The Kingston Trio emerged from San Francisco’s North Beach club scene to take the country by storm with the release of their first album in 1958 and its hit, “Tom Dooley,” which sold over three million copies as a single. “Tom Dooley” also spurred the debut album to a number one position on Billboard’s weekly reports, and it remained charted for 195 weeks. They won three Grammys, including the very first Country Music Award for Best Song (“Tom Dooley”), and one for lifetime achievement.
Just out of college when the group formed in 1957, original members Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds and Dave Guard took dormant folk music and gave it a comic twist irresistible to their audiences. Like the Beatles, who followed them, The Kingston Trio created a national audience for their new style of music, causing a ripple effect on the entire music industry.
The Kingston Trio was a major influence on American popular music in the mid-20th century. Along with The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra, the group is one of the four best-selling artists in the history of Capitol Records. They paved the way for bands like The Limeliters, The Brothers Four, The Chad Mitchell Trio, and The Smothers Brothers.
It was this folk revival that set the stage for Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Byrds, Peter, Paul & Mary, and the protest movement of the ‘60s.
The Trio enjoyed a run of unprecedented sales of 33⅓ rpm long-playing record albums (LPs) from the late ‘50s through the early ‘60s, influencing the musical tastes of a generation. They released 19 albums that made Billboard’s Top 100, 14 of which ranked in the top 10, and five of which hit the number one spot. Four of the group’s LPs charted among the 10 top-selling albums for five weeks in November and December 1959, a record unmatched for more than 50 years. The group still ranks after half a century in the all-time lists of many of Billboard’s cumulative charts, including those for most weeks with a number one album, most total weeks charting an album, most number one albums, most consecutive number one albums, and most top 10 albums.
The Kingston Trio has never stopped touring and performing since the original group disbanded in 1967 and founder Bob Shane continued on with the Trio utilizing several musicians. Bill Zorn started his association with the group in 1973, left and came back. George Grove joined in 1976. George and Bill performed and recorded with Bob Shane, and have worked alongside the other original members of the group, Nick Reynolds and Dave Guard, as well as Dave’s replacement, John Stewart. Rick Dougherty, whose stellar Irish tenor voice replaced Glenn Yarbrough in The Limeliters for 14 years, joined Bill and George in 2002.
This “Holiday Cheers” concert is the last recorded live performance of the George, Bill and Rick era. But, the legacy continues with new members. For additional information on The Kingston Trio, see the official website: www.kingstontrio.com.