The Kingston Trio brings folk music to the top of the U.S. pop charts

The Kingston Trio brings folk music to the top of the U.S. pop charts

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On November 17, 1958, the Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley” hits #1 on the Billboard pop chart.

While they might not have wanted to acknowledge it, the fans of 1960s protest folk probably owed the very existence of the movement to three guys in crew cuts and candy-striped shirts who honed their act not in freight cars or in Greenwich Village cafes, but in the fraternities and sororities of Stanford University in the mid-1950s. In their music as in their physical appearance, the Kingston Trio betrayed little discomfort with the sociopolitical status quo of the 1950s. Yet without the enormous profits that their music generated for Capitol Records, it is impossible to imagine major-label recording contracts ever being given to some of those who would challenge that status quo in the decade to come. Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, for instance, may have owed their musical and political development to forerunners like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, but they probably owed their commercial viability to the Kingston Trio, who introduced the astonishingly fresh sound of a 100-year-old folk song into the American pop mainstream of 1958.

The song “Tom Dooley” was probably first sung sometime after May 1, 1868, when a North Carolina man named Tom Dula was hanged to death for the murder of his fiancée, Laura Foster. Thanks to extensive coverage in major newspapers like TheNew York Times, the trial of Mr. Dula made him something of a national cause celebre, and he proclaimed his innocence of the murder even as he stood on the gallows. It is not clear when or by whom the mournful murder ballad based on his story was written, but it was resurrected by the Kingston Trio in the late 1950s after hearing a fellow folk singer perform it in an audition at San Francisco’s Purple Onion club.

The Kingston Trio’s version of “Tom Dooley” focused more on moody Appalachian atmospherics than on the graphic details of the love quadrangle found in the original, but that trade-off, combined with the Trio’s banjo-backed harmonies, made “Tom Dooley” into the mammoth hit that launched their massively successful career. And the Kingston Trio’s success, in turn, made it possible for a more political brand of folk music to move into the popular mainstream—and into the DNA of rock and roll—in the years that followed.

Whiskeyhill Singers

The Whiskeyhill Singers were formed in early 1961 by Dave Guard after he left The Kingston Trio. Guard formed the Singers as an attempt to return to the Trio's earlier roots in folk music. The Singers lasted about six months before disbanding. During that short period the group released one album, Dave Guard & The Whiskeyhill Singers, and recorded a number of songs for the soundtrack of How the West Was Won, but only four of these were used in the movie.


Shane was born on February 1, 1934 in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, the son of Margaret (Schaufelberger) and Arthur Castle Schoen, a wholesale distributor of toys and sporting goods. His mother was from Salt Lake City, and his father was a Hawaiian of German descent. [2] [3] [4] Shane was in his own words "a fourth-generation islander". He attended local schools, including the prestigious Punahou School for his junior high and high school years. Punahou's curriculum emphasized native Hawaiian culture, [5] complementing Shane's already developing interest in music in general and Hawaiian music in particular.

During these years, Shane (the phonetic spelling he began using in 1957) taught himself to play first ukulele and then guitar, influenced especially by Hawaiian slack key guitarists like Gabby Pahinui. It was also during these years that Shane met Punahou classmate Dave Guard and began performing with him at parties and school variety shows.

Following graduation in 1952, Shane attended Menlo College in Menlo Park, California while Guard matriculated at nearby Stanford University. At Menlo, Shane met and became fast friends with Nick Reynolds, originally from the San Diego area and also a musician and singer with a broad knowledge of folk and popular songs, due in part to Reynolds's music-loving father, a captain in the Navy. Shane introduced Reynolds to Guard, and in 1956, the three began performing together as part of an informal aggregation that could, according to Reynolds, [6] expand to as large as six or seven members. The group went under different names, most often as "Dave Guard and the Calypsonians". They made little more than beer money and had no formal professional aspirations. Shane dropped out of college in his senior year and returned to Hawaii to work in the family business. [7] [8]

However, Shane had discovered a natural affinity for entertaining and at night pursued a solo career in Hawaii, including engagements at some of Waikiki's major hotels. Shane's act consisted of an eclectic mix of songs from Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Harry Belafonte, and Broadway shows. During this period of several months he also met acoustic blues legend Josh White, who helped Shane refine his guitar style and influenced him to support his vocals with a Martin "Dreadnought" guitar, significant in that it led to Shane's lifelong association with that guitar maker. [9] The company reciprocated by issuing a number of "signature" models honoring Shane and the Kingston Trio in the late 1990s and early 2000s. [10]

At the same time back in California, Guard and Reynolds had organized themselves somewhat more formally into an act named "The Kingston Quartet" with bassist Joe Gannon and his fiancée, vocalist Barbara Bogue. This group appeared for a one-night engagement at a club called the Italian Village in San Francisco, to which they invited publicist Frank Werber, who had caught the Calypsonians' act with Shane some months earlier at the Cracked Pot beer garden in Palo Alto. Werber was impressed by the natural talent of and synergy between Guard and Reynolds he was less impressed with Gannon and Bogue, and suggested to Reynolds and Guard that they would be better off as a trio without Gannon - easier to book and better musically. [11] When Guard and Reynolds let Gannon go and Bogue followed, Reynolds, Guard and Werber all considered Shane the logical third member and asked him to return to California, which he did in spring 1957. [12] Shane's baritone vocals and guitar work were the foundation of the Kingston Trio's sound. [13]

Shane, Guard, Reynolds, and Werber drew up an informal agreement (on a paper napkin, according to a legend that Werber has debunked) [14] that morphed into a legal partnership. They decided on the name "Kingston Trio" because it evoked, they thought, both the then-popular calypso music that emanated from Kingston, Jamaica as well as the kind of "collegiate" ambiance suggested by their quickly adopted stage outfit of matching button-down collared three-quarter length sleeved striped shirts.

Under Werber's rigorous tutelage, Shane, Guard, and Reynolds began almost daily rehearsals for several months, including instruction from prominent San Francisco vocal coach Judy Davis. The group's first significant break came in the summer of 1957 when comedian Phyllis Diller had to cancel an engagement at The Purple Onion, a small San Francisco night club, and Werber talked the management into hiring the untested trio for a week. The trio's close harmonies, varied repertoire, and carefully rehearsed but apparently spontaneous on stage humor made them an instant success with the club's patrons, and the engagement stretched to six months. [15]

During this stint, Werber used the Kingston Trio's local popularity to try to generate interest from record companies. After several false starts, the group landed a contract with Capitol Records, recording their first album in three days in February 1958. [15] The producer was the already legendary (from Frank Sinatra's 1950s Capitol sessions) Voyle Gilmore, who made two immediate and fateful decisions. Gilmore insisted that the trio's acoustic sound have more of a "bottom" and added a bass player to the recordings. He also decided that the group should be recorded without additional orchestral instrumentation, unusual for the time both decisions came to characterize nearly all of the Kingston Trio's subsequent recordings and live performances. [16]

The album The Kingston Trio was released in June 1958 at the same time that the group was beginning a long engagement at San Francisco's more prominent Hungry i night club. The album included the number that became Shane's signature song, "Scotch and Soda," powerful and rhythmic guitar work from Shane throughout, and an obscure North Carolina murder ballad, "Tom Dooley" on which Shane sang the lead.

In the summer of 1958, while Shane and the Trio were performing at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, disc jockey Paul Colburn in Salt Lake City began playing the "Tom Dooley" cut from the album on the air, and DJs in Miami and nationally followed suit. [17] Popular response forced a reluctant Capitol Records marketing department to release the song as a single on August 8, 1958. [17] It shot to #1 on the Billboard and Variety charts, selling a million copies before Christmas of 1958 and earning the Kingston Trio both its first of eight gold records and of two Grammys. [18]

This ushered in an era of remarkable success as both a recording and performing act for Shane and the Trio. In 1959 alone, the group released four albums, three of which attained #1 status and all four of which were in Billboard's Top Ten in December 1959, a feat equaled only by the Beatles. Thirteen of their albums placed in Billboard's Top Ten, with five going to #1 and the first album remaining on the charts for 195 weeks. [19] A half dozen singles charted in the Top 100 as well. The group played over two hundred dates per year for several years, pioneering the college concert circuit and appearing at most of the country's top night clubs, festivals, and amphitheaters as well. [20]

It was during this period, however, that conflict began to simmer between high school friends Shane and Guard. Disputes over the musical direction of the Kingston Trio and disagreement over finances and copyrights are the causes most frequently cited in Guard's decision in the spring of 1961 to leave what was at the time the most popular group in American music. [21] Shane, Reynolds, and Werber bought out Guard's interest in the partnership and moved quickly to find a replacement, settling on John Stewart, a young folk performer and composer who had written a number of songs that the Trio had already recorded. The Shane, Reynolds, and Stewart Kingston Trio remained together for another six years, releasing nine more albums on Capitol and scoring a number of Top 40 hit singles until diminishing record sales resulting from the passing of the popular folk boom and the rise of Capitol's other major acts the Beach Boys and the Beatles prompted the group to move to Decca Records. They released four more albums before disbanding as an act following a final engagement at the Hungry i in June 1967. [22]

Shane had not been in favor of the break-up of the Kingston Trio, both because he felt that the Trio could adapt to changing musical tastes and because he had by then become a thoroughly accomplished entertainer and a canny marketer. Deciding to stay in the entertainment business, Shane experimented both with solo work (he recorded several singles, including a version of the song "Honey" that later became a million-seller for Bobby Goldsboro) [23] and with different configurations with other folk-oriented performers.

