Mudcat Café message #435303 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #32874   Message #435303
Posted By: Justa Picker
07-Apr-01 - 02:11 PM
Thread Name: Kingston trio--a place in history
Subject: RE: Kingston trio--a place in history
To shed a little more light on the Kingston Trio, here is a feature article on them, taken directly from Washburn and Johnston's Martin Guitar - An Illustrated History (1997) Understand that this book showcases not only Martin guitars and their history but also players who have made Martin guitars part of their equipment arsenal throughout their years of performing - but there are some interesting insights within the article. (I have edited out most of the really non relevant parts [Martin guitar talk and their instruments utilized], for the sake of brevity.)

"THE KINGSTON TRIO - Reluctant Folkies"

Bob Shane and fellow founding members Nick Reynolds and Dave Guard hadn't exactly been planning on continuity or being professionals when they started. Shane and banjoist Guard were high school friends from Hawaii who met up with tenor guitarist Reynolds while all were in college in Palo Alto, California. They sang for fun and got pretty good at it. In 1958 Phyllis Diller had to cancel a San Franciso club engagement, and the Kingston Trio got the last-minute gig filling in for her. A Capitol Records exec heard them that night, signed them, and the rest is history, though a rather skewed history.

Not very long after "Tom Dooley" put folk music at the top of the charts, it became hip to hate the trio, with purist folk fans deriding their untroubled music. Shane thought the whole argument ridiculous.

"To call the Kingston Trio folk singers was kind of stupid in the first place," he says. "We never called ourselves folk singers. We started off playing calypso music, and we took our name from Kingston, Jamaica, and to this day not one of us has ever been there. We did folk-oriented material, but we did it amid all kinds of other stuff. But they didn't know what to call us with our instruments, so Capitol Records called us folk singers and gave us credit for starting this whole boom. And we got a Grammy in the country category. Whatever they wanted to call us, that was fine as long as they paid us, too. We were all business majors in college."

Shane's musical career started with a koa wood ukulele (a love of that wood led him to custom order in the 1980s the first koa D-45 in Martin history), then he moved up to a Sears tenor guitar. In 1956 he was billed as Hawaii's Elvis Presley. It was around then that he met folk-blues-playing Josh White, in Hawaii for a club engagement.

"Josh White essentially taught me how to play the guitar," Shane says. "And then he was the one who talked me into a Martin. I'd seen most of the Hawaiian guys playing them - Gabby Pahinui usually played a OO. Josh White said that they last the best, that they had the best sound after you've played them for a while, and that they're constructed so they would take more of a beating than a Gibson would. And if in some of our early pictures you see that I've got double pick guards on the guitar, Josh White told me to do that, too. He said 'When you scratch up the top side too much, just put a pick guard over it', so that's what I did."

The Kingston Trio membership has varied over the years,with Shane being the only constant (Guard passed away in the early 1990s.) At this writing (1997) Shane, Reynolds, and two-decade vet George Grove, continue to entertain audiences everywhere except, evidently, in Kingston.

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