JAZZMAN KENNY Ball is happy about appearing with America’s top folk group, the Kingston Trio… a group he saw on his recent American tour.
He has his reasons: “I think the combination will go down very well with our audiences. I’ve worked with folk artists before, people like Steve Benbow and the Gaillards, Robin Hall and Jimmy MacGregor. and we and our audiences always got along fine.
“Of course, the Kingston Trio are really quite different. Their prestige and drawing power in the States is quite fantastic.
“There is a boom in this kind of popular folk music out there and it all started really with the Kingston Trio.
“I would describe them as homely: nothing flashy about them and no gimmicks at all. Just three very-good singer-instrumentalists who, after this tour, will be as popular in Britain as in America.
“I want to meet them for a personal reason, too. When we go back to America I’d like to play a circuit of American colleges. And that is where the Kingston Trio made their first impact. I shall be pumping them to find out what these audiences are like…”
The Kingston Trio nearly won single fame in Britain, but Lonnie Donegan put a stop to it. They waxed a folk ballad, ‘Tom Dooley’, which shot up the American charts and earned them a Gold Disc!
Their version went into the British charts, but Lonnie’s went higher.
The Kingston Trio get a large part of their royalties from album sales: five of their 13 albums recorded for Capitol since 1958 have been million sellers.
Their pulling power with audiences is shown by the title of one of their albums: Sold Out, a reference to the usual state of the box office at Kingston Trio concerts.
The success saga of the three Kingstons started in 1957 at The Cracked Pot, a college hangout near Stanford University, San Francisco. Nick Reynolds, Bob Shane and Dave Guard were playing there, more or less as amateurs, when Frank Werber, a San Francisco publicist, heard them.
In no time Werber was a personal manager (he still is) and Nick, Bob and Dave were the Kingston Trio. Explains Werber: “The name sounded collegiate and also sounded like a calypso. Calypso music at that time was very big in America.”
This new group was booked for a week at San Francisco’s Purple Onion Club. They stayed seven months.
Then the Kingstons started a long tour that made their success story national. Along came ‘Tom Dooley’ and the Trio was a smash!
Dave Guard left the Kingston Trio in 1961 and his place was taken by John Stewart. Previously John had written arrangements and songs for the act, including ‘Molly Dee’ and ‘Green Grasses’. big selling numbers and personal favourites of the group.
If you can’t see them in person, they appear in Sunday Night At The London Palladium this weekend.
© Ian Dove, New Musical Express, 12 April 1963