THE KINGSTON TRIO
THE FOLK ERA
Original 1964 triple album liner notes
…33 of their milestone performances on 3 long-play records plus deluxe illustrated booklet.
The Kingston Trio
Folk music wasn’t born in 1958. Nor, for that matter was the Kingston Trio. But when, in that year, the Trio’s song about the doomed “Tom Dooley” started spinning out of the radios and juke boxes of America, something very big was born. It can be called The Folk Era – the time when folk music came out of the hills, out of the archives, and back to where it belonged. It came back to the people, all kinds of people, to be sung and heard and to become a living part of everyday life.
The Kingston Trio started it all, made it grow, grew with it, and now, in three records and thirty-three songs, they tell the story of that era. It is their story, too.
The songs are grouped in three sections to most clearly relate this musical history. Side one and two contain TRADITIONAL FOLK SONGS; sides three and four are in two parts: (a) NEW WORDS TO OLD TUNES and (b) “FOLK DESTINATION”; and sides five and six contain CONTEMPORARY FOLK SONGS.
That’s part of the story: how folk music expanded and found new writers and new singers to bring songs of meaning and beauty and joy and sorrow to the hearts of so many people.
There are, of course, purists who hold that a folk song, to be a true folk song, must be a song that was never written but always sung. Fortunately there are those who are more interested in writing and singing than defining.
“We are not students of folk music,” once said original Kingston Trio member Dave Guard. “The basic thing for us is honest and worthwhile songs, songs that people can pick up and become involved in. Like ancient poetry, songs like that are successful because the audience participates in what the artist is doing.”
Another third of the Trio, Nick Reynolds, continued the discussion. “We don’t collect old songs in the sense that the academic cats do. We get new tunes to look over every day. Each one of us has his ears open constantly to new material or old stuff that’s good. As we progress musically in search of new material, we put only two restrictions on songs: They must have a basic intelligent thought and they must be in good taste.”
“Good songs,” added third man Bob Shane, “are songs that can be made to live during the performance.”
That’s what they think. That’s what they sing. That’s what has made folk music such a lusty, alive thing.
“Traditional” means that the original versions of these songs have long since outlived their period of copyright, if indeed they were ever copyrighted. Most of them go too far back in time for convincing traces of initial authorship. Their domain is truly public.
Traditional songs can come from many places, many folks. “Old Joe Clark” comes from the bluegrass hills, “The Unfortunate Miss Bailey” was born back in sixteenth-century England, “Saro Jane” rode the waves as a nineteenth-century sea chanty, and so it goes. Each has a truth, a beauty, a story worth the re-telling. New interpretations may vary, probably will, and if the singer comes up with a new set of lyrics, or a revised melody, it’s all still in the folk tradition, and he can often obtain a copyright on his new version of the old song.
NEW WORDS TO OLD TUNES and “FOLK DESTINATION”
In the case of the “new words to old tunes,” the reader-listener can do his own detective work, for this is an old and honorable tradition with traditional tunes, and many of the better melodies have been used time and again. “Yankee Doodle,” for example, was sung, with different words, by royalists and rebels alike. And “The Star Spangled Banner” is but one of many lyrical approaches to an old German drinking song. So it is with folk tunes. If you have something to say and need a tune to say it with, the easiest and often best thing to do is to adapt a long-established hit. At least you have a good head start toward audience acceptance. The legendary Woodie Guthrie did it with “Reuben James” and “Deportee,” the sad memorial to a plane-load of Mexican farm workers who crashed to their death on a flight back to Mexico after harvesting crops in California. Will Holt, songwriter friend of the Kingston Trio, used traditional songs as the basis for “Lemon Tree” and “Raspberries, Strawberries”. And if “A Worried Man,” “M.T.A.” and “Tijuana Jail” all sounded familiar to you, even the first time you heard them, that’s the answer. You probably heard the melodies before; they were just telling a different story.
It was a doubly interesting situation with “Tijuana Jail”. Writer Denny Thompson wrote a song, original words and music, all about the north-of-the-border students who were getting into trouble with the south-of-the-border police. He even got the song recorded. But when the Trio recorded it, they decided to use a traditional melody with Denny’s lyrics, the result being a hit for all concerned.
“Folk Destination” is a phrase that was coined by Dr. Lou Gottlieb, eminent musicologist, bass player, wit and singing Limeliter, to describe songs that, in spite of their non-folk origin, seem destined to become accepted folk songs. Excellent examples of this are “They Call The Wind Maria,” a song written by Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe for their Broadway musical, “Paint Your Wagon,” and the song “Scarlet Ribbons,” which was written just a few years ago, but somehow has the sound of a traditional song to such a degree that it has gained folk acceptance.
This classification means just what it says. There have been ideas, events, problems and people that have been important to recent contemporary life. Fortunately there have been writers and singers who could transform these realities into song.
There have been contemporary folk songwriters before, the aforementioned Woodie Guthrie, for example, or Leadbelly or Big Bill Broonzy. But theirs was usually a limited world with a limited audience. The current explosion of folk music has thrown open the doors to writers, singers and listeners alike, and they have joined in a sympathetic meeting of minds and hearts.
