Terry Gilkyson

b. 1919 / Phoenixville, PA
d. October 15, 1999 / Austin, TX

Singer / Songwriter

Richard Dehr, Frank Miller, Terry Gilkyson (front)
Terry Gilkyson & the Easy Riders

Terry Gilkyson, the father of Austin singer-songwriter Eliza Gilkyson and author for such well-known songs as "Greenfields" and "The Bare Necessities", died suddenly of complications arising from an aneurysm during a visit to Eliza and her sister on Oct. 15. He was 83 years old. His death came on the eve of the release of Eliza's latest album, "Misfits."

In the folk world, Gilkyson's "Greenfields" has become a modern classic. "The Bare Necessities," from the 1967 Disney film "The Jungle Book," earned Gilkyson an Oscar nomination. He also contributed music to Disney's "Swiss Family Robinson," "Thomasina" and the "Aristocats," Over the course of his 45 year career, Gilkyson's songs were recorded by artists as diverse ad Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Cash, the Kingston Trio, Harry Connick Jr., and many more. Eliza recorded her own version of "Greenfields" a few years ago. A memorial service will be held at Gilkyson's home in Santa Fe, NM, on Oct. 30.

-- From: “Austin American Statesman” October 21, 1999 -- and thank you to 'Ann aka' for providing this transcription.

GILKYSON, TERRY: Singer, guitarist, songwriter. Born near Phoenixville,

Pennsylvania, circa 1919.

One of the pioneers, in a sense, of the pop folk movement of the 1950s and ‘60s was a man brought up only four miles from Valley Forge of Revolutionary War fame. In the late 1940s, his composition “The Cry of the Wild Goose” was not only one of the major hits of the decade, but also a stepping stone for singer Tennessee Ernie Ford.

The composer of “Wild Goose,” Hamilton Henry “Terry” Gilkyson, came from an old-line Pennsylvania family. The venerable stone house in which he was born had been built near the Schuylkill River by his great-grandfather. Gilkyson grew up in the region and was enough attracted to music to make it his major at the University of Pennsylvania. However, he grew bored with the formal courses in musical theory, counterpoint, etc., and left school in his sophomore year.

That summer, 1938, he went out west to New Mexico for his vacation. He enjoyed ranch life and liked to listen to some of the cowboy songs sung in the vicinity. Before long, he bought himself a guitar and learned to play it. He decided to stay in the west and got a job at a ranch in the next state over, Arizona. He continued to perfect his singing and to collect new song material. After singing at local clubs, he eventually went to California to try for the big time. By the early l940s he had begun to achieve a reputation as a performer.

In the 1940s, this resulted in a bid from the Armed Forces Radio Service to do a weekly program on folk music. Terry spent more time researching the subject for the program and greatly increased his stature as a folk music authority. He also guested on some of the major radio shows and his name began to become familiar to audiences throughout the country.

After World War II, Gilkyson toured widely and was featured on radio and TV shows. During the late 1940s and early ‘50s, he had his own twice-weekly radio show. He sang popular songs, folk songs, and his own compositions. One of the latter was “The Cry of the Wild Goose.” Capital Records executives were impressed with the song and agreed to have it recorded by one of their promising young country performers, Tennessee Ernie Ford. Ford’s version won still more notice for the song’s composer.

In the late 1940s, Gilkyson signed with Decca Records. Over the next few years, he truned out a number of successful singles and albums. Particularly successful were the 1950-51 albums called “The Solitary Singer.” In the first of these, Terry sang “I Know Where I’m Going,” “Black Is the Color,” “Jennie Jenkins,” “Roving Gambler,” “The Story of Creation,” “Cotton Eye Joe,” “Billy Boy,” “Black-Eyed Susie,” and “Boll Weevil.” In Volume 2, he turned out “The Solitary Singer,” “Runnin’ Away,” “Fast Freight,” “The Secret,” “Nellie Lou,” “The Tick Tock Song,” “Mr. Buzzard,” and “Everyone’s Crazy ‘Ceptin’ Me.”

Later in the 1950s, Gilkyson recorded the LP “Golden Minutes of Folk Music” for Decca. In the 1960s, he signed with Kapp Records. His output on Kapp included the LPs “Remember the Alamo” (61) and “Wild Goose” (‘63).

-- From: “Encyclopedia of Folk, Country and Western Music” by Irwin Stambler and Grelun Landon (New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1969) -- and thank you to Pete Curry for providing this transcription.

