On The Road With Tony: The Interviews

Thanks to Tony Lay, a long-time friend of The Kingston Trio and a regular visitor here at The Kingston Trio Place, we have these wonderful interviews to share with you! Tony talked with the guys at their gig at Bally's Casino in New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 27, 1998.







Interview with BOB SHANE
October 27, 1998

Our first interview features Bob Shane, an original member of The Kingston Trio since its start in 1957.


Bob at Bally's Casino, New Orleans, Louisiana - October 27, 1998

My interview with the Trio did not go as I had hoped. I arrived in New Orleans around 1:00 in the afternoon. The Trio was due to arrive at 2:00 PM but due to a scheduling mix-up, their flight from Virginia was leaving an hour and a half earlier than they had originally thought, so they had to get up earlier than they had anticipated and drive an hour to the airport. Therefore, they arrived in New Orleans around noon. They had gotten something to eat, and Bob and Nick were asleep when I got there. I called George who told me they were all exhausted (we must remember, they are not spring chickens anymore, at least Bob and Nick aren't) and he was about to take a nap himself. He suggested I call Bob about 4:00 PM, but I found out Bob had a wake- up call scheduled for 5:00 PM, so I waited until then to call him. After he had a shower and a change of clothes for the show, we sat down for a conversation.

Tony - Bob, the folks at The Kingston Trio Place have a lot of questions to
which they would like to know the answers. So, I'm going to ask you some
of their questions. First, tell me about the plane crash enroute to a
show at Notre Dame.

Bob - It happened on Friday the 13th. I got married two days later on
the Ides of March and I'll not do that again!

Tony - I have read that Dave said the fact you were going to play at
Notre Dame is what saved you.

Bob - I remember, well, there's a lot of things I remember about that
day. The last 5 minutes in the air we knew we were dead and we had drunk
a half a 5th of whiskey between the 4 of us, uh, 3 of us, no, 4 of us
because Buck Wheat was with us. And when we landed, we went immediately
and bought a case of beer and got some guy to drive us over to Notre
Dame. We were pretty well loaded by the time we got there. A priest
came over and told us he understood we did "blue" material on occasion
and if we did any of that there, they would turn the sound system off.
After we finished, Dave told that to the audience, what the priest had
said that they would turn the sound system off, and a voice from the
balcony rang out 'Horse shit!' We came back years later and I found out
it had been a friend of mine who had gone to school there. And we were
in a metal building; one of those steel frame structures and it just
reverberated all over the place! The laughter nearly brought down the

Tony - Of all of the albums that you cut, did you have a particular

Bob - No, not really. There were some that had better songs on it than
others because we were stretched to find songs at a certain point, which
is why Dave was getting discontented. He wanted us to go in another
direction because of the fact he felt we were using up the material that
was there. We proved that to be wrong. What we needed was a rejuvenation
of the interest we had and that came with John Stewart because John was
a writer and he had other songs that would help us build our interest up

Tony - Well, conversely, do you have an album that is your least favorite?

Bob - Of all the albums we cut, my least favorite album we had was one
with John Stewart called Children of the Morning. By that time we
were forced into recording something when we knew we were heading toward
the end of our careers, you know, as far as the group at the time. We
were doing a lot more of John's material, most of which was good, but it
was speeded up so we didn't have enough time to do it right in the
studio. I was very upset about the fact that there were two songs on it
that I liked in particular. One was called "When You Been Away For A
Long Time" and the other one was, uh, oh, I can't recall the other one.
There were two songs on it that I really liked a lot and I felt had real
potential but we sang them poorly and we never had time to clean them up
and make them right.

Tony - What was the most number of times you remember doing a song
before you felt you had gotten it right?

Bob - Oh, I think we had one that we did a hundred and fifty-eight or
-nine times, something really stupid like that. You see, the really good
thing about us in the beginning was we took songs that we knew we would
be doing on stage into the recording studio and it was easy to do a
recording session in three days and do a whole album. We noticed as time
went by it took longer and longer to do an album. We weren't doing songs
from on stage; we were just grabbing any material we could find to put
down on tape to satisfy the demand for an album.

Tony - The last live album you did was the one from the Crazy Horse. Are
there any plans to ever do another live album?

Bob - Well, you know, we have problems. The main problem is we have to
fund ourselves in order to make an album. None of us is rich. We are all
comfortable but we're not rich and in order to make an album, the kind
you need to make in order to compete in today's market, we would have to
have funding from elsewhere or from a major record label who would be
interested in us. So far, that hasn't happened.

We have an interest from some guy in Nashville who wants us to cut some
country songs and wants to give us the songs to cut, not realizing that
we don't want to do a song if we don't like it. We refuse to do that and
we won't do that. Even if somebody said, 'Here's a hundred thousand
dollars. We want you to record these songs.' We would have no interest
in that whatsoever.

Tony - I have heard it said that on the album Something Special you
guys did not know there was going to be an orchestra added. Is there any
truth to that?

