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~ The Old Sachem ~ My Kind of Music

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By Bill Stewart


I like many different music performers such as The Gaelic Women, Celtic Thunder, The Irish Rovers and Abba. But today’s story is about the group I used last month in a presentation to the Saugus Historical Society, The Kingston Trio. I talked about the building of the Boston Subway and ended the talk by playing “Charlie on the M.T.A.,” which is a very funny song. The original group comprised Dave Guard, Nick Reynolds and Bob Schoen – who was known as Bob Shane.

They started out as a group singing the music of Jamaica Calypso music and evolved to folk music, blues, Labor, and ballads. They did songs such as “Tom Dooley,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “Sloop John B,” “A Worried Man,” “M.T.A.” and “They Call The Wind Maria.” My favorite is “M.T.A.,” which is more comically known in the Boston area as “Charlie on the M.T.A.” and tells the tale of a man who goes into a train station of the Metropolitan Transit Authority paying a dime, and while he rides the fare is increased by a nickel, which he does not have, which means he can’t leave until he pays. After each verse it uses the refrain “Will he ever return, No he’ll never return and his fate is still unlearned… He may ride forever ’neath the streets of Boston, He’s the man who never returned.”

They were mostly known as an American pop folk group and they brought both folk and calypso to middle-class groups. They started out in the vicinity of Stanford University in California, playing at fraternity parties and other places nearby and used the name Dave Guard & the Calypsonians. They had a unique sound including vocal harmonies, acoustic guitars and banjos.

The Kingston Trio won one of the first Grammy Awards ever given. Their songs were nationally known by 1959. The contracts they received through negotiations and their business practices opened the doors for following groups, such as The New Christy Minstrels and The Irish Rovers, both of which I occasionally listen to from my TV song playing.

Bob Shane gathered two friends – Dave Guard and Nick Reynolds – to play music professionally. Bob was born in Hilo, Hawaii, and learned to use the ukulele and later the acoustic guitar, which he became famous for. They began a six-month engagement at the Purple Onion in San Francisco. Their publicist, Frank Webber, got the group into a national tour that ended successfully back to San Francisco. In 1958 they recorded their second album, from a local restaurant called the Hungry i. As an instant hit, it raised funds for the trio and also Capitol Records, which sold the album, which at one time provided 22 percent of sales. They won a Grammy Award for the album, which  featured “Tom Dooley.” Their next album included the hit “M.T.A”.

Through the years the makeup of the trio changed as the originals got old and didn’t like the time spent on travel and rehearsal. The group today comprises Mike Marvin, Tim Gorelangton and Buddy Woodward.

Mike is the adopted son of Nick Reynolds, who was his mentor as Mike often performed with the group as a youngster. Nick taught Mike backstage support, how the trio picked their songs, how they managed tours and how to present on stage. During his career he has been active in editing of films, including “Earth Rider,” which tells of a parachute jump off Yosemite’s El Capitan. Mike plays a Martin D-28 guitar and a Deering Plectrum banjo.

Tim Gorelangton started playing woodwinds in high school, then served in US Army Headquarters bands. Buddy Woodward started with The Nitro Express in New York City and later cofounded The Dixie Bee-Liners and ended up in The Kingston Trio.

I love their music.



  (Editor’s Note: Bill Stewart, who is better known to Saugus Advocate readers as “The Old Sachem,” writes a weekly column about sports – and sometimes he opines on current or historical events or famous people.)

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