Terry Gilkyson and the Easy Eiders:

Terry Gilkyson, the talented writer and singer who led one of the more popular folk music groups of the '50s. Gilkyson was born in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. He was a music major at the University of Pennsylvania, although he soon discovered he was more interested in performing music than studying it. To that end, headed west, working on a ranch in Arizona, a great place to learn cowboy songs. He would later sing on Armed Forces Radio in the '40s, offering various folk and Western songs.

In the late 40's, Gilkyson signed with Decca Records. He recorded a number of singles and albums, including "Folksongs" (Decca 5263), which came out in 1950, and "Golden Minutes Of Folk Music" (Decca 5457), which was released in 1952. Gilkyson also sang with the legendary Weavers , playing a part in one of the bigest hits of the '50s. The song was "On Top of Old Smoky" (Decca 27515), a traditional Siuthern Highlands folk song, that features th Weavers, Vic Schoen's Orchestra and a chorus overseen by Gilkyson. It came out in early 1951 and peaked at #2 on Billboard's pop chart, where it remained for eight weeks.

While he was no doubt pleased with the success of "On Top of Old Smoaky", Gilkyson was still interested in success under his own name. In 1954, he teamed up with Rich Dehr and Frank Miller, calling the teo backing singers The Easy Riders. They signed to Columbia Records, where they did a number of singles, including the oddly titled "Yermo's Nightmare, Yermo Red" (Columbia 40742) which came out in 1956.

Although Gilkyson and company didn't have any hits with their first releases for Columbia, they fared better as songwriters. One of their biggest and best was "Memories Are Made of This", an easygoing love song that topped the charts for five weeks in 1956 when it was done by Dean Martin. The group also added to their bank accounts by singing backgrounds on the Martin version and with royalties from competing '56 renditions by Gale Storm and Mindy Carson. It would also do well in a 1966 take by the Drifters.

In early 1957, Gilkyson and The Easy Riders found their elusive hit as artists with the infectious Calypso-flavored "Marianne" (Columbia 40817). While their version became a top 5 smash, they did have to fight pff co,peating renditions, including one by the Hilltoppers that went Top 5, and lesser-selling covers by Burt Ives and The Lane Brothers.

With the success of "Marianne," the group was soon in the studio working on their first almum, "Marianne and Other Folk Songs You'll Like" (Columbia 990). They also continued to issue singles, and the "Marianne" follow-up "Tina" (Columbia 40910) charted in May of '57. It was followed by :Sweet Sugar Cane" (Columbia 41284).

After their success as writers, other performers began to persue the catalogue of Gilkyson and his group. One beneficiary was Frankie Laine, who had a Top 10 hit with "Love is a Golden Ring", which was written by Gilkyson and featured the trio in the background. Laine was already familiar with Gilkyson, having scored a #1 hit in 1950 with his "The Cry of the Wold Goose". Tennessee Ernie Ford also scored a "Goose" that year. In 1960, The Brothers Four would go Top 10 with his miidy folk ballad "Greenfieds."

Gilkyson opted to leave The Easy Riders sometime in the late '50s. He signed with Kapp Records, issuing "Rollin" (Kapp 3196) in 1960 and "Cry Of the Wild Goose" (Kapp 1327) in 1963.

Gilkyson was laste reported to be in retirement in mexico. But he has passed on he musical legacy to his kids. Daughter Liza recorded some folk-oriented albums in the '80s and '90s. His son, Tony, was bass [layer for the Los Angeles-based X, which scored six charting albums between 1981 and '88.

-- from the liner notes for Collectable Records "The Easy Riders"
(COL-CD-6053) by Mark Marymont.

Follow this LINK to Don Richards excellent in-depth page on Terry Gilkyson:


Songs Credited to Terry Gilkyson Song Title
1. Adios, Farewell
2. The Cry Of the Wild Goose (recorded by Frankie Laine)
3. The Bear Necessities (from the Walt Disney film "The Jungle Book" (1964))
4. Fast Freight
5. Marianne (With Richard Dehr, Frank Miller)
6. Memories are Made of This (With Richard Dehr, Frank Miller)
7. Greenfields (with Richard Dehr, Frank Miller)
NOTE: For a list of over 360 additional compositions Credited to Terry Gilkyson, Follow the link to the B.M.I. (Broadcast Music, Inc.) web-site (button to the right.):  
Link to B.M.I. (Broadcast Music Inc.) archive entry on Terry Gilkyson.


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Last revised: February 23, 2006.