Monday, July 9, 2012

ISSUE # 20, JULY 9, 2012

It has been over 10 years since Issue #19 arrived in approximately 250 mailboxes. It was the FINAL ISSUE, and there was a promise to turn it into an email newsletter. For a variety of reasons, that never happened. I was reading it earlier today and was amazed at how much this Old Ben character squeezed into 4 pages! There were the usual updates on the doings of The Kingston Trio and John Stewart, a report on the outcome of the Boost For Buffy April 1, 2000, fundraiser for Buffy Ford Stewart (it was a success), and mentions of new releases or reissues by Rosanne Cash, Nanci Griffith, Gordon Lightfoot, and Ian & Sylvia. As it was 2 years between issues 18 and 19, page 4 was consumed with farewells: Jane Bowers, Judy Davis, Sally Guard, John Phillips, John Hartford, George Harrison, Chet Atkins, Mimi Farina, Ed McCurdy, John Fahey, Fred Neil, John Lee Hooker, Dave Van Ronk, Waylon Jennings. Overall, I was impressed. I believe it was 4 issues for one dollar. I don't think anyone was short-changed, and I remember having a lot of fun collecting all the information and getting it out to the faithful. When I asked for email addresses, about 75 of the 250 responded. If all goes well, a link to Issue #20 will be sent to the 75, who hopefully are still breathing and haven't changed their email in the past decade. If you are one of them: hello again! I'm not going to try and recap the past decade, and there will be improvements, like being able to give you links to cool things and even some nice photos. Here's Rosanne Cash, Jack Scott, and Joe Biscontini (with OB) from 4/1/00:


As you surely all know by now, Nick Reynolds (October 1, 2008) and John Stewart (January 19, 2008) are no longer with us, and Bob Shane had to retire from the road due to poor health. George Grove soldiers on with Bill Zorn and Rick Dougherty, and they have released the first new full album of Kingston Trio songs in - well, a long time! It's called Born At the Right Time.
15 tracks, including John Stewart's Jasmine, Travis Edmonson's If I Were Free, and Stan Rogers' Barrett's Privateers. Bob Shane comes out of retirement to sing lead on two songs, including Every Inch of the Way, which he co-wrote. All in all, a very good album, and proof that the group's name is in good hands. Here's a Trio trivia question, and the answer will be in Issue #21: How many more years will it be until George Grove has been in The Kingston Trio longer than anyone else?

Other major Trio news from the past decade would be the passing of original Trio manager Frank Werber (May 19, 2007), and the Lifetime Achievement Grammy given to the group last year. Here it joins the Grammy Trio:
Here's a link to the presentation, with some poignant words from Bob, Leslie, Gretchen, and Buffy. 
More Trio later, I promise! But now on to other folks for a few minutes.

You may remember Peter O'Brien as the editor of the legendary (and much-missed) British music magazine Omaha Rainbow. As the title suggests, Peter was (and is) a great fan of John Stewart, and featured interviews with him at a time when the press in America was largely ignoring the brilliant singer/songwriter. Peter helped spark interest in John's music internationally, as he did for so many other artists. After Peter retired from his day job, he decided to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a songwriter and recording artist. In 2009 he released his first album, Junked Cars & Beat Up Guitars, produced and co-written by Tony Poole (of the British band Starry Eyed and Laughing). It was a delight, and an amazing accomplishment. How many of us get to live our dreams? Peter did it!
And now he has done it again! Retirement over, he is touring to support his second album, Small Talk, Bullshit & Lies, an excellent piece of work, even better than his debut effort. Of the 15 tracks, he wrote 6 and co-wrote 5, and again there is excellent production and musicianship from Mr. Poole. You may purchase it in America from CD Baby at the following link: My favorite track is Everything Else Is Waiting, but there are many outstanding songs here. Well done, Omaha!
Now if we could just get him to re-start Omaha Rainbow, or at least collect all of the interviews in a book. And it would appear that it is high time for "Peter O'Brien: The Omaha Rainbow Interview." From his quality time spent in the company of Ian Tyson and so many other greats, it would be compelling reading.