In 1969, he asked permission of Reynolds and Werber, still his partners, to lease the group's name. They assented with the provisos that Shane assemble a group of comparable musical quality to the two original configurations and that "New" be appended to the name. Shane organized two troupes under the name of "The New Kingston Trio". The first consisted of guitarist Pat Horine and banjoist Jim Connor in addition to Shane and lasted from 1969 to 1973, the second including guitarist Roger Gambill and banjoist Bill Zorn from 1973 until 1976. Shane tried to create a repertoire for these groups that included both expected Kingston Trio standards like "Tom Dooley" and "M.T.A." but also more contemporary songs, including country and novelty tunes. The attempt did not meet with any significant success. Though both of these groups made a limited number of recordings and television appearances, neither generated very much interest from fans or the public at large. [24]

At the end of 1976, Bill Zorn wanted to pursue a solo career and left the group under amicable circumstances. To replace him, Shane found a younger performer named George Grove, an instrumentalist and singer. Shane realized that the group's greatest asset in addition to his vocals and his presence as a founding member was the name itself. Consequently, he purchased the rights to the Kingston Trio name outright from Reynolds and Werber, and all subsequent iterations of Shane's troupe since late 1976 have been known simply as the Kingston Trio.

In 1981, PBS producers JoAnn Young and Paul Surratt pitched an idea to Shane: a reunion concert that the network could use as a fund raiser and that would include not only Shane's current group but also on stage reunions of the two original Kingston Trio lineups with Guard and Stewart. Shane and the other principals assented, and the concert was staged and taped at the Magic Mountain amusement park in Valencia, California in November 1981 it was broadcast over PBS stations in March 1982.

Despite some residual tension between Guard and Shane, part of which surfaced in a Wall Street Journal article by Roy Harris about the event and which resulted from public comments made by Guard that Shane felt disparaged both him and his current group, [25] the concert was moderately successful and became a landmark in Kingston Trio history. Over the next nine years, Shane and Guard reconciled to a large degree. Guard was suffering from cancer though apparently in remission when Shane and Reynolds visited him in New Hampshire in the summer of 1990, and the three discussed the possibility of a reunion tour that would again feature Shane's current troupe (which by this time included a re-invigorated Nick Reynolds) as well as Guard and Stewart. Guard's lymphoma returned, however, and he died in March 1991. Shane was the only member of any configuration of the Kingston Trio to sing at Guard's memorial service. [26]

Through the years following Shane's acquisition of the Kingston Trio name in 1976, the personnel in the group changed several times, though Shane and Grove remained constants. Shane guided the group to a success that, if never the equivalent of the group's first decade, was nonetheless steady and consistent. Shane's Kingston Trio relied heavily on a "greatest hits formula" augmented by a number of other songs acquired through the years that fans had accepted as part of the group's repertoire.

In March 2004, a month after his 70th birthday, Shane suffered a debilitating heart attack that forced him into retirement from touring and performing after 47 years with the act. [7] Though Shane had initially planned to return to the group after convalescing, the attack was severe enough to warrant Shane's permanent withdrawal from performing with the group that he still owned. He was replaced by former New Kingston Trio member Bill Zorn.

Shane was married for 23 years to the former Louise Brandon they had 5 children and 8 grandchildren. [4] [7] The marriage ended in divorce and he remarried in 2000 to Bobbi Childress. [7]

He died on January 26, 2020 at a hospice facility in Phoenix, Arizona at the age of 85. [4] [7] [27]

Folk Music and Song

Frank Proffitt sings and plays for Anne Warner in 1941. Pick Britches Valley,
North Carolina.
(Anne and Frank Warner Collection. Photo by Frank Warner)

Beginning in 1929, when she collected her first folksong from fellow Vermonter Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Helen Hartness Flanders devoted thirty years of her life to finding and recording thousands of folksongs and ballads as performed by traditional singers from Vermont and other New England states. She said that she was &ldquoallergic&rdquo to ballads: whenever she got near them she caught them. The history of the Archive of Folk Culture begins as a story of &ldquosong-catchers.&rdquo

A year earlier, in 1928, when Robert W. Gordon came to the Library of Congress as head of the newly created Archive of American Folk-Song, he brought with him his dream of collecting all American folksongs. While other collectors were typically interested in finding surviving examples of English and Scottish ballads, and were primarily interested in the academic study of song texts, Gordon collected a wide range of songs from a variety of informants. Furthermore, Gordon made sound recordings of the traditional singers he found, in order to secure not just song texts but also their melodies.

Texas folklorist John A. Lomax feared that the radio and gramophone would discourage people from making their own music, and that songs would be forgotten and lost. During the 1930s and 1940s he carried a recording machine throughout the South, traveling with his son Alan (as well as with his first wife, Bess, and later his second wife, Ruby). The Lomaxes visited farms and ranches, schoolyards and churches, night clubs and prisons. Working together and separately, father and son recorded cowboy ballads, work songs, religious songs, field hollers, blues, and many other forms of traditional expression. They were tireless collectors with an uncanny knack for finding traditional singers with large repertoires, and convincing them to sing and play for the cumbersome disc-cutting machine they carried with them.

Ballad scholarship in the United States traces its origin to Francis James Child, of Harvard&rsquos Department of English. Child was the editor of The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882 &ndash 84). Folklore studies are frequently associated with departments of English, and both Robert Gordon and John Lomax were encouraged to pursue their interest in folksong by Harvard English professors George Lyman Kittredge and Barrett Wendell. But most American song-catchers, who exploited successive recording technologies beginning with Edison&rsquos wax-cylinder machine, were more than literary scholars. They believed their work had a moral importance that transcended academic study.

Walking for Dat Cake Songster , "Containing a full collection of new songs, jokes, stump speeches, which have made Harrigan & Hart the champions of the day, among which will be found the following songs. . ." Compiled by Edward Harrington and Tony Hart (New York: A.J. Fisher, 1877).
(Robert W. Gordon Songster Collection)

Gliding Down the Stream Songster .
(Robert W. Gordon Songster Collection)

Myrtle B. Wilkinson plays tenor banjo, Turlock, California, 1939.
(WPA California Folk Music Project Collection. Photographer unknown)

Operating from motives similar to those of other ethnographers, Frances Densmore, Helen Heffron Roberts, Willard Rhodes, and others documented Native American music, fearing that American Indians displaced from their lands were also in danger of losing their culture. The sound recording was especially important for this work, since Indian song texts are frequently composed not of words found in the singer&rsquos spoken language but of vocables, nonlexical syllables, such as hey or na, that fall into patterns shaped by linguistic, song genre, and musical considerations.

Traditional singers (or musicians or storytellers) are those who have learned their art informally, within the context of family, tribe, community, or another close-knit group. Many traditional songs have been sung within the same family or folk group for generations, and can sometimes be traced back to such places of origin as Great Britain, Europe, or Africa. At some point the song would have been composed by a single individual, but that author may no longer be known. Most folksongs change over time, to a lesser or greater extent, as they are passed from person to person and multiple variants spring up.

In some contexts, traditional songs are an integral part of daily life, and particular songs are performed to accompany particular activities associated with work, religious celebration, or social occasions. Anglo-American ballads often offer cautionary tales and moral lessons, warning young women about the temptations of honey-tongued suitors and warning men about the wiles of unfaithful women. Sea shanties and railroad songs can function to lighten the burden of routine tasks and provide a rhythm that helps workers perform as a team. Lullabies bind together mother and child, and song and music of all sorts performed within the context of family helps to bind one generation to the next.

Since 1976, when the American Folklife Center was created, the Folk Archive&rsquos collections have grown tremendously, both in numbers of items and breadth of coverage, to include a wide range of folklife expressions. But the signature activity at the center&rsquos Folklife Reading Room, where researchers come to use the materials, involves listening to the unparalleled collections of folk music and song, made largely in the field, from the United States and around the world. Researchers come to hear and study traditional performances of Anglo-American ballads or African American blues, work songs, and church music. They listen to railroad songs, cowboy songs, coal miners songs, and sea chanties, or Native American music from tribes throughout North America. They study traditional music from Africa, Central and South America, the Middle East, Europe, South Asia, the Pacific, and other parts of the world.

John Galusha, known as Yankee John, at eighty-one years of age. Minerva, New York, 1940.
(The Anne and Frank Warner Collection. Photo by Frank Warner)

Mexican girls sing for a Library of Congress recording,
San Antonio, Texas, 1934.
(Prints and Photographs Division.
Photo by Alan Lomax)

Wes Noel plays the fiddle,
Elk Springs, Missouri.
(Vance Randolph Collection.
Photo by Vance Randolph

Poster for a performance by Jim Garland, at the 13th Avenue Gallery, 1963.
(American Folklife Center Poster Collection)

Will Neal plays a fiddle at the Arvin Migratory Labor Camp, California, about 1940.
(The Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Worker Collection. Photo by Robert Hemming )

Musicians of the Haha tribe, of Tamanar, play the bendir (a tamborine-shaped drum) and the aouada (a long-reed flute), while Paul Bowles records them.
Essaouira, Morocco, August 8, 1959.
(Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection. Photographer unknown)

Handwritten page from Helen Heffron Robert's Round Valley, California, notebooks, 1926, containing transcriptions of two Konkow Burning Ceremony Cry songs from wax cylinder recordings made by Mrs. Jim Stevens.
(Helen Heffron Roberts Collection)

Handwritten page from Helen Heffron Robert's Round Valley, California, notebooks, 1926, containing a transcription of a Grass Game song from the Maidu area recorded by Anna Feliz.
(Helen Heffron Roberts Collection)

Ethnomusicologist Vida Chenoweth interviews Taaqiyáa, her chief Kaagú Usarufa music and text contributor, Papua, New Guinea, 1967.
(Vida Chenoweth Collection. Photographer unknown )

Portuguese fado musicians Duarte Tavares and Olivete Maria Poulart perform at the IV Seasons Restaurant, Lowell, Massachusetts, November 14, 1987.
(Lowell Folklife Project Collection. Photo by John Lueders-Booth)


Gottlieb, fresh from obtaining his PhD in musicology, was in the audience when Alex Hassilev and Glenn Yarbrough appeared on stage to sing a duet together. Gottlieb, who was then working as an arranger for The Kingston Trio, originally thought that "these two guys" could help him make some demos for the Trio.

