Before 1958, folk music was still popular up to a point. Among its noted exponents were Pete Seeger and Burl Ives, while mainstream pop singer Jo Stafford (whose career was past its peak by 1958) recorded some albums of folk songs, albeit in a style designed to appeal to her pop fans.
The Kingston Trio (named after the Kingston in Jamaica) probably realized that their best chance of success lay in the fledgling albums market (then dominated by soundtracks and easy-listening music) rather than taking on the pop giants in the singles market, and eventually found a record label that allowed them to do that. In those days, the trio comprised Dave Guard (who quit in 1961, his place being taken by John Stewart), Nick Reynolds and Bob Shane. A curiosity of this compilation is that it shows pictures on the back of the enclosed booklet of Nick, Bob and John but not Dave - or maybe the caption saying John should say Dave. Other pictures do not have names attached, so maybe they are wrong for this compilation too. Still, it's the music that counts.
This set actually focuses on the fifties music of the Kingston Trio, though it would be fair to say that they blazed the trail for the folk boom of the early sixties. Here, you will find the trio's first three studio albums and their first live album, all of them originally released in 1958 or 1959. A second live album from 1959 is not featured, as it wasn't planned as an official release (it was an experiment with stereo) and in any case contained mostly songs that appeared on the first two albums. The three studio album featured all topped the American album charts, while the live album just missed the top spot. You could say that they were a very hot act during that period.
Their eponymous debut album sold slowly at first, but as interest in one song (Tom Dooley, based on the true story of Tom Dulay) grew, that song was released as a single and both the single and album became very successful, topping their respective charts in America. Tom Dooley also became a huge UK hit, with the Kingston Trio`s version making the top five and Lonnie Donegan`s cover making the top three. It is ironical that a group determined to succeed as album artists actually became popular because of a track that was only released as a single because of radio airplay.
The trio wrote some but not all of their own songs, although some of the covers were of songs that were fairly obscure and might have remained so but for the Kingston Trio. Apart from Tom Dooley, the most familiar songs include Wimoweh (sometimes titled The lion sleeps tonight) and Sloop John B, which have both become standards, and have been hits for other artists in Britain and America at various times. Other songs that you may recognize include When the saints go marching in, All my sorrows, Early in the morning, Scarlet ribbons and a worried man.
The albums here represent the Kingston Trio at their most commercially successful, but they sustained that success through to 1963. I look forward to hearing further music by the Kingston Trio, including their music with John Stewart, but there is sufficient here to hold my interest until their sixties music enters the public domain providing British copyright laws remain as they are.