 He was a founding member, with Gram Parsons, of the seminal folk group The Shilohs. But Paul Surratt's true legacy to us grew out of his love for the music of The Kingston Trio and the many folk era acts they inspired. Paul started Research Video, a company that collects and preserves all genres of music from old television programs. You will often see his name or his company's in the credits for most of the specials and tributes that appear today on TV and in documentaries. Paul was one of the moving forces behind The Kingston Trio & Friends Reunion, and he produced the great Trio DVD Wherever We May Go. He was instrumental in getting Capitol to reissue the Trio's first 9 albums on CD, and was one of the producers of The Capitol Years box set. On June 27, Paul suffered a heart attack and was placed in a medically-induced coma. Each day since he has showed signs of coming out of it, but he is still in intensive care. Please remember him in your prayers, and cards may be sent to him at: Research Video, 7314 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91605.


Good friends Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter both have new albums out and have been touring, together and individually, to promote them. Together they will tour the UK and Ireland in October. Carpenter's new one is titled Ashes & Roses, and Colvin's is titled All Fall Down.
 Shawn also has an autobiography recently out titled Diamond In the Rough.


Before he was a big star in his own right, Glen Campbell was a legendary studio musician who played on some of the biggest hit records of the Sixties. He added his banjo prowess to Reverend Mr. Black and Desert Pete by The Kingston Trio. He even replaced Brian Wilson in the touring Beach Boys for a spell. Glen recorded many albums and singles in a stellar career that included Grammys and gold records galore. He is now touring one last time, before Alzheimer's takes away his ability to give us his best.
It is a cruel and evil disease, but there is something to be said for being given the opportunity to say goodbye. Many others have not been so fortunate. Glen also leaves us with a fine parting album:


And how about the 50th anniversary tour and album (That's Why God Made the Radio) from The Beach Boys? This could not have been an easy thing to pull off for a variety of reasons, and I admit I was skeptical about what the result would be. But the album is a delight, with at least 2 new BB classics (the title track and Summer's Gone) and not a whole lot of filler. Brian can still write great tunes, and it is a thrill to see (and hear) him back with Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks. With Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson no longer with us, this is as close as we can still get to the original group. Two weeks before the album's release they appeared on the cable shopping channel QVC and pre-sold enough copies to make That's Why God Made the Radio the group's highest charting debut ever! If you ever liked these guys, don't pass up this album!


You may recognize California Saga as the title of an old Beach Boys song, and you are not wrong. A new group was so inspired and impressed by the surfer-rockers and their great legacy that they decided to steal the song title and make it the name of their group! In fact, the new group's repertoire is (so far, at least) composed entirely of some of the great non-hit gems of The Beach Boys. They've even opened a few of the 50th Anniversary Tour concerts! How did these "kids" get to be so cozy with these old guys? Well.....
maybe their names will provide a hint: Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson, Christian Love, Ambha Love, Justyn Wilson, Carl B. Wilson, Matt Jardine, Adam Jardine. Yes, California Saga is made up of the children of Brian Wilson (Carnie and Wendy are show biz veterans from the trio Wilson Phillips), Mike Love, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, and Al Jardine. Their videos are all over YouTube and their harmonies are exactly what you would expect: stunning. Hopefully this is not a one-shot "feel good" thing, but a true passing of the torch. Or surfboard. These kids are good.

              GORDON LIGHTFOOT

Although Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot has not done any studio recording since his brush with the Grim Reaper several years back, he continues to tour and shows no signs of quitting. Rhino recently released a CD of his live recordings, All Live, 19 tracks from 1998-2001 concert performances at Massey Hall in Toronto. A lot of the hits you would expect are here, plus unexpected selections like Ringneck Loon, Let It Ride, Restless, Blackberry Wine, Christian Island, and Fine As Fine Can Be. The only misstep is when he leaves out a verse on Christian Island. Throughout we are reminded of the beautiful guitar work of the late Terry Clements. Gord is one of our true folky treasures. Let's keep him as long as we can.