Soon, they packed up and headed to Aspen, Colorado, to work at a club called "The Limelite," [2] which Yarbrough and Hassilev had purchased after singing there during the previous ski season. [1] After a short period of perfecting their act, they set off for the "hungry i" in San Francisco, which at the time was the California nerve center for the mushrooming contemporary folk movement. [2] The owner had just had a group with three long names strung together and was not about to put "Yarbrough, Hassilev, and Gottlieb" up on the marquee. But the group had not yet decided on a name. They chose "The Limeliters".

Their success was immediate. Only two days after their professional debut, the group received offers from three recording companies. In early 1960 they released their first album on Elektra. Soon after they signed with RCA Victor and a string of best-selling albums followed.

Never having a true chart-topping hit record, they were well known for their repertoire of rousing songs including such as "There's a Meetin' Here Tonight," "City of New Orleans," "A Dollar Down" (their only charting single, peaking at #60 in 1961), "Have Some Madeira M'Dear", "Lonesome Traveler," "Wabash Cannonball," "Whiskey in the Jar," and many others which are performed on their more than 25 record albums and in their concerts.

The Limeliters' album Tonight: In Person reached number 5 on Billboard in 1961, [1] and was on the U.S. charts for 74 weeks. The reissue in 1961 of their earlier Elektra album made the top 40 and spent 18 weeks on the charts. Their third release, The Slightly Fabulous Limeliters, made the top ten in the same year, [1] charting for 36 weeks. Another album with staying power was one of folk songs for children of all ages, Through Children's Eyes. It remained charted for 29 weeks and peaked at #25.

The group maintained a hectic workload during their peak of popularity. In addition to the numerous recordings, they made numerous television appearances, and their personal appearances totaled more than 300 performances a year. [3] For three years, The Limeliters were the musical representatives for Coca-Cola. Their rendition of the jingle, "Things Go Better with Coke" became a national hit. The group also did commercial work for L&M cigarettes.

In 1963 they sang several songs for the film McLintock!.

The group's career nearly came to an end when they suffered a plane crash in Provo, Utah while on tour. [3]

Yarbrough left the group in 1963. [1] Gottlieb and Hassilev continued the Limeliters but only as a recording act, recruiting former Gateway Singers tenor Ernie Sheldon [3] (r.n. Ernest Lieberman) as Yarbrough's replacement. Sheldon wrote the lyrics for what became Yarbrough's biggest solo hit, "Baby the Rain Must Fall." [1]

When the trio's RCA Victor contract expired in 1965, Gottlieb and Hassilev formally retired the act. By then Yarbrough was a successful soloist on records and in concert. Hassilev became a producer with his own recording studio and pressing plant, while Gottlieb headed the Morningstar Commune on a ranch he purchased near San Francisco.

The group re-formed briefly in 1968 to record an album for Warner Bros. Records. [3]

During the 1970s, the Limeliters embarked on a series of yearly reunion tours with Yarbrough. Stax Records released a reunion recording in 1974, [3] and in 1976 the group released two concert albums on their own Brass Dolphin Records. These were so successful that in 1981, Hassilev and Gottlieb decided to reform the group and to get back into the mainstream of entertainment. With the addition of tenor Red Grammer and John David [3] they again began performing.

After eight productive years, Grammer left the group to pursue a solo career as a children's artist. In 1990, he was replaced by another tenor, Rick Dougherty, whose wide-ranging musical background and bright stage presence brought another fresh dimension to the group.

Gottlieb's death in 1996 saw his high baritone part taken up by a former Kingston Trio member, Bill Zorn.

In 2003, Zorn and Dougherty left the group to join The Kingston Trio (until 2017) and in early 2004, tenor Mack Bailey and comedian baritone Andy Corwin joined the group. [3] In 2006, Hassilev retired and left the band. Soon afterward, Gaylan Taylor joined in 2006. In 2012, Don Marovich joined up with the Limeliters - In 2019 he joined the Kingston Trio. [ citation needed ]

The band is touring as recently as 2019. [4]

Glenn Yarbrough died from complications of dementia in Nashville, Tennessee on August 11, 2016, at the age of 86. [5]

Founded by Randy Sparks in 1961, this group contributed "Green, Green" in 1963 from their album Ramblin'. Group members change regularly, pretty much with every tour. As of 2008, there had been around 300 of them. They're still touring in 2017.

Odetta Holmes has been called the "Voice of the Civil Rights Movement." Martin Luther King Jr. once crowned her the queen of American folk music. Her contributions to the '60s include:

  • This Little Light of Mine
  • Mule Skinner Blues
  • He's Got the Whole World In His Hands


Definitions of "contemporary folk music" are generally vague and variable. [3] Here, it is taken to mean all music that is called folk that is not traditional folk music, a set of genres that began with and then evolved from the folk revival of the mid-20th century. According to Hugh Blumenfeld, for the American folk scene: [4]

  • In general, it is Anglo-American, embracing acoustic and/or tradition-based music from the U.K. and the United States.
  • Musically, it is mainly Western European in its origins linguistically, it is predominantly English-based. Other musical modes and languages, rightly or wrongly, tend to get separated out and grouped under "World Music," even if they are considered traditional within their respective cultures.
  • The few exceptions to this model are derived mainly from prevailing political/historical conditions in the Anglo-American world and the demographics of folk fans: Celtic music, blues, some Central and South American music, Native American music, and Klezmer. [4]

This is the common use of the term "contemporary folk music", but is not the only case of evolution of new forms from traditional ones.

Contemporary country music descends ultimately from a rural American folk tradition, but has evolved differently. Bluegrass music is a professional development of American old time music, intermixed with blues and gypsy swing jazz.

While the Romantic nationalism of the folk revival had its greatest influence on art-music, the "second folk revival" of the later 20th century brought a new genre of popular music with artists marketed through concerts, recordings and broadcasting. This is the genre that remains as "contemporary folk music" even when traditional music is considered to be a separate genre. One of the earliest figures in this revival was Woody Guthrie, who sang traditional songs in the 1930s and 1940s as well as composing his own. Among Guthrie's friends and followers as a collector, performer, and composer was Pete Seeger.

In the 1930s, Jimmie Rodgers, in the 1940s Burl Ives, in the early 1950s Seeger's group the Weavers and Harry Belafonte, and in the late 1950s the Kingston Trio as well as other professional, commercial groups became popular. Some who defined commercialization as the beginning of this phase consider the commercial hit Tom Dooley by the Kingston Trio in 1958 as marking the beginning of this era. [3] In 1963–1964, the ABC television network aired the Hootenanny television series devoted to this brand of folk music and also published the associated magazine ABC-TV Hootenanny. Starting in 1950, the Sing Out!, Broadside, and The Little Sandy Review magazines helped spread both traditional and composed songs, as did folk-revival-oriented record companies.

In the United Kingdom, the folk revival fostered young artists like the Watersons, Martin Carthy and Roy Bailey and a generation of singer-songwriters such as Bert Jansch, Ralph McTell, Donovan and Roy Harper all seven achieved initial prominence in the 1960s. Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Tom Paxton visited Britain for some time in the early 1960s, the first two especially making later use of the traditional English material they heard.

In 1950, prominent American folklorist and collector of traditional songs Alan Lomax came to Britain and met A. L. 'Bert' Lloyd and Ewan MacColl, a meeting credited as inaugurating the second British folk revival. In London, the colleagues opened the Ballads and Blues Club, eventually renamed the Singers' Club, possibly the first folk club in the UK it closed in 1991. As the 1950s progressed into the 1960s, the folk revival movement gathered momentum in both Britain and America.

In much of rural Canada, traditional and country-folk music were the predominant styles of music until the 1950s, ahead even of the globally popular jazz and swing. Traditional folk took this predominance into early Canadian television with many country-themed shows on its early airwaves. All Around the Circle (1964–1975) showcased the traditional Irish- and English-derived music of Newfoundland, for example. But by far the most important of these was Don Messer's Jubilee (1957–1973), which helped to bridge the gap between rural country-folk and the folk revival that was emerging from urban coffee shops and folk clubs. The show helped to launch the careers of country-folk singers Stompin' Tom Connors and Catherine McKinnon.

The folk revival spawned Canada's first folk wave of internationally successful artists such as Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen, Ian & Sylvia, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Buffy Sainte-Marie. [5] At the same time, Quebec folk singer-songwriters like Gilles Vigneault and groups such as La Bottine Souriante were doing the same in the French-speaking world. English-speaking Canadian folk artists tended to move the United States to pursue larger audiences until the introduction of so-called "Canadian content" rules for radio and television in the 1970s. At the same time, Canadian folk music became more formalized and commercialized with the rise of specialized folk festivals (beginning with the Miramichi Folksong Festival in 1958), increased radio airplay on rock, pop, and easy listening radio stations, the introduction of the Juno Award for Folk Artist of the Year in 1971, and even an academic journal the Canadian Folk Music Journal in 1973. The mid- and late 1960s saw fusion forms of folk (such as folk rock) achieve prominence never before seen by folk music, but the early 1960s were perhaps the zenith of non-fusion folk music prominence in the music scene.

