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Scott Shafer
 
The Kingston Trio
The Kingston Trio
In the history of popular music, there are a relative handful of performers who have redefined the content of the music at critical points in history -- people whose music left the landscape, and definition of popular music, altered completely. The Kingston Trio were one such group, transforming folk music into a hot commodity and creating a demand -- where none had existed before -- for young men (sometimes with women) strumming acoustic guitars and banjos and singing folk songs and folk-like novelty songs in harmony. On a purely commercial level, from 1957 until 1963, the Kingston Trio were the most vital and popular folk group in the world, and folk music was sufficiently popular as to make that a significant statement. Equally important, the original trio -- Dave Guard, Nick Reynolds, and Bob Shane -- in tandem with other, similar early acts such as the Limeliters, spearheaded a boom in the popularity of folk music that suddenly made the latter important to millions of listeners who previously had ignored it. The group's success and influence transcended its actual sales. Without the enviable record of popularity and sales that they built up for folk music, it is unlikely that Columbia Records would ever have had any impetus to allow John Hammond to sign an unknown singer/guitarist named Bob Dylan, or to put Weavers co-founder Pete Seeger under contract, or for Warner Bros. to record the Greenwich Village-based trio Peter, Paul and Mary.
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