Bob Shane, who was the last surviving co-founder of seminal folk three-piece the Kingston Trio, died on Sunday (26) at 85. He had been suffering from pneumonia among other conditions, according to his wife Bobbie Childress.
The group, formed in San Francisco in the early 1950s, placed 17 singles on the US chart between 1958 and 1963, of which the first, ‘Tom Dooley,’ became their signature. It reached No. 1 and was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Shane started the group with Nick Reynolds and Dave Guard while they were students in the Bay Area. He was their lead singer and guitarist on ‘Tom Dooley,’ a murder ballad with origins in the 1860s, and other such hits as the No. 15 success ‘M.T.A.’ and ‘Scotch and Soda.’ He also sang on ‘The Wreck Of The John B.,’ which inspired the Beach Boys’ ‘Sloop John B.’
“Together,” wrote Bruce Pollock in the book When Rock Was Young, “they spiked their folk music with a goodly dose of collegiate ribaldry, some dry-martini wit, native Hawaiian rhythms (both Dave and Bob were natives), and a touch of trendy calypso (the Trio took their name from the city of Kingston, the capitol of Jamaica).”
In 1962, the Kingston Trio also popularised Pete Seeger’s archetypal protest song ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone.’ taking it to No, 21 on the Hot 100. They enjoyed immense popularity as an album-selling act, with a total of 23 chart LPs, five of them live. Five of them (The Kingston Trio, The Kingston Trio At Large, Here We Go Again!, Sold Out and String Along) reached No. 1 in America, topping the bestsellers for an aggregate of 46 weeks. At one stage in 1959, they had four simultaneous top ten albums.
The original trio split up in 1967, and after a brief solo sojourn, Shane formed the New Kingston Trio in 1969, featuring Roger Gamble and George Grove. All six members of the two incarnations of the group reunited for a TV special in 1982. Shane performed in various line-ups until he retired in 2004.
Listen to the best of the Kingston Trio on Spotify.