During the Depression, folk music reflected social realities of poverty and disempowerment of common people through vernacularized lyrics expressing the harsh realities of hard times and poverty. Often newly composed songs in traditional style by writers like Guthrie also featured a humorous and satirical tone. Most of the audience for folk music in those years were part of the working class, and many of these songs expressed resistance to the social order and an anger towards the government. [6]

Major folk music performers who emerged during the 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s Edit

These include the following:

    (1912 –1967) was an American singer-songwriter and folk musician, whose musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children's songs, ballads and improvised works. [7] He frequently performed with the slogan This Machine Kills Fascists displayed on his guitar. His best-known song is "This Land Is Your Land". Many of his recorded songs are archived in the Library of Congress. [8] In the 1930s Guthrie traveled with migrant workers from Oklahoma to California while learning, rewriting, and performing traditional folk and blues songs along the way. Many the songs he composed were about his experiences in the Dust Bowl era during the Great Depression, earning him the nickname the "Dust Bowl Balladeer". [9] Throughout his life, Guthrie was associated with United States communist groups, though he was never formally joined the Party. [10] Guthrie fathered American folk musician Arlo Guthrie. During his later years Guthrie served as a figurehead in the folk movement, providing inspiration to a generation of new folk musicians, including mentor relationships with Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan. Such songwriters as Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, Joe Strummer and Tom Paxton have acknowledged their debt to Guthrie as an influence. Almanac members Millard Lampell, Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie began playing together informally in 1940 the Almanac Singers were formed in December 1940. [10] They invented a driving, energetic performing style, based on what they felt was the best of American country string band music, black and white. They evolved towards controversial topical music. Two of the regular members of the group, Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, later became founding members of The Weavers. – as a youth, Ives dropped out of college to travel around as an itinerant singer during the early 1930s, earning his way by doing odd jobs and playing his banjo and guitar. In 1930, he had a brief, local radio career on WBOW radio in Terre Haute, Indiana, and in the 1940s he had his own radio show, titled The Wayfaring Stranger, titled after one of the popular ballads he sang. The show was very popular, and in 1946 Ives was cast as a singing cowboy in the film Smoky. Ives went on to play parts in other popular film as well. His first book, The Wayfaring Stranger, was published in 1948. [11] had met and been influenced by many important folk musicians (and singer-songwriters with folk roots), especially Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly. [7] Seeger had labor movement involvements, and he met Guthrie at a "Grapes of Wrath" migrant workers’ concert on March 3, 1940, and the two thereafter began a musical collaboration (which included the Almanac Singers) and then formed the Weavers. As a songwriter, Seeger authored or co-authored "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?", "If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)", (composed with Lee Hays of the Weavers), and "Turn, Turn, Turn!", all three of which have been recorded by many artists both in and outside the folk revival movement and are still sung throughout the world. In 1948, Seeger wrote the first version of his now-classic How to Play the Five-String Banjo, an instructional book that many banjo players credit with starting them off on the instrument. He has recorded, sung, and performed for more than seventy years and has become the most powerful force in the American folk revival after Guthrie. [12]
    (1898-1975), was a composer of historical-themed folk music. His compositions were recorded by a variety of artists - Schmertz's music has been covered by Pete Seeger, who called Schmertz a "very good songwriter", [13] Burl Ives, Tennessee Ernie Ford, [13]Bill and Gloria Gaither, The Statler Brothers, The Cathedrals, Dailey & Vincent, the River City Brass Band, and Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. [14] were formed in 1947 by Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, and Fred Hellerman. After they debuted at the Village Vanguard in New York in 1948, they were then discovered by arranger Gordon Jenkins and signed with Decca Records, releasing a series of successful but heavily orchestrated single songs. [15] The group's political associations in the era of the Red Scare forced them to break up in 1952 they re-formed in 1955 with a series of successful concerts and album recordings on Vanguard Records. A fifth member, Erik Darling, sometimes sat in with the group when Seeger was unavailable and ultimately replaced Seeger in the Weavers when the latter resigned from the quartet in a dispute about its commercialism in general and its specific agreement to record a cigarette commercial. [16] , [7] pop singer, activist. In 1952, he signed a contract with RCA Victor. His breakthrough album Calypso (1956) was the first LP to sell over a million copies. The album spent 31 weeks at number one on the US charts. It introduced American audiences to pop Calypso music and Belafonte was dubbed the "King of Calypso." Belafonte went on to record in many genres, including pop Calypso, American folk, gospel, and more.
    – In 1959, Belafonte starred in Tonight With Belafonte a nationally televised special that introduced Odetta in her debut to a prime time audience. She sang Water Boy and performed a duet with Belafonte of There's a Hole in My Bucket that hit the national charts in 1961. [17] In 1953 singers Odetta and Larry Mohr recorded an LP that was released in 1954 as Odetta and Larry, an album that was partially recorded live at San Francisco's Tin Angel bar. Odetta enjoyed a long and respected career with a repertoire of traditional songs and blues until her death in 2009. [17] was formed in 1957 in the Palo Alto, California area by Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds, and Dave Guard, who were just out of college. They were greatly influenced by the Weavers, the calypso sounds of Belafonte, and other semi-pop folk artists such as the Gateway Singers[7] and the Tarriers. The unprecedented popularity and album sales of this group from 1957 to 1963 (including fourteen top ten and five number one LPs on the Billboard charts [18] ) was a significant factor in creating a commercial and mainstream audience for folk-styled music where little had existed prior to their emergence. [19] The Kingston Trio's success was followed by other highly successful pop-folk acts, such as the Limeliters.
    are an American folk music group, formed in July 1959 by Lou Gottlieb (bass), Alex Hassilev (baritone), and Glenn Yarbrough (tenor). [20] The group was active from 1959 until 1965, when they disbanded. After a hiatus of sixteen years Yarbrough, Hassilev, and Gottlieb reunited and began performing as the Limeliters again. ’s career began in 1958 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where at 17 she gave her first coffee-house concert. She was invited to perform at the premiere Newport Folk Festival in 1959 by pop folk star Bob Gibson, [20] after which Baez was sometimes called "the barefootMadonna", gaining renown for her clear voice and three-octave range. She recorded her first album for a Vanguard Records the following year – a collection of laments and traditional folk ballads from the British Isles, accompanying the songs with guitar. Her second LP release went gold, as did her next (live) albums. One record featured her rendition of a song by the then-unknown Bob Dylan. In the early 1960s, Baez moved into the forefront of the American folk-music revival. Increasingly, her personal convictions – peace, social justice, anti-poverty – were reflected in the topical songs that made up a growing portion of her repertoire, to the point that Baez became a symbol for these particular concerns. began in 1959 and emerged in the early 1960s. The group performed a mix of creatively arranged traditional songs and contemporary numbers that frequently included satiric and political overtones. were an early 1960s "collegiate folk" group that originated at Wesleyan University and had a Billboard number-one hit in 1961 with "Michael", a version of the African-American spiritualMichael, Row the Boat Ashore, and another Top 20 hit in 1962 with "Cottonfields". "Michael" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold record. [21][22] are a folk music group founded by Randy Sparks in 1961. [23] They recorded over 20 albums and had several hits, including "Green, Green", "Saturday Night", "Today", "Denver", and "This Land Is Your Land". Their 1962 debut album, Presenting The New Christy Minstrels won a Grammy Award and sat in the Billboard charts for two years. [24] were an American progressive folk singing trio in the early 1960s, best known for the hit record "Walk Right In".
  • The Serendipity Singers was a nine-member group that started at the University of Colorado and became known nationally in 1964 for a heavily pop-inflected approach to folk music. often performed and sometimes toured with Joan Baez, starting when she was a singer of mostly traditional songs. As Baez adopted some of Dylan's songs into her repertoire and even introduced Dylan to her avid audiences, a large following on the folk circuit, it helped the young songwriter to gain initial recognition. By the time Dylan recorded his first LP (1962) he had developed a style reminiscent of Woody Guthrie. [25] He began to write songs that captured the "progressive" mood on the college campuses and in the coffee houses. Though by 1964 there were many new guitar-playing singer/songwriters, it is arguable that Dylan eventually became the most popular of these younger folk-music-revival performers. debuted in the early 1960s and were an American trio who ultimately became one of the biggest musical acts of the 1960s. The trio was composed of Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers. They were one of the main folk music torchbearers of social commentary music in the 1960s. [20] As the decade passed, their music incorporated more elements of pop and rock. debuted in the early 1960s. At first, she sang traditional folk songs or songs written by others – in particular the protest songwriters of the time, such as Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, and Bob Dylan. She also recorded her own versions of important songs from the period, such as Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man", Pete Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn" and Eric Andersen's "Thirsty Boots". , an Australian folk and pop music group, were formed in 1962. They moved to the UK in 1963 and blended traditional music, contemporary folk music and pop. The Seekers enjoyed great popularity in the English-speaking world with hit songs like "I Know I'll Never Find Another You", "A World Of Our Own," and "Georgy Girl".
  • Canada's duo of Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker, performing as Ian & Sylvia, released their first album in 1963. The duo featured a creative mix of traditional American and Canadian folk songs in both English and French as well as contemporary singer-songwriter compositions by Dylan and Paxton, and numbers that they themselves composed like "Four Strong Winds" and "Someday Soon" by Tyson and "You Were On My Mind" by Fricker. , Neil Young started his career in 1960s. Along with Dewey Martin, they formed Buffalo Springfield. A mixture of folk, country, psychedelia, and rock, lent a hard edge by the twin lead guitars of Stills and Young, made Buffalo Springfield a critical success, and their first record Buffalo Springfield (1966) sold well after Stills' topical song "For What It's Worth" became a hit, aided by Young's melodic harmonics played on electric guitar.

