ECHO magazine

Vol. 1, No. 3 (c) 1960

ECHO magazine, published quarterly beginning in 1960, delivered a mixed-bag of brief articles about a performer and a “flexi-disc” recording of each person or group. In this case record four was offered the Kingston Trio and had an interview with the group about Coo Coo U and then the song was played.


CLICK HERE to open a larger imape of the masthead.Among sophisticated audiences, particularly in the big cities, the term folk music is not one that commands much respect. The connotation is one of long-haired girls barely out of high school strumming their guitars at a Saturday night party; entertaining, within its limits, but hardly of professional caliber.

Unfair though this impression is, the stigma of being folk musicians is now so ingrained that the professionals among them have become wary of so confining a label. The best of them are at home in many areas of musical accomplishment even though most stay close to the wellsprings of their particular art.

The hottest group in the country today, the Kingston Trio, is probably the most professional combination to come along since the Weavers a decade ago, and it is significant that two of their biggest hits-Tom Dooley, a ballad from the North Carolina backwoods; and Song of the M.T.A., done to the tune of the Wreck of the old '97-have the unmistakable cadence of folk rhythms.

But the Kingston Trio, besides youth (all are under thirty), have versatility and a wide repertoire. "The only restrictions we place on new material," says Dave Guard, the group's leader and spokesman, "are that the songs must have a basic intelligent thought and be founded in good taste. Idea sources seem to be everywhere and if a song appeals to all three of us then we'll attempt it."

This type of eclecticism has helped them to cover a lot of ground: a French ballad, a cockney ditty from England, a brace of calypsos, an African hunting chant, a Mexican dance, and their newest recording, the Afro-Cuban Coo Coo-U, heard in this issue.

The trio usually breaks in a new song during a couple of months of personal appearances before recording it, but Coo Coo-U was an inside job, sprung on them by their bass player, Dave Wheat, during a West Coast tour.

Whether performing for recording engineers or for paying audiences, the trio drive themselves equally bard. On stage their kinetic energy is infectious and fills the theatre, concert hall or nightclub with excitement, just as it did the aficionados at Newport's first folk festival last summer. Urbanely, they intersperse their numbers with sardonic patter: "We will now do that spiritual-cathartic, When the Saints Go Marching In," or "And here's a song we picked up in Greenwich village, the nation's home of country and western music," one of the trio might quip.

Between engagements, many of them one-night stands, they dash about the country by car, train and plane like so many presidential candidates, being interviewed, photographed, asked for autographs and offered material old and new to add to their repertoire.

All through 1960, the ubiquitous trio will also be popping up on radio and television commercials, as a result of signing one of the biggest such contracts ever negotiated.

In addition to Guard, the Kingston Trio consists of Bob Shane and Nick Reynolds, and all are married. All sing and play guitar and the first two, who were born in Hawaii, double on banjo, while Reynolds also plays bongos and conga drums. They met while undergraduates at Stanford and Menlo Business College, sang together and went on to entertain at college functions for free beer.

Their guide, mentor and now manager is Frank Werber who heard them once and immediately set out to get them a booking at San Francisco's famed night club, the hungry i. Other night club performances followed-and then the enormous success of the record Tom Dooley, put out first in an album and then as a single. It has sold more than one million copies. Their subsequent Capitol releases have been destined for the uppermost reaches of the best-selling record tabulations.

Soon there'll be a book about them. It started out as a program for concerts but then, in Dave's words, "got a bit out of hand. We liked it so well there'll be a hard-bound version. And," he joked, "maybe a limited edition in zebra skin." J.W.

Interview Transcribed from Record Four of Echo Magazine, Volume One, Number Three.

Echo Host: Well, when did you first hear "Coo Coo U"?

Dave Guard: The idea started in the head of our bass player, Mr. David Wheat, who is a …

EH: Buck Wheat.

DG: Buck Wheat, yeh, who is a grand duke of Buck Wheat, as a matter of fact. Lord Buckley laid a grand duchy on him, somewhere in Miasmia. Anyway, Buck Wheat is a drum maker by trade and he dreamed the whole thing up as an exercise in 6/8 time, as you have six eighth notes to a measure: one, two, three, four, five, six, one two, three, four, five, six, one, two, three, four, five, six, type thing. It’s just an idea, like a jig or an Irish Real actually is the easiest way for an Anglo-Saxon cat to think of it.

Nick Reynolds: We heard it first, I think, on a bus going from Spokane to uh, . . .

DG: Smoked Ham.

NR: Smoked Ham to Portland, Oregon.

EH: Do you find you pick up much stuff on the road?

DG: It’s really wide open as far as song sources go. You can hear a song sung by anywhere from a janitor to a concert hall singer. Songs from people just sort of goofing sitting in railroad stations.

NR: A waiter in Mexico gave us a song one time when we were playing down in Juarez.

EH: Have you traveled around the world yet, together as a group?

NR: Uh, not around the world. We’ve been in, I think Mexico, Canada, Hawaii, and we hope to go to Europe this spring, I think. But this new song has gotten us very interested in Africa, as a matter of fact, because we departed from a 4/4 time that we sing in primarily most of our times into a 6/8 Afro-Cuban type thing. Buck Wheat wrote this arrangement to Coo Coo U, and we heard it first, he’d been humming it and trying to get us to hum along with him and we couldn’t do it very well. But we heard Willy Bobo and Mongo Santa Maria, probably two of the world’s finest percussionists from Cuba. We heard them singing it together on this bus and uh, we recorded it, and it was sort of a weird thing, we were recording in Los Angeles at about three o’clock in the morning after cutting our last album and they dropped into the recording session and we just started goofing around with this thing and so we spent another two or three hours on it and it was about sun-up before we finally got through with this silly thing.

EH: Suppose we let me listen here as the readers of Echo magazine hear a bit of it. .

DG: Be glad to.

Lead-in "Coo Coo U"

-- THANK YOU to Reed Blair for sharing his transcript and scans
of the foregoing article for our reading enjoyment.

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Last revised: February 23, 2006.