Bob - Well, we knew it was going to be added, but it was done in an
unusual way. Most of the time the orchestra would lay down the track and
then you would sing over it. What we did, we sang the songs then they
made the orchestra track, which was completely different at the time.
The album, to me, was an extremely good album.

Tony - What about the album Sing a Song with the Kingston Trio? Did
you know that was going to be done?

Bob - No, we didn't. I had no idea it was going to be done, maybe Nick
did, but I didn't. We never played on it. Glen Campbell was on it. He
was a recording musician back then, prior to getting his own show and
becoming popular.

Tony - What about the "Bob Shane Memoirs?" You've got to have a lot of
stories rolling around in your mind.

Bob - Well, I would write a book except for something I heard Audrey
Hepburn say just prior to her death. I read an article one time where
she said almost the exact same thing I said when somebody told me I
ought to write a book. She said her life wasn't over with yet. And in
order to make it interesting, you have to involve a lot of names of
people and you don't cop out on your friends. In order to write a book
the way people want to see a book today, they want to see sensationalism
and I don't really have any interest in doing that. We've had a lot of
very funny things have happened to us over the years, usually making us
out something we weren't or something we were to people.

Tony - Well, along those same lines, you must have a mountain of
memorabilia that you have collected over the years. You have mentioned
to me previously that whenever the time arrives, certain items would be
going to the Smithsonian.

Bob - Yeah, Nick's already donated his gold records to the Smithsonian.

Tony - They already have them?

Bob - I don't know if they already have them or not, but they are going
to get them and an awful lot of recorded material and stuff is going to the
Library of Congress, to the book division. I have put in my will that,
if I have not sold them for an exorbitant price by that time, I have the
only complete collection of Kingston Trio gold records, including one
that nobody has except me and that was The Best Of ... Volume #1 that
Voyle Gilmore had in his office way after we were no longer with
Capitol. They had given him the gold record and it is the only one in
existence and it was the only one put behind glass. He asked me if I
wanted it and I said, "Sure, " and I took it and I am the only one that
ever had one of those. So I've put that one to go with the collection
that Nick gave along with "Tom Dooley" and the first Grammy ever given
for a country and western group to the country and western hall of fame,
provided they induct us.

Tony - That is something that a lot of folks at Kingston Trio Place are
pushing for.

Bob - Well, we saved country music! The next year after "Tom Dooley,"
during a show, Minnie Pearl said to us, 'Thank you for that song because
you guys saved country and western music from oblivion.' And from that
point on, country and western music went back up again.

Tony - If Bob Shane does finally retire, what would Bob Shane do?

Bob - Whatever I want!

Tony - Is there any one thing that you want to do?

Bob - No, I haven't thought about retirement. I made the statement to
you that I will work 50 years in the business and that will be in 2007.
So you can ask me in 2007!

Tony - One question a lot of folks at Kingston Trio Place have wanted to
know is did you and Dave reconcile prior to his death?

Bob - Oh yes. We had a long discussion and spent a lot of time hashing-out
the past. We buried the hatchet and the past and left friends.

Tony - A lot of the folks that post on the forum at Kingston Trio Place
play guitars and want to know about the various guitars you have played.

Bob - I started off with a Martin D-28 which was one of the copies they
made of a set in 1997, that was a copy of the original guitar that I had
except mine was made out of Brazilian rosewood, I believe at the time,
and the reproduction wasn't. I started off with that and I have had lots
of D-28s, I had a D-35, I had a 12-string guitar, a D-25 twelve and a
D-35 twelve now, 5 D-45s, I had an Orchestra model, one of the best
guitars I had was a D-37J2 which I gave to a friend of mine, Nick Hyal,
and he gave me a Sunburst D-45. From the standpoint of monetary value,
he gave me a lot more guitar, but sound-wise, I gave him a lot more

NOTE: At this point, the van arrived to take the Trio to the casino and the discussion ended. I did not get to ask all of the questions I wanted, so, Part II will follow sometime in the late spring of 1999 when I will be with Bob again--if I don't see him before then.



Interview with NICK REYNOLDS
October 27, 1998

Nick Reynolds, an original member of The Kingston Trio from 1957 to 1967, rejoined the group in 1987 following the untimely death of Roger Gambill.


Nick at Bally's Casino, New Orleans, Louisiana - October 27, 1998

The interview with Nick took place just outside the entrance to the Bally Casino's show room, which was a mistake. Nick is so personable that everytime someone stopped to talk to him, he took time out from the interview to chat with him or her, sign an autograph, etc. It rather slowed down our conversation but I really did not mind. I would have other opportunities to talk with him and I remembered what I felt like when I first met Nick and got to talk with him. It just didn't seem fair to move him to a more secluded spot and deny those folks a chance to see and speak to him.