Pete Seeger, with deep roots in the folk past, has remained a dominant figure in the field, supplying the Trio with one of their biggest hits, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”. Young Bob Dylan is a strong new voice, his “Blowin’ In The Wind” being a big record for the Trio, and other folk singers as well. Broadway-based Sheldon Harnick wrote “The Merry Minuet,” writer-singer Rod McKuen came up with “Two-ten, Six-eighteen”. And so it goes – Ed McCurdy, Billy Edd Wheeler, Malvina Reynolds, Hoyt Axton and others, all alive and feeling and writing great folk songs of and for today.
These, then, are examples of the songs that comprise The Folk Era. But what about the four young men who have been the Kingston Trio and done so much to breathe new life into this music?
It started because Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane, students at Menlo College in northern California, knew and liked to sing with Dave Guard, who was attending nearby Stanford University. There was nothing special about their singing; they were not very different from thousands of other young college students around the country who were getting together with voices and guitars.
Not very different, but a little bit different, a little bit better. So they decided to take a crack at being professionals and talked themselves into a job at the Cracked Pot, a hang out just off the Stanford campus in Palo Alto. There they sang, for kicks and beer and pretzels, until one night a San Francisco publicist named Frank Werber came down to hear the group.
When he heard them he knew they had something, so, then and there, he became a manager and signed them up, their basic contract being scribbled on a convenient paper napkin. That was the first step. From that night on they continued to sing, but more than that they continued to study, to rehearse, to think, to plan, to work closely with Werber in the development of a polished and professional act.
Several months passed, then they debuted in San Francisco. The Purple Onion signed them for a week that became seven months. They appeared at Facks II, “the hungry i,” and became the most popular act in Bay City nightclub history. And their fame spread.
On their way East they played Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago, then on to the Blue Angel and Village Vanguard in New York. Every place was the same as San Francisco – smash success. It was a large and well-established fact by now: The Kingston Trio was something new, something good, and something very important in show business.
In January 1958, the Trio signed a long-term exclusive contract with Capitol Records. Their first album, THE KINGSTON TRIO, was released in June of that year. It sold well, but was by no measure an overnight hit.
One number in the album, however, was a haunting, century-old folk song “Tom Dooley”. For some reason it appealed to a few disc jockeys around the country and they started playing it. Before long there was sufficient demand for Capitol to release a single record of the song. That’s when history started moving fast. The record started gaining momentum from the day of its release and virtually shot to the top of the national best-seller lists, where it stayed for months, finally passing the million mark shortly before Christmas.
This was the beginning of the greenback dollar years. From “Tom Dooley” the Kingstons went on to “Tijuana Jail,” “M.T.A.” and many, many other big hits. In a Billboard poll of disc jockeys they were voted the “most promising singing group of the year”. That promise was quickly fulfilled. One after another of their albums became best-sellers, most of them going over that almost-impossible million mark. They starred on nationwide television shows, they toured the clubs and campuses of the country, their concerts were sellouts. It was a success story unparalleled in show business history, and it’s still going strong.
There are many reasons for the popularity of the Kingston Trio. They are visually attractive – young and vibrant, the spirit of collegians who make up much of their audience. They sing well – in tune, with an interesting harmonic approach, a solid beat. And always a delight to their fans has been their repertoire, a rare mixture of old and new songs chosen and arranged with taste and imagination. Sometimes humorous, sometimes carrying a message, sometimes simply telling a tale, the songs of the Kingston Trio reflect the diversity of backgrounds and interests of its members, a cultural richness that has played no small part in their sustained popularity.
Dave Guard and Bob Shane were both born in Hawaii and spent their growing-up years there. playing ukuleles, singing native songs, being exposed to the musical crossroads of the Pacific Islands. They attended Punahou School, swam, surfed and went skin diving like the natives they were. Then eventually both came East to California and higher education. Dave worked his way through Stanford, continued his singing, became a judo expert, got his B.A. in Economics, and eventually married a Stanford co-ed, the former Gretchen Ballard of Pasadena, California. And now they have two children.
Bob Shane landed at Menlo College in California, where his interest was Business Administration. He made it all right, even went back to Hawaii and honestly tried to keep his mind on the business world. But no go. He just couldn’t stop playing and singing, and he had so much encouragement that he headed on back to Dave and Nick and the beginnings of what became the Kingston Trio.
Bob is married, too, to the former Louise Brandon of Atlanta, whom he met in, of all places, Honolulu, during a Kingston Trio engagement there in 1958. Like his former singing partner, Bob has also become a father, little Joan being a large pleasure but also somewhat of a deterrent to his pursuit of power-boating, skeet-shooting and sports-car driving.
Nick Reynolds is another sports-car and skeet-shooting enthusiast, but he still devotes a lot of time to photography and being a businessman, plus being a happily married man, to ex-comedienne Joan Harriss.
Nick was born down San Diego, California, way, with a career Navy man for a father. That meant lots of traveling for Nick, but it was happy traveling, for they picked up songs wherever they went and, as Nick puts it, “Dad plays a very swinging guitar.”
