Posted on Feb 23, 2020
Bob Shane, the last surviving original member of the Kingston Trio, whose smooth close harmonies helped transform folk music from a dusty niche genre into a dominant brand of pop music in the 1950s and ’60s, passed away recently in Phoenix, Arizona. He was 85.
From 1957 until 2004, when a heart attack forced him to stop touring, he devoted himself to keeping the the name, and the music, of the trio alive, bringing its unique blend of ballads, calypso, and folk, always served with a generous helping of humour, alive for older fans and new generations alike.
Shane, born Robert Castle Schoen on February 1st, 1934, was of German descent - in his younger days he was a Hawaii-based Elvis Presley impersonator. Although the music of the Kingston Trio embraced many genres, he cited Hank Williams, Harry Belafonte and the Weavers among his greatest influences.
The Trio's re-working of Tom Dula, a song based on the 1866 murder of a woman named Laura Foster in Wilkes County, North Carolina, allegedly by Dula, a former Confederate soldier, gave them their first big hit in 1958 renamed as Tom Dooley, with Shane singing lead vocals.
The recording reached #1 in Billboard and the Billboard R&B listings, and was selected as one of the American Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America(RIAA), the National Endowment for the Arts, and Scholastic Inc.
Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.
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