Beginning in the 1940’s there was a folk music revival in the United States. It was driven underground by the “Red Scare,” with many of the performers, such as Pete Seeger, being branded as Communists, but was still popular among the “beatniks.” It was in this environment that Dave Guard, Bob Shane, and Nick Reynolds got their start on the West Coast. They called themselves The Kingston Trio, projected a clean-cut, collegiate look, and avoided singing any songs with an overt political message.
Their first hit, “Tom Dooley,” sold over six million copies. It topped the Hot 100 and is credited with kickstarting the post-Red Scare revival. It’s in the Grammy Hall of Fame and was honored by the Grammy Association as one of the most influential records of the 20th Century.
In 1959, the Trio recorded “M. T. A.” Written by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax Hawes, it’s the story of Charlie, who finds himself stuck on the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Boston’s subway system, because of a fare increase.
By 1961, a rift had developed between Guard and the other two members, and he left, replaced by John Stewart in September. The Trio continued its success, placing six of its seven albums between 1961 and 1963 in the top 100, and they had chart success during that period with “Greenback Dollar” (see yesterday’s post) and “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”
The British Invasion affected the Trio’s record sales, and by 1966 they were tired of the road. They planned one final tour that would end with a two-week engagement at The Hungry i in San Francisco. Nick Reynolds moved to Oregon to pursue other interests outside the music industry. John Stewart went on to have a successful career as a songwriter, penning “Daydream Believer” for The Monkees and “Runaway Train” for Rosanne Cash, as well as a performer, recording over forty albums, including his best-known, 1969’s California Bloodlines, and having chart success with several songs, most notably “Gold,” which reached #5 in 1979. Bob Shane embarked on a solo career, but by 1969 asked for permission to use the name “Kingston Trio.” The others agreed after insisting that he refer to any later group as “The New Kingston Trio.” By 1976, he was allowed to use the original name. Dave Guard died in 1991 from lymphoma after having reconciled with Shane.
The Kingston Trio, your Two for Tuesday, March 13, 2018.