 Since last we visited with the multi-talented Rosanne Cash, she has made some very cool albums, including 2009's acclaimed The List, which consisted of 13 songs from a list of 100 "essential" American songs that her father gave her in 1973. Two would be especially familiar to Kingston Trio fans: 500 Miles and Long Black Veil. Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello joined her on a couple of cuts. As good as The List is, I still miss the way Rose interprets her own incredible songs. 
Rosanne was also hard at work on her autobiography, Composed: A Memoir, published in 2010 by Viking. She's pictured above at one of the many author appearances and book signings she did in support of Composed, her fourth book. Here's a quote from the final chapter:
"We all need art and music like we need blood and oxygen. The more exploitative, numbing, and assaulting popular culture becomes, the more we need the truth of a beautifully phrased song, dredged from a real person's depth of experience, delivered in an honest voice."


The Nutopians started out in 2010 as The John Lennon Song Project, the brainchild of Rex Fowler (of Aztec Two-Step) and Tom Dean (of Devonsquare). The simple idea was to pay tribute to the late John Lennon's songbook by creating an album of loving covers. That became a reality with the release of:
Imagined: The John Lennon Song Project on Red Engine Records. It was critically well received, and even Yoko Ono liked it. But always wanting to protect her late husband's name, she asked Rex and Tom to come up with another name for their group. They came up with The Nu-Utopians, after one of John's dreams for the future. Yoko suggested they just shorten it to The Nutopians. She wasn't insisting, but it was a suggestion that Rex and Tom loved. They had a lot of help making Imagined, and many of those talented folks eventually became official members of the group: Alana MacDonald (of Devonsquare), Jordan Jancz, Teg Glendon, Robby Coffin, Gary Schreiner, and Maggie Coffin. They are currently working on a second album of Lennon's songs. If I hadn't seen these folks in person, I probably would have written them off as another well-intentioned Beatles cover band. But they are fantastic, and the CD is super cool.


Intersection, Nanci Griffith's 20th album, was recently released on Hell No Records. It features The Kennedys (Pete and Maura) on backup, as well as Pat McInerney. All four produced the CD. Six new Griffith compositions (two co-written with Maura) are included, as well as a re-recording of Just Another Morning Here. Also featured are covers of Loretta Lynn's High On a Mountain Top and Blaze Foley's If I Could Only Fly.
Due out later this year will be a tribute album to the songs of Nanci Griffith, including the late John Stewart's cover of Late Night Grande Hotel. It is not known when John recorded this song, but it may well have been his final work.


At my advanced age (yes, I really am Old Ben now), it takes some serious persuading to make me give a serious listen to anyone that I've never heard of. Except for Adele, of course. Even I could see that she was a winner. But I digress. Last year my good pal Joe Biscontini was so impressed with some guy named Amos Lee that he sent me his CD, Mission Bell. It became my favorite album of 2010. What great songwriting and delivery! Guest artists Lucinda Williams and Willie Nelson are actually an intrusion on this incredible piece of work. My favorites are Learned a Lot, Flower, Violin, and Windows Are Rolled Down. Check this one out; you won't be disappointed. Has Old Ben ever steered you wrong? Maybe once or twice, tops.
                                                                     GUY CLARK

Guy Clark continues to make fine albums, and it was inevitable that his fellow artists would come around to recording a tribute album to Guy. This One's For Him: A Tribute To Guy Clark is up for Album of the Year at September's Americana Music Association Awards. As you might imagine, it's pretty darn good. Here's some of the folks covering Clark: Emmylou Harris & John Prine (Magnolia Wind), Rosanne Cash (Better Days), Lyle Lovett (Anyhow I Love You), Willie Nelson (Desperadoes Waiting For a Train), Steve Earle (The Last Gunfighter Ballad), Patty Griffin (The Cape), Kris Kristofferson (Hemingway's Whiskey), Vince Gill (Randall Knife). And 22 more! Hope it wins, big time.


