Nick Reynolds, one of the original members of the seminal American folk-revival group the Kingston Trio has died at the age of 75.
I'm posting his obituary as the Trio was such an influential group, paving the way for Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and other performers who had a profound impact in Europe as well as in America. (See Otis Gardner's column, for a personal American take.) It was the Kingston Trio's 1963 recording of Charlie and the MTA -- see video posted below -- that sparked the banjo great Tony Trischka's interest in the banjo. Trischka has gone on to be one of the most influential banjoists over the past 35 years and one of the key influences of the European bluegrass scene.
Obituary from The Telegraph, London, England (which emphasizes his international impact)
Nick Reynolds, who died on Wednesday aged 75, was a founding member of the Kingston Trio, one of the groups at the forefront of the folk music revival of the late 1950s.
Offering up tight harmonies and a clean-cut style, the Kingston Trio launched their career with their version of an obscure 19th-century American folk song, Tom Dooley, which went to the top of the charts in 1958, selling more than a million copies.
The following year they won a Grammy award for best folk performance for their album The Kingston Trio At Large.
Among their subsequent releases were The Ballad of Reuben James and Pete Seeger's anti-war protest song Where Have All The Flowers Gone?, which they sang on the White House lawn to an audience that included President Lyndon B Johnson. The Kingston Trio could claim some of the credit for bringing folk into the mainstream of popular music, where it was taken up in the 1960s by artists such as Bob Dylan; Joan Baez; Peter, Paul and Mary; and the Byrds.
Reynolds played one of the trio's acoustic guitars and harmonised with the melody line, and for a time the group's music enjoyed great commercial success – in 1959 they had four albums in the top 10 chart, a feat equalled only by the Beatles.
Nicholas Wells Reynolds was born on July 27 1933 in San Diego, California. Demonstrating an early love of music, he took part in singalongs with his two sisters and his father, a captain in the US Navy who brought back from his travels songs from around the world and taught his son to play guitar and the ukulele.
When Nick enrolled as a Business student at Menlo College, California, in 1954 he struck up a friendship with Bob Shane, a fellow student whom he had noticed sleeping soundly throughout a class in accountancy. Shane introduced Reynolds to Dave Guard, a graduate from nearby Stanford University. Guard and Shane knew one another from playing music in their native Hawaii, and the three students got together to form the Kingston Trio. All three played acoustic instruments, with Shane singing most of the lead vocals while Reynolds harmonised, typically a third above him.
In early 1957, while the group was still unknown, the trio was playing at The Cracked Pot club in San Francisco when they were spotted by a young publicist called Frank Werber. As they packed up their guitars and banjos after the show Werber approached them and signed them on the spot, scribbling a contract on a paper napkin. After professional voice training the three young men were booked by another club, The Purple Onion, for a week-long engagement that eventually extended over several months.
A subsequent American tour took them from the west coast to Chicago and New York, and during a four-month residency at the Hungry i club in San Francisco the trio recorded its first album.
One of the tracks on the album was Tom Dooley which, thanks to heavy airplay on local radio stations, became a hit in America; it also did well in Britain, charting at number five in November 1958.
When Guard left the group, he was replaced in 1961 by John Stewart. But by 1967 the Kingston Trio's music was outmoded and no longer had popular appeal. Reynolds left the group that year and moved to Oregon where, with his wife, Leslie, he brought up four children in a rented log cabin. Having bought a 300-acre ranch, he took up sheep-farming. He also ran a local theatre.
In the mid-1980s he moved back to California, where he rejoined Stewart to record an album. In 1991 Reynolds teamed up once again with Shane in a reconstituted version of the trio, remaining with the group until he retired for good in 2003. John Stewart died in January this year.
Nick Reynolds is survived by his wife, their two sons and two daughters.
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