Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Kingston Trio: 'Just 3 guys standing on stage with their guitars'

By Cathy Scott

The Kingston Trio, circa 1960
I met Nick Reynolds, a founding member of The Kingston Trio, when I interviewed him in the summer of 1990. I was the business editor at the time of the La Jolla Light newspaper, and the band was having a reunion concert there, so I covered it.

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.

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6 comments:

John Small said...

Great tribute. I never got the chance to meet Nick but I've had the pleasure of talking with Bob Shane on several occasions. As a lifelong Trio fan I really feel this honor came far too late; it should come while Nick and John and Dave Guard (John's predecessor) were still around to savor it. Thank God Bob was still here with us to represent them!

Cathy said...

Thanks, John. Yes, it's too bad they weren't here to see it. Great guys; history-making band.

Anonymous said...

The photo is captioned wrong...

Cathy Scott said...

Thanks, Anonymous. Just fixed it.

To John Small: I agree; it's great Bob Shane was able to accept the award. Still, it's too back Nick and the others weren't.

dolfina said...

This article is so special. Thank you! I new Nick and the Trio in 1957 when they played the Purple Onion. I was The Girl in The Fishbowl at Bimbo's and I remember the thrill of crossing the Golden Gate bridge in Nick's little red Alfa Romeo...when i last saw him, Bob introduced him as a guy that has had 2 hip operations, "and one that wasn't so hip".

Cathy Scott said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, dolfina. It must have been something seeing them perform when they were young, although all of their pipes were working just fine when I saw them years later in concert!

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