The mid-1960s through the early 1970s Edit

The large musical, political, lifestyle, and counterculture changes most associated with "the 60s" occurred during the second half of the decade and the first year or two of the 1970s. Folk music underwent a related rapid evolution, expansion and diversification at that same time. Major changes occurred through the evolution of established performers such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, the Seekers and Peter Paul and Mary, and also through the creation of new fusion genres with rock and pop. Much of this evolution began in the early 1960s and emerged into prominence in the mid and late 1960s. One performance "crucible" for this evolution was Greenwich Village New York. Dylan's use of electric instruments helped inaugurate the genres of folk rock and country rock, particularly by his album John Wesley Harding. [26] [27]

These changes represented a further departure from traditional folk music. The Byrds with hits such as Seeger's "Turn! Turn! Turn!" were emblematic of a new term folk rock. Barry McGuire left the New Christy Minstrels and recorded "Eve of Destruction" in 1965. [28] Other performers such as Simon & Garfunkel and the Mamas & the Papas created new, hard-to-classify music that was folk-inflected and often included in discussions of folk rock. [26] [29]

During this period, the term "protest music" was often used to characterize folk music with topical political themes. The convergence of the civil rights movement and folk music on the college campus led to the popularity of artists like Bob Dylan and his brand of protest music. [30] As Folk singers and songwriters such as Phil Ochs, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Arlo Guthrie and Tom Paxton followed in Woody Guthrie's footsteps, writing "protest music" and topical songs and expressing support for various causes including the American Civil Rights Movement and anti-war causes associated with the Vietnam War. [31] Songs like Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" became an anthem for the civil rights movement, and he sang ballads about many other current issues of the time, such as "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" about the Cuban missile crisis. Dylan is quoted having said "there's other things in this world besides love and sex that're important, too." [30] A number of performers who had begun their careers singing largely traditional material, as typified by Joan Baez and Judy Collins, began to write their own material.

The Canadian performers Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Cockburn and Joni Mitchell represented such fusions and enjoyed great popularity in the U.S. all four were eventually invested with the Order of Canada. Many of the acid rock bands of San Francisco began by playing acoustic folk and blues. The Smothers Brothers television shows featured many folk performers, including the formerly blacklisted Pete Seeger. [32]

Bonnie Koloc is a Chicago-based American folk music singer-songwriter who made her recording debut in 1971. In 1968 Melanie, released her first album in 1968 with several popular songs with a folk/pop blend.

The mid to late Sixties saw the development of British folk rock, with a focus on indigenous (European, and, emblematically, English) songs. A key British folk rock moment was the release of Fairport Convention's album Liege and Lief. Guitarist Richard Thompson declared that the music of the band demanded a corresponding "English Electric" style, while bassist Ashley Hutchings formed Steeleye Span to pursue a more traditional repertoire performed in the folk rock style. Following his own departure from the group, Thompson and his wife Linda released six albums as a duo which integrated folk rock and art rock. Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Alan Stivell and Mr. Fox's work included lectrification of traditional musical forms.

Starting in the 1970s, folk music was fueled by new singer-songwriters such as Steve Goodman, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, John Denver, Harry Chapin, and many more. In the British Isles, the Pogues in the early 1980s and Ireland's the Corrs in the 1990s brought traditional tunes back into the album charts. The Corrs were active from 1990 to 2006 and performed Celtic and pop music, and created a blend of the two. Carrie Newcomer emerged with Stone Soup in 1984 and has been performing individually since 1991. Brandi Carlile and Patty Griffin are prominent folk artists circa 2019.

In the 1980s, the Washington Squares played "throwback" folk music. Suzanne Vega performed folk and protest folk-oriented music. [33] The Knitters promulgated cowpunk or folk punk, which eventually evolved into alt country. More recently the same spirit has been embraced and expanded on by artists such as Miranda Stone and Steve Earle.

In the second half of the 1990s, once more, folk music made an impact on the mainstream music via a younger generation of artists such as Eliza Carthy, Kate Rusby and Spiers and Boden. Canada's biggest-selling folk group of the 1990s and 2000s was the Celtic, rock-tinged Great Big Sea from Newfoundland, who have had four albums certified platinum in Canada.

Folk metal bands such as Korpiklaani, Skyclad, Waylander, Ensiferum, Ithilien and Finntroll meld elements from a wide variety of traditions, including in many cases instruments such as fiddles, tin whistles, accordions and bagpipes. Folk metal often favours pagan-inspired themes.

Viking metal is defined in its folk stance, incorporating folk interludes into albums (e.g., Bergtatt and Kveldssanger, the first two albums by once-folk metal, now-experimental band Ulver). Mumford & Sons a folk rock and indie folk band was formed in 2007 and achieved prominence in 2010. Shenandoah Run formed in 2011 to bring contemporary American folk music of the 1960s to modern listeners. [34]

Specialty subgenres Edit

Filk music can be considered folk music stylistically and culturally (though the 'community' it arose from, science fiction fandom, is an unusual and thoroughly modern one). [35] Neofolk began in the 1980s, fusing traditional European folk music with post-industrial music, historical topics, philosophical commentary, traditional songs and paganism. The genre is largely European but it also influences other regions. Pagan Folk music is prominent in Germany, the United Kingdom, Scandinavian countries and Slavic countries with singers like David Smith (Aka Damh the bard) and Bands like Danheim, Faun, Omnia, Wardruna and Arkona. Most bands join the folk genre with other musical genres like metal or electronica. [36]

Anti folk began in New York City in the 1980s. Folk punk, known in its early days as rogue folk, is a fusion of folk music and punk rock. It was pioneered by the London-based Irish band the Pogues in the 1980s. Industrial folk music is a characterization of folk music normally referred to under other genres, and covers music of or about industrial environments and topics, including related protest music.

Electronic folk music Edit

Music mixing elements of folk and electronic music, or "folktronica", [37] (or "ethnic electronica") that features uses of acoustic instruments with variable influences and choice of sounds. [37] [38] [ verification needed ] The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Musicology describes folktronica as "a catch-all [term] for all manner of artists who have combined mechanical dance beats with elements of acoustic rock or folk." [39]

The 1993 album Every Man and Woman is a Star by Ultramarine is credited as a progenitor of the new music it featured a pastoral sound and incorporated traditional instruments such as violin and harmonica with techno and house elements. [40] According to The Sunday Times Culture's Encyclopedia of Modern Music, essential albums of the genre are Four Tet's Pause (2001), Tunng's Mother's Daughter and Other Songs (2005), and Caribou's The Milk of Human Kindness (2005). [41]

More "worldbeat" influenced electronic folk acts include Bryn Jones with his project Muslimgauze (before his death in 1999), the artists of Asian underground movement (Cheb i Sabbah, Asian Dub Foundation, Joi, State of Bengal, Transglobal Underground, Natacha Atlas), Shpongle, Home Sweet Somewhere, Mavka (Ukrainian group), Ott, Zavoloka, Linda George, Banco de Gaia, AeTopus, Zingaia, Afro-Celt Sound System, Métisse, A Tribe Called Red, early work by Yat-Kha (with Ivan Sokolovsky [42] ).

Country folk Edit

Country folk as a genre label is a rather nebulous one, but one that has been employed often at least since the mid-1970s. For dedicated enthusiasts, the category largely includes the works of contemplative post-Dylan singer-songwriters, who were influenced by his and other late 1960s' and 1970s' artists' country rock sounds, but who, recording slightly later, preferred a gentler, more acoustic-dominant sound that allowed focus on the lyrics. The significant element that distinguishes "country folk" from the "folk" music on Dylan's contemporaries' recordings in the 1960s was the re-admission of country and bluegrass music instrumentation—mandolin, banjo, fiddle, and resophonic and electric steel guitars—into the mix country rock's success with urban audiences had paved the way for this hybrid. For aficionados, viewing country folk as a subgenre of country is inaccurate, as it is not aimed at a country music audience, in the main.

Some of the definitive country folk artists from the early years include John Prine, Kate Wolf, and Nanci Griffith—all singer-songwriters with thoughtful lyrics whose arrangements are backed by the aforementioned instruments. By the 1980s, record labels such as Rounder and Sugar Hill specialized in recording country folk artists

The category does overlap with the post-country rock trajectories of other artists who moved away from the mainstream market as country rock's own fortunes waned at the close of the 1970s. Emmylou Harris moved into neo-traditionalist country, Chris Hillman into progressive bluegrass, brother harmony duo (with Herb Pedersen), and Bakersfield revival. By the start of the 1990s, these sounds, as well as others, would inspire musical amalgams categorized as alternative country music and americana, yet "country folk" continues to be used for the gentler sounds of singers such as Iris DeMent and Gillian Welch.

Even during the 1970s, as the acoustic, early country music-inflected sounds of country folk were making it distinct from other styles of post-1960s singer-songwriter music, it had varying degrees of overlaps with the sounds of progressive country music (such as Kris Kristofferson, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark), outlaw country (Billy Joe Shaver, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash), progressive bluegrass (Tony Rice albums Cold on the Shoulder and Native American), and other country rock inflected recordings (Tom Rush's Tom Rush and Merrimack County and Gordon Lightfoot and Jimmy Buffett's 1970s catalog). None of these were specifically marketed or received as "country folk," however. Still, later low-key, acoustic-dominant country-inflected recordings by these and many other earlier artists have at times loosely, but not inaccurately, been defined as country folk by some sources.

More recently, the majority of artists whose music could be classified as country folk find their home in the americana genre, including Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, Parker Millsap, Patty Griffin and Amanda Shires, with several artists being interchangeably described as both folk and americana artists, most notably Sarah Jarosz who has received Grammy Awards in both genre categories.

