Nick Reynolds; Kingston Trio Lead Singer
Friday, October 3, 2008
Nick Reynolds, 75, a founding member and lead singer of the Kingston Trio, one of the most popular of the American folk revival groups in the 1950s and 1960s, died Oct. 1 at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego. He had acute respiratory disease.
The Kingston Trio, formed by three California college students in the mid-1950s, became known for upbeat three-part harmonies and a wholesome look that attracted a mass audience. They won two Grammy Awards, sold millions of records and, at their peak, about 1960, outsold Frank Sinatra.
The Kingston Trio included Mr. Reynolds, Bob Shane and Dave Guard, who was replaced by John Stewart in 1961. The group released more than two dozen recordings before disbanding in 1967 amid the rising British rock invasion. Fourteen of their albums made the top 10 list on pop charts, and they had many prominent television and stage engagements, including the 1959 Newport Folk Festival.
Their hits included the Civil War-era ballad of a condemned prisoner, " Tom Dooley," and " M.T.A," the rollicking tale of Charlie, the man who "never returned" because of a Boston transit fare increase.
With other groups, including the Weavers, the Kingston Trio was credited with helping generate popular acceptance of later folk artists, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary.
But the Kingston Trio's overtly commercial approach to Appalachian, Calypso and other traditional melodies alarmed many folk purists.
Allan Shaw, founder and president of Folk Era Records in Naperville, Ill., said most of the complaints stemmed from professional jealousy. He said the group's resounding popularity owed to younger listeners in particular, who felt that the tunes were so simple that they "could play it and make it their own."
He added that Mr. Reynolds, a tenor who also played four-string guitar and percussion instruments such as bongos and congas, excelled in harmony and the wise-cracking stage banter crucial to the act's appeal.
At a Los Angeles nightclub in 1960, Mr. Reynolds introduced a song called "Coplas."
"We had the good luck of picking up this in Mexico," he said.
"That's not all we picked up," Shane replied.
The group's chemistry was based on this raking sense of fun. Guard was called "our acknowledged leader," while Shane was "our sex symbol" and Mr. Reynolds "the runt of the litter."