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Performance question, Trios / Almanac Singers

DonMeixner 21 Nov 03 - 03:49 PM
ray bucknell 22 Nov 03 - 07:25 AM
DonMeixner 22 Nov 03 - 09:33 AM
ray bucknell 23 Nov 03 - 07:16 PM
GUEST,Don Meixner 24 Nov 03 - 12:59 AM
ray bucknell 25 Nov 03 - 09:40 AM
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Subject: Performance question, Trios / Almanacs
From: DonMeixner
Date: 21 Nov 03 - 03:49 PM

Since I have lately been hooked on the Chad Mitchell Trio and The Kingston Trio I have noticed some similiarities in performances. Mostly of songs like The Reuben James, Maid of Fife, Greenland whale.

They both had signature sounds and songs but also som striking similarities.

I wonder if they were copying each other or were they copying The Weavers and The Almanc Singers.

Any ideas?

Don


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Subject: RE: Performance question, Trios / Almanacs
From: ray bucknell
Date: 22 Nov 03 - 07:25 AM

The Kingston Trio predated the Chad Mitchell Trio by a couple of years; in fact, Chad Mitchell and Dave Guard apparently crossed paths at Stanford in around 1956 when Chad was looking to form a group and Guard had already done so.   I think the CMT may have started out copying the Kingstons, but once Milt Okun began his tenure as their musical director they sought to distinguish themselves from the pack and went more in the direction of comedy and political satire.

    Most of the "folk scare" trios had songs like "Reuben James," "Greenland Whalers," and "Whistling Gypsy" in their set lists. My sense is that they probably did these songs because they were good songs that worked for them, and perhaps because audiences expected to hear songs such as these. In the case of the CMT, "Gypsy" worked because is allowed Chad to show off his whistling prowess, while the other songs were good since they let each member of the group take a verse while they all harmonized on the choruses. Also, as you mentioned, both trios had their own sound and would never have been mistaken for one another even if they'd had the same song out as a single at the same time (I don't know if that ever happened).

    As for copying the Weavers or the Almanacs, you could probably say that all the folk revival groups were doing that to some extent, if for no other reason than that's how the folk process works.

                                       'Ray


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Subject: RE: Performance question, Trios / Almanacs
From: DonMeixner
Date: 22 Nov 03 - 09:33 AM

Thanks Ray,

In my estimation the CMT were the better singers. Certainly their sense of harmony was stronger. Is this as much the work of Milt Okun as anyone else? Listening to their live recordings and knowing they were done before "AutoTune" technology I hear some serious skill here.

Don


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Subject: RE: Performance question, Trios / Almanacs
From: ray bucknell
Date: 23 Nov 03 - 07:16 PM

Hi again, Don,

    No question about it; the CMT were some of the most proficient singers of not only the folk revival but any genre. Both Chad Mitchell and Mike Kobluk had sung in various high school groups and glee clubs (including the Gonzaga University Glee Club where they met) before forming the CMT, but I believe that Joe Frazier was the only one with a "trained" voice. After Joe joined the group (edging out Tom Paxton, whose voice might not have blended well but whose career certainly lasted longer) the Trio really began to carve out a niche for themselves, with songs like "Lizzie Borden" and "Super Skier" paving the way for the politically irreverent material that would shortly follow.   Yes, Milt Okun had a lot to do with their material, but he knew he was working with three guys who happened to have amazing (to use today's vernacular) vocal and harmony skills.

    Indeed, the CMT were so polished that they garnered quite a bit of criticism from all directions. Purists didn't like them because their sound was too clean and "slick." Many folkies didn't like them because they chose to appear on the "Hootenanny" program despite the boycott brought about by Pete Seeger's blacklisting. Still others just plain didn't like their politics. The Kingston Trio avoided most of that type of controversy by intentionally not venturing into the political arena. For some unexplained reason, Peter, Paul and Mary (another of Okun's groups) were able to be political without garnering such overt hostility. Perhaps it's because they took a "softer" approach to their political statements.

    FYI, the CMT (yes, Chad, Joe and Mike are all alive and well) recently went into a studio in Spokane to re-record two of their songs for a CD to benefit children's charities in the Pacific Northwest. It's my understanding that they recorded new versions of both "The Marvelous Toy" and the traditional "Virgin Mary." I haven't heard the results yet, but I'm looking forward to getting my hands on that CD.
                                    'Ray


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Subject: RE: Performance question, Trios / Almanacs
From: GUEST,Don Meixner
Date: 24 Nov 03 - 12:59 AM

Thanks Ray. Excellence is excellence. I'm glad they are recording again. Any info on a Video of their reunion concert some years ago?

Don


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Subject: RE: Performance question, Trios / Almanacs
From: ray bucknell
Date: 25 Nov 03 - 09:40 AM

Don, a video of the CMT reunion concert taped for PBS in the late-1980s was released several years ago and is now reportedly out-of-print. Rumor has it that the concert video MAY be re-released on DVD at some point in the future. Until then, I've seen the tape come up on Ebay quite frequently. Check it out; it's certainly a worthy investment.

                                  'Ray


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