Folk Music Survives: The Kingston Trio Performs in Moore County
A stack of neglected treasures in the corner of a Raleigh thrift store hides a faded album.
Three guys with cheeky smiles, side-slicked hair and collared red shirts stride out of a linearly drawn San Francisco, holding two guitars and a banjo. "... from the 'Hungry i,'" the album title, is carved on top of the city; the vintage image and the record's music unmistakably originated in the 1950s.
The band is The Kingston Trio. Their hits, including "Tom Dooley," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" "Scotch and Soda" and "Greenback Dollar," that tell emotive stories and protest war and money addiction.
The Kingston Trio will be performing in concert Tuesday, July 5, at Owens Auditorium, on the campus of Sandhills Community College.
The original members, Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds and Dave Guard, merged together in 1957 with the same -ambitions of many young bands: Pick up chicks, have fun, and play music.
Bob Shane, the only surviving original member, claims that the guys considered themselves a calypso group, due to their beginnings on Shane's guitar, Reynolds' bongos and Guard's Hawaiian accent, which made them popular at parties.
The Kingston Trio played at colleges and local taverns; throngs of young students surrounding them on the roads, singing along with their message, as street preachers held court nearby.
Capitol Records, with whom they signed their first contract, labeled The Kingston Trio as folk artists, due to their instruments. The blending of the perceived genre with the marketed genre created an unforeseen bent in -traditional folk music, the beachy sound igniting and popularizing the genre's boom.
"Folk music founded an outlet through these three good-looking college guys in a commercial way that everyone enjoyed," says George Grove, one of the band's current members. "It did so in a way that was very encouraging to many a young man to pick up a guitar and impress a young lady. They put it together in a way that was palpable to everyone: college kids, young kids who wanted to be in college, and parents that saw it as safe because it was folk."
With a massive following, The Kingston Trio quickly claimed 25 percent of Capitol Records' sales. In December 1959, the trio boasted four albums at the same time in the Billboard's Top 10, an accomplishment unsurpassed by any band, even the coming Beatles.
Nick Reynolds rightly remembers "the Beatles [as] a freight train you just had to get out of the way of," as the British band began to eclipse the trio's fame.
The members of the trio began to exchange places in the band with outside commitments, health issues and new dreams until they temporarily -disbanded.
"That whole 'rock revolution' thing spread from San Francisco across the country, and took a lot of our audience with it," Bob Shane says. "But you know, folk is timeless, so you might as well keep it alive."
Since August 2005, The Kingston Trio has been reborn, with members George Grove, Bill Zorn and Rick Dougherty. Their website claims this assemblage to be "the most vocally complete group since the original days."
From Grove's perspective, "Bill Zorn is the only musician both instrumentally and vocally powerful enough to fill the iconic shoes of Bob Shane. Rick Dougherty has one of the most beautiful Irish tenor voices you've ever heard. I was raised musically; I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in music, and it all sort of pales for my love of the music of The Kingston Trio."
Their tours have been successful, mostly due to the hunger of their faithful audience for the exceptional band that survived an era of rock dominance.
"Like jazz and classical music, folk music is circular, the genre so ingrained in its country that it resonates with the soul," says Grove. "We feel that we are the curators of a museum. We feel this enormous responsibility to maintain musically and lovingly what Bob, Nick and Dave created."
Many in Moore County are excited about the band's stop here at Owens Auditorium, with shows at 2:30 and 7 p.m.
"After shows, I rush backstage to put down my instrument so that I can go out to the auditorium to meet the audience," says Grove. "When they see that we have as much fun as we do and present it as musical and powerfully as we do, they're satisfied. They've heard their old favorite, or they were sent back in time. Either way, their musical hopes were not dashed on the rocks."
For more information and to purchase tickets, call (910) 687-4746 or visit carolinaphil.org.
Kate Smith, a student at Sandhills Community College, is an intern at The Pilot.
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