracks like JESSE FULLER’s `San Francisco Bay Blues’, Duke Ellington’s `It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)’ and a few DARLING trad re-vamps including minor hit, `Mama Don’t Allow’ (adapted from a 1936 cut). And with newbie Mindy Stuart taking over from Taylor, the ‘Singers produced one more LP, RAINY RIVER (1965) {*4}, a straight-forward stab at the pop-folk market with songs like JIMMIE RODGERS’ `Peach Pickin’ Time In Georgia’ and `Ezekiel’; they disbanded a year later after alternating as 5-piece Project X (Darling, Svanoe, lead singer Susan Manchester, and other Scott McKenzie and Patricia Street).
It’d be some time until DARLING ventured back into the studio, although his return in ’75 was not a solo or a group venture, rather a set of duets with the aforementioned Patricia Street (as DARLING & STREET) on the collaborative, THE POSSIBLE DREAM {*5}. For nigh-on two decades, Erik continued on his sojourn of self-discovery, much of these wilderness years depicted in his incisive autobiography, I’d Give My Life! (published in 2008). In the first half of the 90s, DARLING re-grouped with Border Town, a country-blues outfit (with others Sid Hausman & Lynn Lucas) who released one CD, BORDER TOWN AT MIDNIGHT: SOUTHWESTERN COUNTRY MUSIC – SANTA FE, NM (1994) {*5}. A reprisal of sorts, CHILD, CHILD (2000) {*6}, sparked a flurry of interest, especially in his re-vamps of `Walk Right In (Blues)’, `The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)’ and `Cotton-Eyed Joe’, side by side with two from his 1975 collaboration, `It Doesn’t Matter At All If It Rains On Me’ and the this ‘ere title track. Always his own man when it came to releasing what he wanted when he wanted, Erik freed-up a self-indulgent children’s festive set, REVENGE OF THE CHRISTMAS TREE (2006) {*4}. Sadly, Erik died of lymphoma on August 3, 2008 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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