What's Ian Tyson done in the past few years? Well, he did some damage to his voice during a performance, but he can still write great songs, and no one can interpret them quite like Ian. In 2010 he published an autobiography, The Long Trail: My Life In the West, published by Random House Canada.
It covers his early years, his folk era years (with Ian & Sylvia), and what were in many ways his most productive years, beginning in 1983 when he began his series of "cowboy" albums, which brought him the greatest acclaim of his career. The San Diego Troubadour said this about The Long Trail
"Ian Tyson is the real deal. What others have imagined, Ian has lived....He is a romantic and a realist, a rancher and a true singing cowboy...he's the one Gene Autry only wished he could have been."
You can order the book from Hitching Post Supply at this link:

They also carry Ian's CDs, including his latest, Raven Singer. If for some reason you missed his classic Cowboyography, it's there, too!

                    Blank space...kinda nice!

TOM T. HALL (and friends)

One of my favorite albums from last year was I Love: Tom T. Hall's "Songs of Fox Hollow."  It was (and is) a fine tribute to the 1974 Tom T. Hall album of the same name. The original produced two #1 hits.
The title track, I Love, is covered beautifully here by Patty Griffin, and the other chart topper, I Care, is treated with the proper respect by Bobby Bare. Other artists getting in their licks include Elizabeth Cook, Tommy Cash, Jim Lauderdale, and Buddy Miller. Guitar legend Duane Eddy gets to add his magic to two tracks: Sneaky Snake and Everybody Loves To Hear a Bird Sing
The original Songs of Fox Hollow was a children's classic that could be easily enjoyed by adults, and I Love continues that grand tradition. Not for everybody, but I sure liked it. And I adore Tom T. Hall, one of our largely forgotten singer/songwriters.


Do I think Old Ben likes a good tribute album? How many is this now, three? I especially like them when they are good and for a good cause, and The Best of Times: Texas Artists Performing the Music of Sara Hickman certainly fills the bill. I always liked Sara's early work but kind of lost track of her in the deluge of girls with guitars that marked the Eighties and Nineties. These 37 songs woke me up! What a fabulous writer Sara was and is. Her one hit (or the only one I remember), Simply, is done here as only Willie Nelson can. Others weighing in include Robert Earl Keen, Shawn Colvin, and Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. My favorite: Take Me With You by Christine Albert & Chris Gage. This is a great album.


There are obviously many great singer/songwriters among us, but if I had to pick just one favorite among the living (next to Gordon Lightfoot, of course!) it would David Mallett. The writer of the legendary Garden Song spent some years in Nashville honing his already excellent tunesmithing skills before returning to his native Maine. One incredible album after another has come out of him ever since, the latest of which is 2009's Alright Now, which I thought was the album of the year. So much so that I sent one to Joe Biscontini (hey, maybe it was me that started all that album swapping!) and Jack Scott. Amazing songs here, including my faves Innocent Time, Beautiful, and Dark Side of the Moon. Buy it, you'll love it. Yes!


I would be remiss if I did not mention my good friend Jack Scott's slightly incredible group, Whirled Peas.
Their latest two releases (from 2011) are pictured above: Peas De Resistance and Peas Be With You. These folks are skilled acoustic musicians who have been together for a lot of years and obviously have a lot of fun! Besides Jack the banjo guy (who also plays guitar) there's guitarists Frank Baker, Todd Breck, Gary Estes, John Frink, John Gallagher, Dave Kelly, Charlie McCloskey, and Jim Rockwell. Rounding out the group are Rebecca Dunne on mandolin and violin, and June Gallagher (and everybody else!) on vocals. The songs are from the best writers around, and Jack sneaks in one of his on every CD.


