Tuesday, January 26, 8934
Zambia Kasai Singers (b. c. 1934) - Folk Music
The Republic of Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. The neighboring countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to the south, and Angola to the west. The capital city is Lusaka, located in the southeast of the country. The population is concentrated mainly around the capital and the Copperbelt to the northwest.
Zambia has been inhabited for thousands of years by hunter-gatherers and migrating tribes. After sporadic visits by European explorers starting in the 18th century, Zambia was gradually claimed and occupied by the British as protectorate of Northern Rhodesia towards the end of the nineteenth century.
On 24 October 1964, the protectorate gained independence with the new name of Zambia, derived from the Zambezi river which flows through the country.
[Kasai River Basin, near Zambia]
The Kasai River (called Cassai in Angola) is a tributary of the Congo River, located in central Africa. The river begins in Angola and serves as the border between Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), then flows into the DRC, where it joins the Congo northeast of Kinshasa. The Kasai's tributaries include the Fimi, Kwango, and Sankuru rivers. The short stretch of the Kasai from the inflow of the Fimi to the Congo is known as the Kwa River.
The Kasai watershed consists mainly of equatorial rainforest areas.
Zambia - Kasai - Traditional Song
The Kingston Trio is an American folk and pop music group that helped launch the folk revival of the late 1950's to late 1960's. The group originated as a San Francisco Bay Area nightclub act with an original lineup of Dave Guard, Bob Shane, and Nick Reynolds. It rose to international popularity, fueled by unprecedented sales of 33⅓ rpm long-playing record albums (LPs), and helped to alter the direction of popular music in the U.S.
The Kingston Trio was one of the most prominent folk music groups of the era's relatively short-lived pop-folk boom that their success helped to create. Beginning with their first album released in 1958, which included the hit recording of "Tom Dooley" that sold over three million copies as a single, the Trio released nineteen albums that made Billboard's Top 100, fourteen of which ranked in the top 10, and five of which hit the number 1 spot.
Four of the group's LPs charted among the Top 10 selling albums for five weeks in November and December 1959, a record unmatched for more than 50 years, and the group still ranks after half a century in the all time top ten of many of Billboard's charts, including those for most weeks with a #1 album, most total weeks charting an album, most #1 albums, most consecutive #1 albums, and most top ten albums.
Music historian Richie Unterberger characterized their impact as "phenomenal popularity," and the Kingston Trio's massive record sales in its early days made acoustic folk music commercially viable, paving the way for singer-songwriter, folk rock, and Americana artists who followed in their wake
Dave Guard (Donald David Guard, October 19, 1934 - March 22, 1991) and Bob Shane (b. Robert Castle Schoen, February 1, 1934) had been friends since junior high school at the Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii where both had learned to play ukulele in required music classes. They had developed an interest in and admiration for native Hawaiian slack key guitarists like Gabby Pahinui.
While in Punahou's secondary school, Shane taught first himself and then Guard the rudiments of the six-string guitar, and the two began performing at parties and in school shows doing an eclectic mix of Tahitian, Hawaiian, and calypso songs.
After graduating from high school in 1952, Guard enrolled at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California while Shane matriculated at nearby Menlo College. At Menlo, Shane became friends with Nick Reynolds (Nicholas Wells Reynolds, July 27, 1933 – October 1, 2008), a native San Diegan with an extensive knowledge of folk and calypso songs—in part from his guitar-playing father, a career officer in the U.S. Navy.
Reynolds was also able to create and sing tenor harmonies (a skill derived in part from family singalongs) and could play both guitar and bongo and conga drums. Shane and Reynolds performed at fraternity parties and luaus for a time, and eventually Shane introduced Reynolds to Guard. The three began performing at campus and neighborhood hangouts, sometimes as a trio but with an aggregation of friends that could swell their ranks to as many as six or seven, according to Reynolds.
They usually billed themselves under the name of Dave Guard and the Calypsonians. None of the three at that time had any serious aspirations to enter professional show business, however, and Shane returned to Hawaii following his graduation in late 1956 to work in the family sporting goods business.
Still in the Bay Area, Guard and Reynolds had organized themselves somewhat more formally into an entity named "The Kingston Quartet" with friends bassist Joe Gannon and vocalist Barbara Bogue, though as before they were often joined in their performances by other friends. At one engagement at Redwood City's Cracked Pot beer garden, they met a young San Francisco publicist named Frank Werber, who had heard of them from a local entertainment reporter.
Werber liked the group's raw energy but did not consider them refined enough to want to represent them as an agent or manager at that point, though he left his telephone number with Guard.
