A fluke #1 hit with Tom Dooley sparked off a folk music boom, and a deluge of replica groups appeared.
The Kingston Trio’s debut album topped the charts – as did four more over the next couple of years. In fact, in December 1960 they had four albums in the Billboard Top 10 at once – all four of which reached Number One at some point.
The group were certainly not bereft of a social conscience and refused to play to segregated audiences.
Despite the Kingston Trio’s nearly unprecedented success in record sales, by early 1961 a rift developed and deepened between Dave Guard on one side and Bob Shane and Nick Reynolds on the other.
Guard had been referred to in the press and on the albums’ liner notes as the “acknowledged leader” of the group – a description never wholly endorsed by Shane and Reynolds, who felt themselves equal contributors to the group’s repertoire and success.
The situation became intolerable for all concerned, and Guard resigned from The Kingston Trio in April 1961.
Shane and Reynolds replaced him immediately with John Stewart, a 21-year-old member of The Cumberland Three (one of the many groups that sprang up hoping to imitate the Kingston Trio’s success).
Six of the group’s next seven albums between 1961 and 1963 continued to place in the Billboard Top Ten, and several of the group’s most successful singles, including Where Have All the Flowers Gone? and Greenback Dollar charted well also.
The British Invasion – spearheaded by The Beatles – occurred just as the Trio’s seven-year contract was running out and depressed sales of acoustic folk albums significantly. Capitol did not make a serious effort to re-sign the Trio.
On 17 June 1967, The Kingston Trio ceased to be.
After leaving the group, John Stewart wrote Daydream Believer, which became a global hit for The Monkees. He went on to record more than 45 solo albums and his biggest solo success came with a US top five single, Gold, in 1979.
In later years, a number of versions of The Kingston Trio have continued to perform, but with none of the original members.
Stewart died at the age of 68 after suffering a massive stroke or brain aneurysm in his hotel room in San Diego. He had been told he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and had already suffered numerous minor strokes.