|The Kingston Trio, circa 1960|
I called Nick to set up an interview, and he invited me to his Coronado home. Once there, we sat down in his family room, surrounded by Kingston Trio memorabilia and musical instruments. His then-girlfriend was there too. My sister Cordelia, brother-in-law Bob, and I attended the group's reunion concert, part of a two-dozen cities tour, this one held at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at the Aventine, outside on the tennis courts.
Backing the band was the San Diego Chamber Festival Orchestra. Our seats were up front and you could see the emotion in the band members' faces as they performed. "When we go into a ballad and the orchestra comes in behind us, tears come to my eyes," Nick told me. "It's powerful -- not just three guys standing on a stage with their guitars."
So it was with surprise and pleasure this week to see The Kingston Trio receive a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award for their work. It was long overdue and well-deserved. They were a pioneering folk group and leaders of the ’50s folk revival best known for the chart-topping songs "Tom Dooley," as well as "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "Tijuana Jail."
What struck me about Nick, who played a tenor guitar, was his enthusiasm for the group's music, even after all those years. He strummed his guitar during a break in the interview. In the room was memorabilia from the days when the group was in its heyday. A couple of The Kingston Trio members switched off over the years, but Nick Reynolds, Bob Shane and John Stewart were the best-known lineup. I saw Nick again a few months later at the Honolulu, Oahu, airport, when we coincidentally ran into each other while waiting at the gate for a flight back to San Diego.
Nick didn't live to see the group's Grammy honor. He passed away in 2008 from chronic heart disease. Bob Shane, the only surviving original member, accepted the award on behalf of The Kingston Trio. Nick would have been proud.