Some weeks later (and following a brief period in which Reynolds was temporarily replaced in the quartet by Don MacArthur), Guard and Reynolds invited Werber to a performance of the group at the Italian Village Restaurant in San Francisco, where Werber was so impressed by the group's progress that he agreed to manage them providing they replace Gannon, in whose professional potential Werber had no faith.
Bogue left with Gannon, and Guard, Reynolds, and Werber were unanimous that they should invite Shane to rejoin the now more formally organized band.
Shane, who had been performing part-time as a solo act at night in Honolulu, readily assented and returned to the mainland in late February 1957.
The four drew up a contract as equal partners in Werber's office in San Francisco, deciding first on the name "Kingston Trio" because it evoked, through its association with Kingston, Jamaica, the calypso music popular at the time, and second on the uniform of three-quarter-length sleeved vertically striped shirts that the group hoped would help their target audience of college students to identify with them.
Werber imposed a stern training regimen on Guard, Shane, and Reynolds, rehearsing them for six to eight hours a day for several months, sending them to prominent San Francisco vocal coach Judy Davis to help them learn to preserve their voices, and working on the group's carefully prepared but apparently spontaneous banter between songs. At the same time, the group was developing a varied and eclectic repertoire of calypso, folk, and foreign language songs, suggested by all three of the musicians though usually arranged by Guard with some harmonies created by Reynolds.
The first major professional break for the Kingston Trio came in late June 1957 when comedienne Phyllis Diller canceled a week-long engagement at a small San Francisco club called The Purple Onion. When Werber convinced the club's owner to give the untested Trio a chance, Guard sent out five hundred postcards to everyone that the three musicians knew in the Bay Area and Werber plastered the city with handbills announcing the engagement.
When the crowds came, the Trio had been well prepared by months of work, and they achieved such local popularity that the initial week's engagement stretched to six months.
Werber built upon this initial success, booking a national club tour in early 1958 for the Trio that included engagements at such prominent night spots as Mr. Kelly's in Chicago, the Village Vanguard in New York, Storyville in Boston, and finally a return to San Francisco and its showcase nightclub, the Hungry i, in June of that year.
At the same time, Werber was attempting to leverage the Trio's popularity as a club act into a recording contract. Both Dot Records and Liberty Records expressed some interest, but each proposed to record the Trio on 45rpm (revolutions per minute) singles only, whereas Werber and the Trio members both felt that 33⅓ rpm albums had more potential for the kind of music that the group was doing.
Through Jimmy Saphier, agent for Bob Hope who had seen and liked the group at The Purple Onion, Werber contacted Capitol Records, who dispatched one of their top producers Voyle Gilmore to San Francisco to evaluate the Trio's commercial potential.
On Gilmore's strong recommendation, Capitol signed the Kingston Trio to an exclusive seven-year deal.
The group's first album,The Kingston Trio (Capitol T996),was recorded over a three-day period in February 1958 and released in June the same year just as the Trio was beginning its engagement at the Hungry i. Gilmore had made two important supervisory decisions as producer -- first, to add the same kind of "bottom" to the Trio's sound that he had heard in live performance and consequently recruiting Purple Onion house bassist Buzz Wheeler to play on the album, and second to record the group's songs without the secondary orchestral accompaniment that was nearly universal (even for folk-styled records) at the time.
The song selections on the first album reflected the repertoire that the musicians had been working on for two years—re-imagined traditional songs inspired by The Weavers like Santy Anno and Bay of Mexico, calypso-flavored tunes reminiscent of the hugely popular Harry Belafonte recordings of the time such as Banua and Sloop John B, and a mix of both foreign language and contemporary songwriter numbers, including Terry Gilkyson's Fast Freight and Scotch and Soda, whose authorship remains unknown.
The album sold moderately well -- including on-site sales at the Hungry i during the Kingston Trio's engagement there through the summer -- but it was DJ Paul Colburn at station KLUB in Salt Lake City whose enthusiasm for a single cut on the record spurred the next development in the group's history. Colburn began playing Tom Dooley extensively on his show, prompting a rush of album sales in the Salt Lake area by fans who wanted to listen to the song, as yet unavailable as a single record.
Colburn called other DJ's around the country urging them to do the same, and national response to the song was so strong that a reluctant Capitol Records finally released the tune as a 45rpm single on August 8, 1958; it reached the #1 spot on the Billboard chart by late November, sold a million copies by Christmas, and was awarded a gold record on January 21, 1959.
Tom Dooley also spurred the debut album to a #1 position on the charts (the first album by a group to reach the top spot), earned the band a gold record for the album, and remained charted on Billboard's weekly reports for 195 weeks.
