Mudcat Café message #435346 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #32874   Message #435346
Posted By: Don Firth
07-Apr-01 - 03:19 PM
Thread Name: Kingston trio--a place in history
Subject: RE: Kingston trio--a place in history
The Kingston Trio was, indeed, a major force in precipitating the "Great Folk Scare" and introduced hordes of people to folk music who might never have discovered it without them. But one shouldn't forget that they stood on the shoulders of some giants who paved the way for them (to mix the hell out of a couple of metaphors!).

Burl Ives and Susan Reed were probably the best know folksingers prior to the Weavers. They weren't on the Hit Parade, but most people had heard them at one time or another on the radio and saw them in a movie or two. Then the Weavers burst on the scene. They were immediately popular, with Goodnight Irene, On Top of Old Smoky, and others pouring out of every jukebox in the country. Then they vanished from the pop scene because of the Blacklist. But they had set the stage (yet another metaphor). Shortly thereafter, along came Harry Belafonte, who also immediately caught the public's ear.

By then, and in many cases, before then, college kids had started singing folk songs -- and they were using records (Burl Ives, Weavers, Library of Congress, and others), and books by the Lomaxes and Carl Sandburg as sources. I was one of them, early on -- I started singing in 1952. Groups started forming, many of which were patterned after the Weavers. Perfect example, the Gateway Singers. Note that the Kingston Trio, when they first formed (here), included Barbara Bogue, and they called themselves the Calypsonians or the Kingston Quartet (a little Belafonte influence?).

No doubt the Kingston Trio pounced at just the right time. I liked a lot of the stuff they did. Some of it, however, really had me grinding my teeth, especially when they changed a song drastically just to pull off some smart-ass joke. Okay, fun is fun, but a lot of people thought that was the way folk music was supposed to be. But I definitely give them credit, and readily acknowledge that had it not been for them (or groups like them), I might not have had some of the singing jobs that I did.

But what really yanked my chain sometimes were the Kingston Trio fans. I learned Tom Dooley from a Frank Warner record, and I learned the Wreck of the Sloop John B. from Walt Robertson, and a number of other songs the Kingston Trio recorded long before anyone ever heard of the Kingston Trio and probably before they even met. Then -- to have someone tell me that I was singing the Sloop John B all wrong--!!!!

"That's not the way the Kingston Trio does it!"

See what I mean?

Don Firth

Thanks for the above post, Justa Picker. Bob Shane had it right. There's a lot of meat for discussion in what he says.