The Kingston Trio is an American folk group, perhaps the single most prominent one.
They began playing in 1957 in the Palo Alto area with members Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds, and Dave Guard. Their first hit was a catchy rendition of an old-time folksong, Tom Dooley, which went gold in 1958.
Greatly influenced by the sound of The Weavers, the Kingston Trio was one of the first acts of the folk revival, and continued to play throughout the emergence of rock and roll music and other popular styles. "Tom Dooley" won them the first Grammy award for Best Country & Western Performance in 1959. The next year, they won the first Grammy award for Best Performance - Folk category for the album The Kingston Trio at Large.
They were enormously popular, particularly among the younger college-educated group -- at one point in the early 1960s the Trio had 4 different albums at the same time in the list of the top-10 selling albums, a record unmatched by any other artist in any field for nearly 40 years, although it has now finally been equalled by Garth Brooks.
In spite of their great popularity at the height of their success, they had a relatively small number of hit singles. This has been explained, perhaps facetiously, by their success with the college crowd: highly educated folk-music lovers, it is said, quickly learned that if they refrained from paying $0.99 for a single 45-rpm disc recorded by the Trio, that same song would turn up a few months later, along with 9 others, on a 33-rpm album that sold for $3.00. It made economic sense not to buy the single....
Over the more than forty years of its existence the group has undergone a number of lineup changes, with one constant: the presence of Bob Shane. In 1961, at the height of their popularity, Dave Guard left, to be replaced by John Stewart. In 1967 the Trio was disbanded, but was reformed the next year. For a number of years Nick Reynolds, one of the original three members, returned to rejoin Shane. As of 2004 the group still tours with original member Bob Shane, plus George Grove, and Bobby Haworth.
The group's music is simple and accessible, with much use of tight vocal harmony. It has been written that Frank Werber, the manager of the Trio in its early days, was the inventor of the process by which their songs were tape-recorded in the studio, then this performance was overlaid above a playback of the original tape with a time gap of a fraction of a second between the two, to give the impression that a far richer, more powerful group of people was singing.
A partial list of well-known songs written or performed by the Kingston Trio:
Top 40 Hits in Chronological Order:
- "Tom Dooley"
- "The Tijuana Jail"
- "A Worried Man"
- "El Matador"
- "Bad Man Blunder"
- "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"
- "Greenback Dollar"
- "Reverend Mr. Black"
- "Desert Pete"
Other well-known songs frequently performed by them:
- "Scarlet Ribbons"
- "This Land is Your Land"
- "Lemon Tree"
- "Scotch and Soda"
- "The Long Black Veil"
- "The World Needs a Melody"
- "Raspberries, Strawberries"
- "500 Miles"
- "Ballad of the Shape of Things"