In Europe, the term "folk" is used just for a special modern genre (the traditional folk is called folklore or national music).

The Czech folk music is influenced by Czech traditional music an songwriters, "tramping" music, as well as by English-language country and contemporary-folk music, spirituals and traditionals, bluegrass, chanson etc. In the second half of the 20th century, all the similar genres coexisted as a protest multigenre, in contrast to the official pop music, to the rock music etc. Since 1967, the "Porta" festival became the centre of this genre, originally defined as a festival of country & western & tramping music. Acoustic guitars were the most typical instrument for them all.


Early years Edit

The folk revival in New York City was rooted in the resurgent interest in square dancing and folk dancing there in the 1940s as espoused by instructors such as Margot Mayo, which gave musicians such as Pete Seeger popular exposure. [2] [3] [4] The folk revival more generally as a popular and commercial phenomenon begins with the career of The Weavers, formed in November 1948 by Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Ronnie Gilbert of People's Songs, of which Seeger had been president and Hays executive secretary. People's Songs, which disbanded in 1948–49, had been a clearing house for labor movement songs (and in particular, the CIO, which at the time was one of the few if not the only union that was racially integrated), and in 1948 had thrown all its resources to the failed presidential campaign of Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace, a folk-music aficionado (his running mate was a country-music singer-guitarist). Hays and Seeger had formerly sung together as the politically activist Almanac Singers, a group which they founded in 1941 and whose personnel often included Woody Guthrie, Josh White, Lead Belly, Cisco Houston, and Bess Lomax Hawes. The Weavers had a big hit in 1950 with the single of Lead Belly's "Goodnight, Irene". This was number one on the Billboard charts for thirteen weeks. [5] On its flip side was "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena", an Israeli dance song that concurrently reached number two on the charts. This was followed by a string of Weaver hit singles that sold millions, including ""So Long It's Been Good to Know You" ("Dusty Old Dust") (by Woody Guthrie) and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine". The Weavers' career ended abruptly when they were dropped from Decca's catalog because Pete Seeger had been listed in the publication Red Channels as a probable subversive. Radio stations refused to play their records and concert venues canceled their engagements. A former employee of People's Songs, Harvey Matusow, himself a former Communist Party member, had informed the FBI that the Weavers were Communists, too, although Matusow later recanted and admitted he had lied. Pete Seeger and Lee Hays were called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955. Despite this, a Christmas Weaver reunion concert organized by Harold Leventhal in 1955 was a smash success and the Vanguard LP album of that concert, issued in 1957, was one of the top sellers of that year, followed by other successful albums.

Folk music, which often carried the stigma of left-wing associations during the 1950s Red Scare, was driven underground and carried along by a handful of artists releasing records. Barred from mainstream outlets, artists like Seeger were restricted to performing in schools and summer camps, and the folk-music scene became a phenomenon associated with vaguely rebellious bohemianism in places like New York (especially Greenwich Village), North Beach, and in the college and university districts of cities like Chicago, Boston, Denver, and elsewhere.

Ron Eyerman and Scott Baretta speculate that:

[I]t is interesting to consider that had it not been for the explicit political sympathies of the Weavers and other folk singers or, another way of looking at it, the hysterical anti-communism of the Cold War, folk music would very likely have entered mainstream American culture in even greater force in the early 1950s, perhaps making the second wave of the revival nearly a decade later [i.e., in the 1960s] redundant. [6]

The media blackout of performers with alleged communist sympathies or ties was so effective that Israel Young, a chronicler of the 60s Folk Revival, and was drawn into the movement through an interest in folk dancing, communicated to Ron Eyerman that he himself was unaware for many years of the movement's 1930s and early '40s antecedents in left-wing political activism. [7]

In the early and mid-1950s, acoustic-guitar-accompanied folk songs were mostly heard in coffee houses, private parties, open-air concerts, and sing-alongs, hootenannies, and at college-campus concerts. Often associated with political dissent, folk music now blended, to some degree, with the so-called beatnik scene and dedicated singers of folk songs (as well as folk-influenced original material) traveled through what was called "the coffee-house circuit" across the U.S. and Canada, home also to cool jazz and recitations of highly personal beatnik poetry. Two singers of the 1950s who sang folk material but crossed over into the mainstream were Odetta and Harry Belafonte, both of whom sang Lead Belly and Josh White material. Odetta, who had trained as an opera singer, performed traditional blues, spirituals, and songs by Lead Belly. Belafonte had hits with Jamaican calypso material as well as the folk song-like sentimental ballad "Scarlet Ribbons" (composed in 1949).

The revival at its height Edit

The Kingston Trio, a group originating on the West Coast, were directly inspired by the Weavers in their style and presentation and covered some of the Weavers' material, which was predominantly traditional. The Kingston Trio avoided overtly political or protest songs and cultivated a clean-cut, collegiate persona. They were discovered while playing at a college club called the Cracked Pot by Frank Werber, who became their manager and secured them a deal with Capitol Records. Their first hit was a catchy rendition of an old-time folk murder ballad, "Tom Dooley", which had been sung at Lead Belly's funeral concert. This went gold in 1958 and sold more than three million copies. The success of the album and the single earned the Kingston Trio a Grammy award for Best Country & Western Performance at the awards' inaugural ceremony in 1959. At the time, no folk-music category existed in the Grammy's scheme. The next year, largely as a result of The Kingston Trio album and "Tom Dooley", [8] the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences instituted a folk category and the Trio won the first Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording for its second studio album At Large. At one point, The Kingston Trio had four records at the same time among the top 10 selling albums for five consecutive weeks in November and December 1959 according to Billboard magazine's "Top LPs" chart, a record unmatched for more than 50 years [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] and noted at the time by a cover story in Life magazine. The huge commercial success of the Kingston Trio, whose recordings between 1958 and 1961 earned more than $25 million for Capitol records [15] or about $220 million in 2021 dollars, [16] spawned a host of groups that were similar in some respects like the Brothers Four, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Limeliters, The Chad Mitchell Trio, The New Christy Minstrels, and more. As noted by critic Bruce Eder in the All Music Guide, the popularity of the commercialized version of folk music represented by these groups emboldened record companies to sign, record, and promote artists with more traditionalist and political sensibilities. [17]

The Kingston Trio's popularity would be followed by that of Joan Baez, whose debut album Joan Baez, reached the top ten in late 1960 and remained on the Billboard charts for over two years. Baez's early albums contained mostly traditional material such as the Scottish ballad, "Mary Hamilton", as well as many covers of melancholy ballads that had appeared in Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, such as "The Wagoner's Lad" and "The Butcher Boy". She did not try to imitate the singing style of her source material, however, but used a rich soprano with vibrato. Her popularity (and that of the folk revival itself) would place Baez on the cover of Time magazine in November 1962. Baez, unlike the Kingston Trio, was openly political, and, as the civil rights movement gathered steam, aligned herself with Pete Seeger, Guthrie and others. She was one of the singers, along with Seeger, Josh White, Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan, who appeared at Martin Luther King's 1963 March on Washington and sang "We Shall Overcome", a song that had been introduced by People's Songs. Harry Belafonte was also present on that occasion, along with Odetta, whom Martin Luther King introduced as "the queen of folk music", when she sang "Oh, Freedom" (Odetta Sings Folk Songs was one of 1963's best-selling folk albums). Also on hand were the SNCC Freedom Singers, the personnel of which went on to form Sweet Honey in the Rock.

The critical role played by Freedom Songs in the voter registration drives, freedom rides, and lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950s and early '60s in the South, gave folk music tremendous new visibility and prestige. [18] The peace movement was likewise energized by the rise of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK, protesting the British testing of the H-bomb in 1958, as well as by the ever-proliferating arms race and the increasingly unpopular Vietnam War. Young singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, playing acoustic guitar and harmonica, had been signed and recorded for Columbia by producer John Hammond in 1961. Dylan's record enjoyed some popularity among Greenwich Village folk-music enthusiasts, but he was "discovered" by an immensely larger audience when a pop-folk-music group, Peter, Paul & Mary had a hit with a cover of his song "Blowin' in the Wind". Peter, Paul & Mary also brought Pete Seeger and the Weavers' "If I Had a Hammer" to nationwide audiences, as well as covering songs by other artists such as Dylan and John Denver.

It was not long before the folk-music category came to include less traditional material and more personal and poetic creations by individual performers, who called themselves "singer-songwriters". As a result of the financial success of high-profile commercial folk artists, record companies began to produce and distribute records by a new generation of folk revival and singer-songwriters—Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Eric von Schmidt, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Dave Van Ronk, Judy Collins, Tom Rush, Fred Neil, Gordon Lightfoot, Billy Ed Wheeler, John Denver, Arlo Guthrie, Harry Chapin, John Hartford, and others, among them. Some of this wave had emerged from family singing and playing traditions, and some had not. These singers frequently prided themselves on performing traditional material in imitations of the style of the source singers whom they had discovered, frequently by listening to Harry Smith's celebrated LP compilation of forgotten or obscure commercial 78rpm "race" and "hillbilly" recordings of the 1920s and 30s, the Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music (1951). A number of the artists who had made these old recordings were still very much alive and had been "rediscovered" and brought to the 1963 and 64 Newport Folk Festivals. One of these, Clarence Ashley, for example, introduced folk revivalists to the music of friends of his who still actively played traditional music, such as Doc Watson and The Stanley Brothers.