2010 saw the formation of a new trio called Red Horse, consisting of three veterans of the folk revival of the late 20th century, Eliza Gilkyson (daughter of old folkie Terry Gilkyson of Easy Riders fame), John Gorka, and Lucy Kaplansky (formerly of the trio Cry Cry Cry). Their self-titled first CD has been well received by critics and the folk community alike. Most of the songs are originals, to be expected when all members are gifted songwriters. The major exception is the cover of Neil Young's I Am a Child. Standout tracks for me are Gilkyson's Sanctuary (lead vocal by Kaplansky) and Walk Away From Love (lead vocal by Gilkyson). Although Gorka has four of the leads, the ladies shine the most throughout Red Horse. 


 Bill Mumy has been a television star (Lost In Space, Babylon 5) all his life, and a musician almost that long. He credits The Kingston Trio with inspiring his recording and songwriting career. 
"I met Nick, Bob and John at a concert they played in 1967. I got to go backstage and have a soda with all three of them. Spending a half hour with The Kingston Trio was one of the biggest thrills of my life."
In 2011, he recorded a Trio tribute CD, Thank You Kindly, which included his take on twelve Trio songs, including sparkling covers of South Wind, Senora, You Don't Knock, Getaway John, and You're Gonna Miss Me. Well done, Mr. Mumy!
 Bill's recording career goes back to the cult hit Fish Heads (he was half of the duo Barnes & Barnes). Since then he has been in groups (The Jenerators) and also released several very good solo albums, the latest of which is titled Until the Big Bang Whimpers. Bill is a multi-talented man whose love, support and dedication to The Kingston Trio and John Stewart is evident to all who know him.

Visit Bill on his Facebook page or at his website:


His name is Dave Crossland, and John Stewart meant something to him. Dave, who was once a member of John's band Darwin's Army, became a member of The John Stewart Band, a group of Stewart stalwarts who formed after John's death to keep the man's music alive. Dave has taken it one giant step further by recording an album of John's songs, Mother Country: For the Legacy of John Stewart. Dave threw the gauntlet down to the Stewart fans to help him raise the $4,500.00 needed to mix, master, and press the album. It's taken over a year, but he's almost there, with only $400.00 still needed to complete the project. Check out the project and (if you are so inclined) donate whatever you can spare. If you've ever seen Dave perform any of John's songs, then you know the legacy is in good hands. Go Dave!!!


 We were thrilled last year when the April 28, 1974 Amazing ZigZag Concert was finally released in a 5-CD box set, with one disc entirely devoted to John Stewart's great performance.
It took a trip to Great Britain to make John realize that his music was truly appreciated, and he took along his great bass player Arnie Moore. Local drummer Pete Thomas had one rehearsal to get it right, and did! Pete went on to be the drummer for Elvis Costello & The Attractions. Highlights include super performances of Daydream Believer, Armstrong, and Mother Country. The box set also includes a fine set by Michael Nesmith (with Red Rhodes on pedal steel). Another disc features Tony Poole's group Starry Eyed and Laughing. Put this one on your wish list for sure.


There's always more Trio news! The Kingston Trio Legacy Project was started a couple of years ago by Leslie Reynolds (Nick's widow), who has since added the support of Buffy Ford Stewart and others to keep the legacy of the Trio alive. Tours and a documentary are in the planning stages. Check them out at:

Old Ben was pleased and honored in 2007 and 2008 to assist gifted reissue producer Ron Furmanek and the equally gifted writer Tom DeLisle in getting out some CDs of previously unreleased Trio recordings for Collector's Choice Music. The first was the long-awaited last performance of the Trio on June 17, 1967, at San Francisco's Hungry i. The CD, titled The Final Concert, was released in April of 2007. In August of 2007, we put out Live At the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, April 21, 1961, one of the Trio's final performances with Dave Guard. Ron had the original master tapes from 1966 of the Once Upon a Time album, so a CD reissue of that was done in November of 2007, accompanied by a "sister" disc titled Twice Upon a Time, which featured additional songs from the same 1966 shows. Rounding out the six releases were two CDs of previously unreleased songs (and a few alternate takes) from the Decca recording sessions. The first, released in June of 2007, was The Lost 1967 Album: Rarities Volume 1, followed in May of 2008 by our final effort, Turning Like Forever: Rarities Volume 2. Here are a few of the CD covers:

And then there's the new book coming out in November, titled Greenback Dollar: The Incredible Rise of The Kingston Trio. Written by Bill Bush, who wrote those great Trio articles for Frets magazine and co-wrote the liner notes (with Old Ben) for the Bear Family Records Trio box sets The Guard Years and The Stewart Years, this book promises to tell all the secrets and great stories that were such a part of what the group was all about. I know Bill will do a super job, and I can't wait to read it.

