"If I Had a Hammer," "Greenback Dollar," "Scotch and Soda," "Tom Dooley," and "Try to Remember," are some of the songs that built the folk revival of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.
Tonight, a dozen musicians perform them in a new, 2 1/2-hour touring show, "This Land Is Your Land: An American Song Book," in the Ritz Theatre in Tiffin.
Featured are the Kingston Trio, the Brothers Four, and Glenn Yarbrough and the Folk Reunion.
"Any one of those groups could do a tremendous two-hour concert on its own," said Bob Flick, a founding member of the Brothers Four. Theirs are poetic story-songs that inspired a sizable portion of a generation to buy cheap guitars and learn at least three chords.
In the 1950s, Flick and his fraternity brothers at the University of Washington in Seattle, sang for their own pleasure and at parties. Occasionally, they serenaded coeds outside their dormitories at night. The times, like the music, were relatively innocent, Flick said in an interview.
In 1960, he and three fraternity brothers - the ones who had instruments - struck out to record an album in New York. "Greenfields" was their first hit. Within a few years, they sang at the Academy Awards when their "The Green Leaves of Summer" from the film The Alamo was nominated for best song.
They cover a wide swath of styles - mountain, ragtime, cowboy, calypso, Broadway, film, and original songs. A hallmark of their sound is unison singing, tilted toward baritone tenor, he said. "Someone once said, the two most powerful moments in music are silence and unison," said Flick, who plays the stand-up bass and lives in Seattle.
He's performed these tunes a thousand times and more, and feels a stewardship toward the genre's long tradition. Moreover, he said he respects that this body of music is beloved by fans.
George Grove has been with the Kingston Trio for 29 of its 47 years. The trio was founded by two high school pals from Hawaii who met their third bandmate when all attended college in northern California, Grove said.
No one could have predicted their first hit: a death-row ballad from the Blue Ridge Mountains. "Tom Dooley" was named for a young Civil War veteran, Tom Dula, hung in 1868 in North Carolina for murdering one of his lovers. The 1957 recording sold about 7 million copies, Grove said.
Other hits included "When I was Seventeen," "Worried Man," "M.T.A.," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," and "Tijuana Jail."
The original trio members were clean-cut, bright young men who charmed audiences. One of them, Bob Shane, owns the group's name and occasionally sings with them, Grove said.
After four years in the limelight, the group was overshadowed by Beatlemania, he said, ironic given that the Beatles had once opened for the Kingston Trio in England, Grove said.
With 26 dates between now and April, the tour is in its second week. It was assembled by Scott Bridges.
In recent years, Bridges observed a couple of bubbles on the normally quiet lake of folk music. First, was the often-aired television program, This Land Is Your Land: An American Song Book on PBS. And in 2003, a comic mockumentory about the hootenanny era, A Mighty Wind, was a surprise hit, said Bridges, president of the Atlanta booking company Alkahest Artists & Attractions, Inc.
"I think you have a lot of fans of that generation, particularly those who were attending college in the late 1950s and 1960s," he said.
"This Land Is Your Land: An American Song Book" takes place at 8 tonight in the Ritz Theatre, 30 South Washington St., Tiffin. Tickets are $29 to $69. Info: 419-448-8544 or www.ritztheatre.org.
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