One interesting sidelight was when a fan told him one of his (the fan's) favorite songs was "Hobo's Lullaby." The fan, "What chords do you use? I play it in G." Nick, "I don't know what chords I use. Come here and I'll show you how I play it." And off he goes to get his guitar to show the man. Now, I ask you. How many entertainers would have taken the time to do that, particularly while being interviewed?

Anyway, our conversation was even shorter than the one I had with Bob. But, as with Bob, I will see Nick again in May. So, if there are any further questions, I can ask them for The Kingston Trio Place family then.

Tony - Do you know anything about a film or video of a sixties tour of the Trio?

Nick -
A great still photographer by the name of Bert Stern, who shot some great film of the Newport Jazz Festival, a great still photographer, flash photographer, Bert was interested in going to Japan with us and following us around, making a bunch of shots, but I don't think anything every came of it. It was supposed to be made for television or something, but I've never seen it. It was very awkward. They had us posed with Geishas and eating sushi, and things like that.

Tony - What about Young Men in a Hurry?

Nick - Bobby has a copy of that.

Tony - He does?

Nick - Yeah.

Tony - He ought to market it. He could make a fortune!

Nick - (A big laugh) Well, it's not too bad!

Tony - Bob says he wants to go on for at least 10 more years. How about you?

Nick - Ten more? Yeah, possibly. I want to cut back a bit. I don't mind doing the one-nighters, but I don't think I will be doing the extended stays at places like, say, Atlantic City or Vegas, places like that. Sitting in hotels for a week or two is not my idea of, I mean, I get real angst-ridden.

Tony - So we can hope that you will be around for the 50th anniversary tour?

Nick - Oh, yeah! Absolutely! If Bobby will let me keep doing what I want to do!

Tony - Of all the albums the Trio ever did, what was your favorite and what was your least favorite?

Nick - My favorite was Time To Think. It had some great songs and it was probably the closest we ever came to making a statement. As far as my least favorite, I have to think, gee, I don't know. I have no idea.

Tony - Did you ever have to record an album that you did not want to do?

Nick - Well, it got to the point that we were recording three or four albums a year and worked 300 days out of the year, so we were rehearsing, traveling, performing, and recording, all at the same time.

Tony - It makes one wonder how in the world any of you had a family.

Nick - Well, we all had children, but, well, I went through two (marriages) and I'm on my third now.

Tony - In reading a story about the arranging of your songs, when looking at the composer of a certain song, some simply say PD, which of course stands for public domain. The article mentioned that when you guys recorded a PD song, one of you would put your name on it for the royalties. It went on to say you drew straws to see who would write the words to "M. T. A."

Nick - "M. T. A." was written by Jacquelyn Steiner and Bess Hawes, two ladies from Boston. It was a political song for a mayoral candidate.

Tony - George O'Brien?

Nick - Yeah.

Tony - Except you changed the first name from Walter to George?

Nick - Yes, we didn't want to get sued.

Tony - But you did get sued for some songs.

Nick - Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah!

Tony - I only know of two. One was "Run, Molly, Run" and one was "Tom Dooley."

Nick - Yeah, we got sued. Any time you are making a lot of money and you put an album out containing public domain songs and you claim it as your arrangement, you can be sued by….

Tony - But how? They are public domain songs!

Nick - Well, yeah, I know, but they will say, 'You used too much of our arrangement,' or 'You used too many of our words,' and we'd lose half and win half. Some we would settle out of court. It was all friendly. With some, it was a big joke. Like, between the Weavers and ourselves and everybody else who was doing that type of thing. You probably remember our version of the Weavers's song "When The Saints Go Marching In"? They said, 'Now, Nick! You used our verse in that. Therefore, you can't use it like you said you were.' (Laughs) 'Not that verse!' (Laughs again.) So, it was a big game. Everybody was doing it.

Tony - Do you have a most embarrassing moment while you were on stage?

Nick - Well, you were there at Flanary's in New Orleans when I fell flat on my face.

Tony - Well, that was understandable. You were having…

Nick - Yeah, I was having hip problems and I went to stand up and my hip just gave out on me. Folks thought I had had too much Irish whiskey!

Tony - In your wildest dreams, did you ever think the Trio would last this long?

Nick - Oh, not all. No. When we split in 1967, I didn't plan on coming back but it didn't work out that way. I left Oregon after 20 years and then Bobby needed somebody and I came back and it gave the Trio a big shot in the arm to have two out of the original three, so it worked out fine for me and everybody.

Tony - And you moved back to where you were born?

Nick - Yeah. Coronado, California. I moved back where my mom lived.

Tony - Well, Nick, I think it is show time. Thanks for talking to the folks at The Kingston Trio Place.

Nick - My pleasure.



Interview with GEORGE GROVE
October 27, 1998

A member since 1976, George, next to Bob Shane, has the longest tenure of any member of The Kingston Trio.


George at Bally's Casino, New Orleans, Louisiana - October 27, 1998


The Kingston Trio Place will publish Tony's interview with George Grove as soon as we receive it. Stay Tuned!