Archivists, collectors, and re-issued recordings Edit

During the 1950s, the growing folk-music crowd that had developed in the United States began to buy records by older, traditional musicians from the Southeastern hill country and from urban inner-cities. New LP compilations of commercial 78-rpm race and hillbilly studio recordings stretching back to the 1920s and 1930s were published by major record labels. The expanding market in LP records increased the availability of folk-music field recordings originally made by John and Alan Lomax, Kenneth S. Goldstein, and other collectors during the New Deal era of the 1930s and 40s. Small record labels, such as Yazoo Records, grew up to distribute reissued older recordings and to make new recordings of the survivors among these artists. This was how many urban white American audiences of the 1950s and 60s first heard country blues and especially Delta blues that had been recorded by Mississippi folk artists 30 or 40 years before.

In 1952, Folkways Records released the Anthology of American Folk Music, compiled by anthropologist and experimental film maker Harry Smith. The Anthology featured 84 songs by traditional country and blues artists, initially recorded between 1927 and 1932, and was credited with making a large amount of pre-War material accessible to younger musicians. (The Anthology was re-released on CD in 1997, and Smith was belatedly presented with a Grammy Award for his achievement in 1991.) [19]

Artists like the Carter Family, Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Clarence Ashley, Buell Kazee, Uncle Dave Macon, Mississippi John Hurt, and the Stanley Brothers, as well as Jimmie Rodgers, the Reverend Gary Davis, and Bill Monroe came to have something more than a regional or ethnic reputation. The revival turned up a tremendous wealth and diversity of music and put it out through radio shows and record stores.

Living representatives of some of the varied regional and ethnic traditions, including younger performers like Southern-traditional singer Jean Ritchie, who had first begun recording in the 1940s, also enjoyed a resurgence of popularity through enthusiasts' widening discovery of this music and appeared regularly at folk festivals.

Ethnic folk music Edit

Ethnic folk music from other countries also had a boom during the American folk revival. The most successful ethnic performers of the revival were the Greenwich Village folksingers, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, whom Billboard magazine listed as the eleventh best-selling folk musicians in the United States. [20] The group, which consisted of Paddy Clancy, Tom Clancy, Liam Clancy, and Tommy Makem, predominantly sang English-language, Irish folk songs, as well as an occasional song in Irish Gaelic. Paddy Clancy also started and ran the folk-music label Tradition Records, which produced Odetta's first solo LP and initially brought Carolyn Hester to national prominence. [21] Pete Seeger played the banjo on their Grammy-nominated 1961 album, A Spontaneous Performance Recording, [22] [23] and Bob Dylan later cited the group as a major influence on him. [24] The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem also sparked a folk-music boom in Ireland in the mid-1960s, illustrating the world-wide effects of the American folk-music revival. [25] [26] [27] [28] [29]

Books such as the popular best seller, the Fireside Book of Folk Songs (1947), which contributed to the folk song revival, featured some material in languages other than English, including German, Spanish, Italian, French, Yiddish, and Russian. The repertoires of Theodore Bikel, Marais and Miranda, and Martha Schlamme also included Hebrew and Jewish material, as well as Afrikaans. The Weavers' first big hit, the flipside of Lead Belly's "Good Night Irene", and a top seller in its own right, was in Hebrew ("Tzena, Tzena, Tzena") and they, and later Joan Baez, who was of Spanish descent, occasionally included Spanish-language material in their repertoires, as well as songs from Africa, India, and elsewhere.

The commercially oriented folk-music revival as it existed in coffee houses, concert halls, radio, and TV was predominantly an English-language phenomenon, though many of the major pop-folk groups, such as the Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Chad Mitchell Trio, The Limeliters, The Brothers Four, The Highwaymen, and others, featured songs in Spanish (often from Mexico), Polynesian languages, Russian, French, and other languages in their recordings and performances. These groups also sang many English-language songs of foreign origin.

Rock subsumes folk Edit

The British Invasion of the mid-1960s helped bring an end to the mainstream popularity of American folk music as a wave of British bands overwhelmed most of the American music scene, including folk. Ironically, the roots of the British Invasion were in American folk, specifically a variant known as skiffle as popularized by Lonnie Donegan however, most of the British Invasion bands had been extensively influenced by rock and roll by the time their music had reached the United States and bore little resemblance to its folk origins.

After Bob Dylan began to record with a rocking rhythm section and electric instruments in 1965 (see Electric Dylan controversy), many other still-young folk artists followed suit. Meanwhile, bands like The Lovin' Spoonful and the Byrds, whose individual members often had a background in the folk-revival coffee-house scene, were getting recording contracts with folk-tinged music played with a rock-band line-up. Before long, the public appetite for the more acoustic music of the folk revival began to wane.

"Crossover" hits ("folk songs" that became rock-music-scene staples) happened now and again. One well-known example is the song "Hey Joe", copyrighted by folk artist Billy Roberts, and recorded by rock singer/guitarist Jimi Hendrix just as he was about to burst into stardom in 1967. The anthem "Woodstock", which was written and first sung by Joni Mitchell while her records were still nearly entirely acoustic and while she was labeled a "folk singer", became a hit single for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young when the group recorded a full-on rock version.

Legacy Edit

By the late 1960s, the scene had returned to being more of a lower-key, aficionado phenomenon, although sizable annual acoustic-music festivals were established in many parts of North America during this period. The acoustic music coffee-house scene survived at a reduced scale. Through the luminary young singer-songwriters of the 1960s, the American folk-music revival has influenced songwriting and musical styles throughout the world.

Bob Shane, Last of the Original Kingston Trio, Dies at 85

The group spearheaded a commercially successful folk revival in the late 1950s and early ’60s, with Mr. Shane singing lead most of the time.

Bob Shane, the last surviving original member of the Kingston Trio, whose smooth close harmonies helped transform folk music from a dusty niche genre into a dominant brand of pop music in the 1950s and ’60s, died on Sunday in Phoenix. He was 85.

Craig Hankenson, his longtime agent, confirmed the death, in a hospice facility.

Mr. Shane, whose whiskey baritone was the group’s most identifiable voice on hits like “Tom Dooley” and “Scotch and Soda,” sang lead on more than 80 percent of the Kingston Trio’s songs.

He didn’t just outlast the other original members, Dave Guard, who died in 1991, and Nick Reynolds, who died in 2008 he also eventually took ownership of the group’s name and devoted his life to various incarnations of the trio, from its founding in 1957 to 2004, when a heart attack forced him to stop touring.

Along the way, the trio spearheaded a reinvention of folk as a youthful mass-media phenomenon at its peak, in 1959, the group put four albums in the Top 10 at the same time. Touring into the 21st century, the Kingston Trio remained a nostalgic presence for its fans, drawing many to its annual Trio Fantasy Camp in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Mr. Shane was born Robert Castle Schoen on Feb. 1, 1934, in Hilo, Hawaii, to Arthur Castle Schoen and Margaret (Schaufelberger) Schoen. His father, whose German ancestors had settled in Hawaii in the 1890s, was a successful wholesale distributor of toys and sporting goods. His mother, from Salt Lake City, met her future husband when both were students at Stanford University in the 1920s.

In Hilo, Mr. Shane’s father had planned for Bob to take over the family business. But at the private Punahou School in Honolulu, Bob learned the ukulele and songs of the Polynesian Islands and met Mr. Guard, with whom he formed a duet.

After high school, Mr. Shane, Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Guard occasionally played together while attending college in Northern California — Mr. Shane and Mr. Reynolds at Menlo College, and Mr. Guard nearby at Stanford.

After graduating in 1956, Mr. Shane returned to Hawaii to learn the family business, but he found himself more drawn to music. As he told it, he performed as “the first-ever Elvis impersonator” and counted Hawaiian music, Hank Williams, Harry Belafonte and the Weavers among his influences.

A year later, when Mr. Guard and Mr. Reynolds decided to make a go of a professional music career, Mr. Shane joined them and returned to California, where the Kingston Trio was born, in 1957. The name, a reference to Kingston, Jamaica, was meant to evoke calypso music, which was popular then. The members exuded a youthful, clean-cut collegiate style, exemplified by their signature look: colorful, vertically striped Oxford shirts.

A year after that, the trio’s first album, on Capitol Records, included a jaunty version of a ballad based on the 1866 murder of a North Carolina woman and the hanging of a poor former Confederate soldier for the crime. The song, “Tom Dooley,” rose to No. 1 on the singles charts, selling three million copies and earning the trio a Grammy Award for best country and western performance. (There was no Grammy category for folk at the time.)

From its founding to 1965, the group had 14 albums in Billboard’s Top 10, five of which reached No. 1. It inspired scores of imitators and, for a time, was probably the most popular music group in the world. John Stewart replaced Mr. Guard in 1961. (Mr. Stewart died in 2008.)

The Kingston Trio’s critical reception did not match its popular success. To many folk purists, the trio was selling a watered-down mix of folk and pop that commercialized the authentic folk music of countless unknown Appalachian pickers. And mindful of the way that folk musicians like Pete Seeger had been blacklisted during the McCarthy era, others complained that the trio’s upbeat, anodyne brand of folk betrayed the leftist, populist music of pioneers like Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston.

Members of the trio said they had consciously steered clear of political material as a way to maintain mainstream acceptance. Besides, Mr. Shane said, the folk purists were using the wrong yardstick.

“To call the Kingston Trio folk singers was kind of stupid in the first place,” he said. “We never called ourselves folk singers.” He added, “We did folk-oriented material, but we did it amid all kinds of other stuff.”

Indeed, some of Mr. Shane’s finest moments, like the smoky cocktail-hour ballad “Scotch and Soda,” had nothing to do with folk. In 1961, Ervin Drake wrote “It Was a Very Good Year” for Mr. Shane. He sang it with the trio long before Frank Sinatra made it one of his classic recordings.

