Kingston Trio, The

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Kingston Trio, The

Kingston Trio, The, the most successful folk group to emerge in the late 1950s; membership: Bob Shane, gtr., bjo., voc. (b. Hilo, Hawaii, Feb. 1, 1934); Dave Guard, gtr., bjo., voc. (b. Honolulu, Hawaii, Nov. 19, 1934; d. Rollinsford, N. H., March 22, 1991); Nick Reynolds, gtr., voc. (b. San Diego, Calif., July 27, 1933). Guard left in May 1961, to be replaced by John Stewart (b. San Diego, Calif., Sept. 5, 1939). The Kingston Trio disbanded in 1967, but Bob Shane reconstituted the group in 1972. Later members included Roger Gambill, George Grove, and Bob Haworth.

Collegians Bob Shane, Dave Guard, and Nick Reynolds formed The Kingston Trio in San Francisco, Calif., in 1957. All three played guitar and sang, with Guard and Shane doubling on banjo. Playing local coffeehouses and clubs, most notably the Hungry I and the Purple Onion, The Kingston Trio signed with Capitol Records in 1958. Their first and ultimately biggest success came with the top pop hit “Tom Dooley,” which also became a near-smesh R&B hit. By 1960, they had scored major hits with the silly “Tijuana Jail,” “M.T.A.,” and “Worried Man.” Their early albums sold spectacularly, with their debut album, The Kingston Trio, staying on the charts nearly four years, and three of their next four remaining on the charts for more than two years.

Dave Guard left The Kingston Trio in May 1961 to form The Whiskeyhill Singers with Judy Henske. He later moved to Australia, where he hosted a television program, returning to the U.S. in 1968. He also authored two children’s books and recorded Up and In, released in 2000. He died at his home in Rollinsford, N. H., on March 22, 1991, of lymphoma. He was replaced by John Stewart, the founder of the folk group The Cumberland Three. The Kingston Trio enjoyed hits through 1963, with Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” Dave Guard’s “Scotch and Soda” (only a minor hit, but standard lounge fare today), Hoyt Axton’s “Greenback Dollar,” and Billy Edd Wheeler’s “Reverend Mr. Black.” Switching to Decca Records in 1964, they failed to achieve even a minor hit for the label. In 1967 The Kingston Trio disbanded.

In 1972 Bob Shane reconstituted the group with singer-guitarist Roger Gambill and banjoist George Grove, a Wake Forest Univ. music degree holder. They performed with symphony orchestras and persevered on the college and supper club circuits. All six members of The Kingston Trio—Shane, Reynolds, Guard, Stewart, Gambill and Grove—reunited for a concert at California’s Magic Mountain Amusement Park that yielded a PBS television special hosted by Tom Smothers in 1982. Roger Gambill died in Atlanta, Ga., on March 20, 1985, at the age of 42 after suffering a heart attack and stroke. He was replaced by Bob Haworth of The Brothers Four until the late 1980s, when Nick Reynolds rejoined the group. In 1993 The Kingston Trio recorded Live at the Crazy Horse for the small Silverwolf label.

John Stewart subsequently pursued his own career, recording with Scott Engel, then Buffy Ford. In 1967 The Monkees had scored a top hit with Stewart’s “Daydream Believer”; it was revived as a smesh country hit by Anne Murray in 1980. Stewart’s recordings for Capitol, including the critically acclaimed California Bloodlines (with “July, You’re a Woman” and “Lonesome Picker”) failed to sell, as did the overlooked Lonesome Picker Rides Again (with “All the Brave Horses” and “Touch of the Sun”) for Warner Brothers and Cannons in the Rain (with “All Time Woman” and the minor hit “Armstrong”) for RCA. John Stewart achieved his biggest success in 1979 with Bombs Away Dream Babies on RSO Records. The album featured the smesh hit “Gold” and major hit “Midnight Wind,” recorded with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, and the moderate hit “Lost Her in the Sun.”

The follow-up to Bombs Away Dream Babies sold only modestly for John Stewart, leading him to form his own record company, Homecoming, in the 1980s. Albums for the label included The Trio Years, re-recordings of songs written for The Kingston Trio, and the poignant The Last Campaign, re- recordings of songs composed during and after Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. In 1987 Stewart recorded Punch the Big Guy for Cypress with Rosanne Cash, who scored a top country hit with his “Runaway Train” in 1988. In 1992 John Stewart recorded Bullets in the Hour Glass for the small but nationally distributed Shanachie label.


The Kingston Trio (1958); From the Hungry I (1959); Stereo Concert (1959); At Large (1959); Here We Go Again! (1959); Sold Out (1960); String Along (1960); The Last Month of the Year (1960); Make Way! (1961); Goin’ Places (1961); Close-Up (1961); College Concert (1962); Something Special (1962); New Frontier (1962); #26 (1963); Sunny Side! (1963); Sing a Song with the Kingston Trio (1963); Time to Think (1964); Back in Town (1964); Nick-Bob-John (1965); Stay Awhile (1965); Soiuethin Else (1965); Children of the Morning (1966); Live at the Crazy Horse (1993).

—Brock Helander

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