It was while he was at Menlo College getting his degree in Business Administration that Nick met Bob and started singing with him. And since Bob knew Dave, and Menlo was near Stanford, circumstances were right for the Kingston Trio to “happen.”
During their ride to the top, the Kingstons met a young musician and songwriter named John Stewart. In the course of the Trio’s career, Stewart became more and more involved with the group, writing many of their arrangements and composing some of the most popular tunes in their repertoire – “Molly Dee,” “Green Grasses” and, in this album, “Song For A Friend”. The boys took a personal interest in John’s career and helped him when he formed his own folk group, The Cumberland Three.
In the Spring of 1961, after the Trio returned from a tour of Australia, New Zealand and Japan, Dave Guard decided to go his own professional way, which left Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane as a two-man trio. This would never do, so manager Werber, Nick and Bob called John and asked him to join them.
“John was a natural,” says Nick. “He’s not only a talented performer and a swinging musician, but he has that great personal quality of contagious enthusiasm that means so much to our performances.”
John, like Nick, was born in San Diego. He traces his musical interest to a number of sources, including his enthusiastic research on the Civil War. His father, a trainer of race horses, traveled from race meet to race meet, taking his family with him. During these travels John naturally heard many kinds of music and they all made an impression on him, with the result that he is now devoted to folk music, jazz, Broadway musicals and anything else he can lend an ear to. In the marital department John has acquired Julie Koehler, his college sweetheart, and they live, in the true Kingston Trio tradition, in a beautiful house in the hills of Marin County overlooking San Francisco bay.
So that’s a little bit of the story of the Kingston Trio – how three young college boys with taste and talent, with voices and guitars, with enthusiasm and feeling for what their generation wanted, charged into the folk field, ignited it into a joyous explosion, and became a dominant influence in its widespread renaissance.
The rest of the story, the most important part of the story, is still happening, on campuses and stages across America, and in historic recorded performances such as the classic ones on these three records.
Side One – Traditional
TOM DOOLEY 3:01
(F. Warner-J. Lomax-A. Lomax) BMI
BAY OF MEXICO 2:49
(Traditional-Arr. Dave Guard) BMI
THREE JOLLY COACHMEN 1:45
(Traditional-Arr. Dave Guard) BMI
(Nick Reynolds-Adam Yagodka) BMI
GETAWAY JOHN 2:35
(Dave Guard) BMI
SARO JANE 2:22
(Traditional-Arr. and Adapted by Louis Gottlieb) BMI
Side Two – Traditional
COREY, COREY 2:06
THE UNFORTUNATE MISS BAILEY 2:15
(Joe Gottlieb) BMI
OLD JOE CLARK 1:55
(Traditional-Arr. Reynolds-Shane-Stewart) BMI
LITTLE MAGGIE 1:41
(Dave Guard) BMI
WHEN THE SAINTS COME MARCHING IN 2:13
(Paul Campbell) BMI
Side Three – New Words to Old Melodies & Folk Destination
(Jacqueline Steiner-Bess Hawes) BMI
SCARLET RIBBONS 2:15
(Evelyn Danzig-Jack Segal) ASCAP
THEY CALL THE WIND MARIA 4:30
(Frederick Loewe-Alan Jay Lerner) ASCAP
REUBEN JAMES 2:57
(The Almanac Singers) ASCAP
DEPORTEE (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) 3:32
LEAVE MY WOMAN ALONE 2:19
(Ray Charles) BMI
Side Four – New Words to Old Melodies & Folk Destination
THE BALLAD OF THE SHAPE OF THINGS 4:52
(Sheldon Harnick) ASCAP
LEMON TREE 2:16
(Will Holt) ASCAP
THE TIJUANA JAIL 2:48
(Denny Thompson) BMI
RASPBERRIES, STRAWBERRIES 2:12
(Will Holt) ASCAP
A WORRIED MAN 2:50
(Dave Guard-Tom Glazer) BMI
Side Five – Contemporary
WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE 3:00
(Pete Seeger) BMI
(Billy Edd Wheeler) ASCAP
LAST NIGHT I HAD THE STRANGEST DREAM 2:08
(Ed McCurdy) ASCAP
TURN AROUND 2:38
THE MERRY MINUET 1:44
(Sheldon Harnick) BMI
REVEREND MR. BLACK 2:59
(Billy Edd Wheeler-Jed Peters) ASCAP
Side Six – Contemporary
BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND 2:45
(Bob Dylan) ASCAP
SOME FOOL MADE A SOLDIER OF ME 2:13
(Jerry Fuller) BMI
TWO-TEN, SIX-EIGHTEEN 2:53
(Rod McKuen) ASCAP
SONG FOR A FRIEND 2:35
(John Stewart) BMI
GREENBACK DOLLAR 2:49
(Hoyt Axton-Ken Ramsey) BMI
Produced by VOYLE GILMORE
Capitol wishes to express its thanks to Dr. Lou Gottlieb for his technical advice.
Mfd. by Capitol Records, Inc. U.S.A.T.M. Marca Reg. U.S. Pat. No. 2,631,859
Printed in U.S.A.