Trio Fantasy Camp is still going strong every August in Scottsdale, Arizona. Originally started by John Stewart and Nick Reynolds in 2000, it is now carried on by Bob Shane. Here's a group shot of last year's participants:
Here's a link to Fantasy Camp #8 in 2007, and the final performance anywhere of Nick, Bob, and John: 


26 years ago this month, Jack Rubeck, Allan Shaw and Old Ben, aided and abetted by Floyd Garrett, Elizabeth Wilson, Paul Surratt, and Bill Bush, gave birth to the book you see at left. Many of you were nice enough to purchase a copy, and we are very grateful and more than a little humbled by all the nice praise you sent our way. Over the years we entertained the notion of doing a sequel, The Kingston Trio On CD, which never quite materialized. Allan kept the spirit going in his Kingston Korner column, regularly featured in his Rediscover Music Catalog. In October of 2010, we took a leap and created a Facebook page for the book, and we have accumulated over 400 folk nuts that "like" us. We feature tidbits from the book, plus adding lots of things that have happened since 1986 that would have been in later editions of KTOR. Here's a link:

Here's a shot of Rediscover Music Catalog #126. To get on (or back on) the mailing list, write to:
Rediscover Music
705 S Washington St.
Naperville, IL 60540
Tell them Old Ben sent you. It won't get you a discount, but it might give them a chuckle.

And of course they have a website:

Well, I guess I've taken up enough of your time for one issue! Hey, cut me some slack, it's been 10 years!
You may wonder why I decided it was time to do Issue #20. Or you may not. In any case, I think it was a confluence of things that all happened recently. There was Paul Surratt's medical condition, Peter O'Brien's triumph with his current CD (it was #1 on one of the UK's most prestigious radio playlists for several weeks!), and a bit of Kingston Trio-related cub reporting that I did for our Facebook page for the occasion of what would have been Trio producer Voyle Gilmore's 100th birthday. I tracked down his son, John Gilmore, who was kind enough to share a remembrance of his father with KTOR. Here's a photo of John and a link to his words:

Anyway, all that got me thinking about how I used to share this type of stuff in OBN (as we used to call it). There was some actual news, mixed in with my take on the latest music by artists that I cared about, and lots of other random stuff. Anyway, I got the urge to do it again, and here it is. 

If you want more of these ramblings, there should be a box up at the top right where you can enter your email address to be alerted each time a new issue is posted. I hope you'll visit again. It's been too long.

I'll sign off this one the same way I signed off Issue #19: 
"Until next time in cyberspace, keep it flying.............."


  1. Much better than watching 300-pound Prince Fielder disrespect the sacred game of baseball by not even bothering to don a cap for the home run, my friend are a King...

    Seriously, it was like you never left...and to think we used a typewriter...all those years George would have said...

    Uncommonly good...

    1. Well, since I somehow thanked Floyd on Jim's comment, I will thank Jim on Floyd's! Thanks for the kind words, and you are quite right about my Lightfoot miscue. My apologies.

  2. A delightful read, just like KTOR...and a web page has more flexibility than a paper newsletter, so I'm hoping that this will include everything that the newsletter will. One minor point - though much of GL's most recent studio album "Harmony" was recorded before his health scare, he actually finished and released it in 2004 after the 2002 aneurysm. It's an album I like quite a bit.... bon chance with the revival of the newsletter.

    1. Thanks, Floyd. Did I actually get through it without a single baseball analogy?

  3. ...and here is hoping that there will be many more posts to come. You know how much I like blogs.