The Kingston Trio came out of the club circuit in Los Angeles in the late 1950's where they had polished their stage act and garnered a contract with Capitol Records. They had adopted their name from the calypso sound that was popular in 1956 and 1957 -- specifically from "Jamaica Farewell" that had been popularized by Harry Belafonte. The founding membes of the group were Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds and Dave Guard. In 1958, the Trio hit it big with "Tom Dooley" -- a recording that seemed out of place in the rising tide of rock and roll. This was the year of Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers. The Kingston Trio focused their attention on the college campuses where the "coffee house" feel of their music found a receptive audience. Although "Tom Dooley" definitely had a "folk" basis, with its beginning narrative and banjo strumming, by the middle of the song it breaks out in a plaintive cry that is very much at home in rock and roll. Other folk groups, such as The Limelighters, The Chad Mitchel Trio, and The Brothers Four would soon become popular as well. The Trio would have a number of successful singles from 1959 to 1963, but would never approach another #1 recording. In fact Dave Guard left the group in 1961, and they had no top forty recordings until 1963 when the group re-emerged with a series of successes: "Greenback Dollar," "Reverend Mr. Black," and "Desert Pete." Shortly after that came the Beatles and the rest of the British invasion that left acts like the Trio out of the limelight. But the sound of folk music would continue to be part of popular music as Bob Dylan and The Byrds brought the electric guitar to folk music.
The Kingston Trio
"Tom Dooley" was one of the first 45's I owned and that would have been in 1958. By the time I purchased this LP, it was 1962 and all of the early Kingston Trio "hits" were on the album, along with several cuts from other albums. The Kingston Trio were different from most of the successful recording acts of the Elvis Era in that they were as well known for their albums as their singles -- they actually sold more albums than singles. I am sure that before purchasing "The Best of the Kingston Trio," I had not heard some of these "bests." I had heard "Everglades" as it was a popular single, but it never did crack the top 40 nationally. Of the "non-single" cuts on the album, I think my favorite is "Scotch & Soda" which is a ballad with minimal accompaniment -- an acoustic guitar. It was on the Trio's first LP, but wasn't released as a single until 1962 (after this album was produced).