The success of the album and the single earned the Kingston Trio a Grammy award for Best Country & Western Performance at the awards' inaugural ceremony in 1959. At the time, no folk music category existed in the Grammy's scheme. The next year, largely as a result of The Kingston Trio and Tom Dooley, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences instituted a folk category and the Trio won the first Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording for its second studio album At Large.
This was the beginning of a remarkable three-year run for the Trio in which their first five studio albums achieved #1 chart status and gold records and by 1961 had earned more than $25 million for Capitol, roughly $180 million in 2010 dollars.
Notably, the Kingston Trio was responsible for 15% of Capitol's total sales when Capitol also recorded Frank Sinatra and Nat "King" Cole; both artists were also producing high-charting profitable albums. One indication of the Kingston Trio's popularity during this era was that for five consecutive weeks in November and December of 1959, four Kingston Trio albums ranked in the top ten of Billboard Magazine's Top LPs chart, an accomplishment unmatched by any artist before or since.
The Trio also charted several single records during this time, made numerous television appearances, and played upwards of 200 engagements per year.
Despite the Kingston Trio's nearly unprecedented success in record sales, by early 1961 a rift developed and deepened between Guard on one side and Shane and Reynolds on the other. Guard had been referred to in the press and on the albums' liner notes as the "acknowledged leader" of the group, a description never wholly endorsed by Shane and Reynolds, who felt themselves equal contributors to the group's repertoire and success. Guard wanted Shane and Reynolds to follow his lead and learn more of the technical aspects of music and to redirect the group's song selections, in part because of the withering criticism that the group had been getting from more traditional folk performers for the Trio's smoother and more commercial versions of folk songs and for the money-making copyrights that the Kingston group had secured for their arrangements of public domain songs.
Shane and Reynolds felt that the formula for song selection and performance that they had painstakingly developed and rehearsed endlessly still served them well.
Furthermore, over $100,000 appeared to be missing from the Trio's publishing royalties (an accounting error eventually rectified) and that created an additional irritant to both sides: to Guard because he regarded it as inexcusable carelessness and to Shane and Reynolds because it highlighted what they perceived as Guard's propensity to claim individual copyright for some of the group's songs, including Tom Dooley (though Guard eventually lost a suit over copyright for that number to Alan Lomax, Frank Warner, and Frank Proffitt) and Scotch and Soda.
The situation became intolerable for all concerned, and Dave Guard resigned from the Kingston Trio in April 1961, though pledging to fulfill group commitments through November of that year. Shane, Reynolds, and Werber bought out Guard's interest in the partnership for $300,000 to be paid over a number of years and moved to replace him immediately. The remaining Trio partners settled quickly on John Stewart, a 21-year-old member of the Cumberland Three, one of the myriad groups that sprang up in imitation of the Kingston Trio's success. Stewart was already well-acquainted with Reynolds and Shane, having sold two of his early songwriting efforts to the Trio, and he was a proficient guitarist, banjoist, and singer who seemed to the partners to be perfectly positioned to replace Guard.
Stewart began rehearsing and recording with the group nearly immediately, commencing public appearances with the Trio in September 1961.
The transition from Guard to Stewart appeared nearly seamless as six of the group's next seven albums between 1961 and 1963 continued to place in Billboard's Top Ten and several of the group's most successful singles including "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and "Greenback Dollar" charted as well.
Beginning in 1964, however, the Kingston Trio's dominance in record sales and popularity began to wane, due partly to the number and popularity of the aforementioned imitators in the pop-folk world but also to the rise of other major commercial folk groups like Peter, Paul and Mary whose music had a decidedly more political bent than the Trio's. In addition, the British Invasion spearheaded by The Beatles, who were signed by Capitol just as the Trio's seven-year contract was running out, depressed sales of acoustic folk albums significantly, and Capitol did not make a serious effort to re-sign the group. Werber secured a generous signing bonus from Decca Records, and the last four albums of the Kingston Trio's first decade were released by that label. Without the production facilities of Capitol, however, and the expertise of Voyle Gilmore and engineer Pete Abbott, the Decca releases lacked the aural brilliance of the Capitol albums, and none of the four sold especially well.
By 1966, Reynolds had grown weary of touring and Stewart wanted to strike out on his own as a singer-songwriter, so the three musicians and Werber developed an exit strategy of playing as many dates as possible for a year with an endpoint determined to be a final two-week engagement at the Hungry i in June 1967.
The group followed this strategy successfully, and on June 17, 1967, the Kingston Trio ceased to be an actively performing band.
[8934 Presley / 8934 Zambia / 8933 Gorecki]