Still, more than any group of its time, the Kingston Trio captured the youthful optimism of the Kennedy years. The title song of a 1962 album was “The New Frontier,” echoing President John F. Kennedy’s own phrase and alluding to his inaugural address with the lyrics “Let the word go forth from this day on/A new generation has been born.”

About the same time, the trio had an unlikely hit with the kind of material it had avoided: Mr. Seeger’s antiwar song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”

But by then the trio was on the verge of being supplanted as the face of folk by a new generation of harder-edged singers like Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Joan Baez, and by hipper ones like Peter, Paul and Mary. Then the coming of the British invasion and the rise of rock utterly marginalized the group.

Over time, others, including Mr. Dylan and Ms. Baez, have given the group more credit for popularizing folk music and for serving as a bridge to the more adventurous folk, folk-rock and rock of the 1960s.

As Ms. Baez wrote in her memoir “And a Voice to Sing With” (1987): “Before I turned into a snob and learned to look down upon all commercial folk music as bastardized and unholy, I loved the Kingston Trio. When I became one of the leading practitioners of ‘pure folk,’ I still loved them.”

Mr. Shane’s admirers said his talents were never fully recognized.

“Bob Shane was, in my opinion, one of the most underrated singers in American musical history,” George Grove, a trio member since 1976, said in an email in 2015. “His voice was the voice, not only of the Kingston Trio but of an era of musical story telling.”

The group disbanded in 1967, but after a brief stint as a solo artist Mr. Shane returned, first with what was billed as the New Kingston Trio, then with various Kingston Trio lineups.

Mr. Shane, even by the group’s wholesome standards, stood out and was billed, half seriously, as the trio’s sex symbol. Over the years his hair went from frat-boy neat to a snowy mane, but he remained congenitally upbeat, like a gambler accustomed to drawing winning hands.

After retiring, Mr. Shane lived in Phoenix in a home full of gold records and Kingston Trio memorabilia. Fond of cars and dirt bikes, he also collected Martin guitars and art.

He is survived by his wife, Bobbi (Childress) Shane five children from an earlier marriage, to Louise Brandon: Jody Shane Beale, Susan Shane Gleeson, Inman Brandon Shane, Robin Castle Shane and Jason McCall Shane and eight grandchildren.

“The thing I’m most proud of next to my kids is that I have played live to over 10,000,000 people,” he said on the group’s website.

Even after his retirement, he still found ways to perform.

“Occasionally someone will call me and ask me to go onstage, and I pack a couple of oxygen tanks and go,” he said in a 2011 interview. “I always tell people I intend to live forever. So far, so good.”

Dave Van Ronk

Dave Van Ronk was one of the most important figures in the Greenwich Village folk-music scene of the 1960s. He was an activist and a songwriter, a Merchant Marine, and a former member of a barbershop quartet. But, it was his involvement in the scene that put him on the map literally, there's a street in the West Village of New York named after him.


In 1866, Laura Foster was murdered. Confederate veteran Tom Dula, Foster's lover and the father of her unborn child, was convicted of her murder and hanged May 1, 1868. Foster had been stabbed to death with a large knife, and the brutality of the attack partly accounted for the widespread publicity of the murder and subsequent trial received.

Anne Foster Melton, Laura's cousin, had been Dula's lover from the time he was twelve and until he left for the Civil War – even after Anne married an older man named James Melton. When Dula returned, he became a lover again to Anne, then Laura, then their cousin Pauline Foster. Pauline's comments led to the discovery of Laura's body and accusations against both Tom and Anne. Anne was subsequently acquitted in a separate trial, based on Dula's word that she had nothing to do with the killing. [7] Dula's enigmatic statement on the gallows that he had not harmed Foster but still deserved his punishment led to press speculation that Melton was the actual killer and that Dula simply covered for her. (Melton, who had once expressed jealousy of Dula's purported plans to marry Foster, died either in a carting accident or by going insane a few years after the homicide, depending on the version. [ citation needed ] )

Thanks to the efforts of newspapers such as The New York Times and to the fact that former North Carolina governor Zebulon Vance represented Dula pro bono, Dula's murder trial and hanging were given widespread national publicity. A local poet, Thomas C. Land, wrote a popular song about Dula's tragedy soon after Dula was hanged titled "Tom Dooley". Combined with the widespread publicity the trial received, Land's song further cemented Dula's place in North Carolina legend [2] [3] is still sung today throughout North Carolina. [ citation needed ]

A man named "Grayson", mentioned in the song as pivotal in Dula's downfall, has sometimes been characterized as a romantic rival of Dula's or a vengeful sheriff who captured him and presided over his hanging. Some variant lyrics of the song portray Grayson in that light, and the spoken introduction to the Kingston Trio version [6] did the same. Col. James Grayson was actually a Tennessee politician who had hired Dula on his farm when the young man fled North Carolina under suspicion and was using a false name. Grayson did help North Carolinians capture Dula and was involved in returning him to North Carolina but otherwise played no role in the case. [ citation needed ]

Dula was tried in Statesville because it was believed he could not get a fair trial in Wilkes County. He was given a new trial on appeal but he was again convicted and hanged on May 1, 1868. On the gallows, Dula reportedly stated, "Gentlemen, do you see this hand? I didn't harm a hair on the girl's head." [ citation needed ]

Dula's last name was pronounced "Dooley," leading to some confusion in spelling over the years. The pronunciation of a final "a" like "y" [ clarification needed ] is an old feature in Appalachian speech, as in the term "Grand Ole Opry". [ citation needed ] The confusion was compounded by the fact that Dr. Tom Dooley, an American physician known for international humanitarian work, was at the height of his fame in 1958 when the Kingston Trio version became a major hit. [ citation needed ]

Many renditions of the song have been recorded, most notably:

  • In 1929, G. B. Grayson and Henry Whitter made the first recorded version of Land's song by a group well known at the time, for Victor. [8][9][10][11] , Elektra, 1952. Warner, a folklorist, unaware of the 1929 recording, in 1940 took down the song from Frank Proffitt and passed it to Alan Lomax who published it in Folk Song: USA. [12]
  • On March 30, 1953, the CBS radio series Suspense broadcast a half-hour "Tom Dooley" drama loosely based on the song, which was sung during the program by actor Harry Dean Stanton. While not issued as a commercial recording, transcription discs of the broadcast eventually were digitized and circulated by old time radio collectors. [13] [better source needed]
  • The Folksay Trio, which featured Erik Darling, Bob Carey and Roger Sprung, issued the first post-1950 version of the song for American Folksay-Ballads and Dances, Vol. 2 on the Stinson label in 1953. Their version was noteworthy for including a pause in the line "Hang down your head Tom. Dooley". The group reformed in 1956 as The Tarriers, featuring Darling, Carey and Alan Arkin, and released another version of "Tom Dooley" for The Tarriers on the Glory label in 1957. [14]
    recorded the most popular version of the song in 1958 for Capitol. This recording sold in excess of six million copies, topping the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and is often credited with starting the "folk music boom" of the late 1950s and 1960s. [6] It only had three verses (and the chorus four times). This recording of the song has been inducted into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress [15] and been honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. [16] The Grammy Foundation named it one of the Songs of the Century. [8] and Crazy Horse recorded an eight-minute version on their 2012 album Americana, on which they retitled the song to the proper spelling "Tom Dula" and pronounced it in such a way as to make it a political statement against former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. [citation needed]

Other artists that have recorded versions of the song include Paul Clayton, Line Renaud, Bing Crosby, Jack Narz, Steve Earle and the Grateful Dead.

Parodies Edit

"Tom Dooley" prompted a number of parodies, either as part of other songs or as entire songs. For example:

    used this song and Worried Man Blues to make fun of The Kingston Trio in their song More Money For You and Me. drops an altered line from the song into a recording of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
  • The Incredible Bongo Band recorded the song "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley, Your Tie's Caught In Your Zipper" (1972). did a version on their album "The Songs and Comedy of the Smothers Brothers! Recorded at the Purple Onion, San Francisco" where they referenced the lawsuit against The Kingston Trio by claiming that Dickie Smothers had written it, and The Kingston Trio had stolen it. used this song to make fun of Tom Daschle on their 2003 album Between Iraq and a Hard Place[17]

For Capitol Records 45 rpm Release #F4049 By The Kingston Trio [18]

Chart (1958) Peak
Australian Singles Chart 1
Canadian Singles Chart 1
Norwegian Singles Chart 1
Italian Singles Chart 1
South African Charts 8
U.K. Singles Chart 5
US Billboard Hot 100 [19] 1
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B Sides [20] 9

All-time charts Edit

The third and final verse of Stonewall Jackson's crossover hit song Waterloo of 1958 referenced Tom Dooley with the lyrics "Now he swings where the little birdie sings, and that's where Tom Dooley met his Waterloo."

The Kingston Trio hit inspired the film, The Legend of Tom Dooley (1959), starring Michael Landon, co-starring Richard Rust. A Western set after the Civil War, it was not about traditional Tom Dula legends or the facts of the case, but a fictional treatment tailored to fit the lyrics of the song.

"Tom Dooley" is the name of a season 5 episode of Ally McBeal, in which John Cage sings a version of the song with his Mexican band.

The song was parodied in episode No. 702 of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Crow T. Robot, motivated by one actor's resemblance to Thomas Dewey, sang a version beginning "Hang down your head, Tom Dewey."

Glada Barn's version of Land's song closes Rectify season 2 episode "Mazel Tov". [22]

In the 1980 film Friday the 13th, the campers in the opening scene start to sing the song. The opening scene is set in 1958, the year the Kingston Trio version of the song debuted.

Watch the video: To Morrow The Kingston Trio with Lyrics