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Behind the Kingston Trio

FRANK WERBER

Frank Werber, the manager-discoverer of the Kingston Trio, has been so closely linked with their career from its inception, he is sometimes described as the unbilled fourth member of the group.

A cosmopolite who is erudite and witty, and wears a close-cropped beard with distinction, Werber was a San Franciscan by choice when his path crossed that of the three young men singing in a Stanford University off campus watering hole.

Today he heads up a vast empire of business enterprises in which the Trio are involved, a network of interests whose headquarters is an entire floor in a San Francisco office building, the Columbus Tower, which they own. Werber characteristically maintained from the outset, and has proved in the interim, that a show business organization can be successfully operated out of San Francisco despite the somewhat general belief that Hollywood and New York are the ordained it capitols of the entertainment world.

The blue-domed Columbus Tower, comprising seven floors and a penthouse and now a nostalgic landmark because it survived the city's disastrous 1906 earthquake, was the first investment made by the Trio from their earnings as singers.

Frank's almost "fanatical" desire for perfection has brought about his involvement in and supervision of all new developments. Since under his guidance the trio's show business earnings have been carefully invested in a myriad of enterprises, his field of responsibility increases continuously, making it necessary for him not only to possess a flair for creative showmanship but the business acumen of a Montgomery Street financier. In all these many details Frank relies on the most competent professional expert available.

Their continually burgeoning enterprises now include a construction company that builds individual homes, duplexes, and multiple-unit apartment buildings in Marin County, California, primarily -in Sausalito, the Riviera-like city of that county.

In creating the interior for the Trident, their Sausalito waterfront restaurant, which has its own yacht landing and is a place favored by the cosmopolites of the Bay area, Frank had the benefit of personal experience both in the restaurant field and as a commercial artist.

Apart from real estate, Werber and the Trio also are actively involved in a network of music publishing companies which publish not only the Kingston Trio's music but other sources as well. They publish their own sheet music and song books, including choral and band arrangements enjoying great popularity throughout American high schools and colleges.

Although Werber still dabbles in promoting artists other than e Kingstons, his primary interest lies in production not only of many big entertainment packages that Sawcon Enterprises promotes but in legitimate theatre and other media as well.

He has entered the television production field and among other things, is expanding into the entertainment industry in Mexico.

This energetic young man, only a few years older than the members of the Kingston Trio, was born in Europe and arrived in the United States early in 1941. After traveling all over the country with his family, Frank started college in Boulder, Colorado, meantime having served a hitch in the U. S. Navy. But he dropped out of the University of Colorado to gain a practical education in several widely-ranging fields. During this period he was a commercial artist, a gold miner, a press photographer, a cab driver, and a cattle rancher.

San Francisco, which first stirred his imagination during his service stint, beckoned to him again. Only this time when he arrived his total resources amounted to a mere 15 cents. He spent a dime of his capital for a cup of coffee, unexpectedly met a night club owner, and suddenly found himself in the night club business.

After serving an interesting three-year apprenticeship, Frank looked for greener pastures. So he opened his own public relations office. There he took advantage of his knowledge of photography, which still remains one of his hobbies.

It was during his public relations era that he dropped into the Cracked Pot, an unimpressive bistro frequented by college students, and heard, for the first time, some young collegians singing folk tunes to their own instrumental accompaniment.

The young public relations executive had another thing going for him besides "being in the right place at the right time," an accepted show business recipe for success. He also possessed a sixth sense for recognizing talent in its early, untrained stage.

Werber signed the young men to a managerial contract that night and immediately went about to arrange the professional training they needed. When he felt they were ready to face the public, he proceeded to get the Kingston Trio their first professional booking.

Despite his time-consuming responsibilities as the Kingstons' manager and his involvement in their multi-faceted business enterprises, Werber has not lost his interest in a number of hobbies. In addition to his photography, he also enjoys swimming, scuba diving, and water and snow skiing, among other things. His interest in sportscars, for example, has never waned, as evidenced by his latest "wheels," a completely restored 300-SL Gull-wing.

Strangers who meet Frank for the first time are instantly impressed by two things. One is his youth. Another is his contrast to the stereotyped image of the bombastic show business executive. Werber is soft-spoken and impeccably groomed. If a comparison is permitted, he looks more like a young college professor or a successful Nob Hill attorney.

The other day I was sitting behind Frank's desk. There is a thick carpet on the floor, a pretty receptionist outside the door, and a baffling control panel that seems to tune in AM, FM, TV, the telephone, a tape recorder, and for all I know ' the Kingston Trio itself. Through the open door I could hear the voice of the guardian of Frank's lair, his attractive private secretary, Charlotte Larson, who according to him is "secretly really the one that keeps this whole thing together." Through the window I could see a sweeping view of the San Francisco skyline and, far below, his old office sandwiched between the accordion factory and the barber shop. It's been an amazing climb. But Frank takes it all in stride as he has taken everything in his life, good or bad, which is typical of this modest but successful young man.

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