Folk Legacy Trio (from left, Rick Dougherty, Jerry Siggins and George Grove, Saturday evening at APAP)
Together just a couple years but with decades of experience going back to the folk revival era spanning the 1950s through the mid-’70s, The Folk Legacy Trio says they’re keeping that music going now because they’re so old they don’t want to learn new songs.
But at their Saturday night (Jan. 11) showcase at the annual Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) conference at New York’s Midtown Hilton Hotel, they made those old songs (specifically, the Joe & Eddie version of “There’s a Meeting Here Tonight,” Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain,” the Everly Brothers’ “Let It Be Me” and Phil Ochs’ “Power and the Glory”) young again.
If they’d had more time than the standard 15-minute Hilton APAP showcase set the harmony-rich trio might also have included songs from the likes of The Weavers, The Kingston Trio, The Limeliters, Peter Paul & Mary, The New Christy Minstrels, The Brothers Four, The Chad Mitchell Trio, Bob Dylan, Ian & Sylvia, Tom Paxton, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel, Shel Silverstein and John Denver.
Such material is only natural for George Grove, formerly with the Kingston Trio for 41 years; Rick Dougherty, former member of the Limeliters (13 years) and Kingston Trio (12 years); and Jerry Siggins, former lead singer of the legendary doo-wop group The Diamonds for 27 years.
“Back in those days, everyone knew the name Kingston Trio,” said Grove, who joined that trio in 1976, following his new one’s showcase. “It was such an odd sensation, because they were an iconic group that I’d first heard when I was 12 or so, but they’d fallen out of favor in pop music, and we had to build the name back up.”
Grove, who had been a Nashville studio musician (he remembers the night when Dolly Parton bid farewell to her mentor and duet partner Porter Wagoner at the Grand Ole Opry by performing “I Will Always Love You” for the first time ever), recalled playing in front of 20 or so people in pool halls after joining the Kingston Trio. It took four years to lift them back up to where he was writing charts for their pops concerts with symphony orchestras.
“We did over 500 of them,” continued Grove. “Even though I wasn’t an original member, John Stewart had written some great songs before he left the group, and I contributed those orchestral charts for the next 41 years. Then Rick and I left the Trio two-and-a-half years ago but didn’t want to stop performing--but wanted to do a more expanded repertoire, which led to the Folk Legacy Trio.”
The threesome takes “a great deal of pride in our vocals, to do justice to the songs,” added Grove, “because the songs are folk legends, just as the people who created them are folk legends.” And being “old pros” themselves, they’re able to do 45-minute shows as well as two-and-a-half hour concerts “that feel like we’re singing in your living room.”
“We do anywhere from 20 to 30 songs and talk a lot, because we knew all those folk icons and have stories to tell,” said Grove. “The audiences and agencies for whom we’ve performed feel we’re on to something very, very good, because the shows are so well received: People are dying to hear this music!”
As Siggins lives in Palm Springs and Dougherty is in the Bay Area, the three meet in Las Vegas, where Grove lives.
“My wife and I make our Costco run, and she’s making food while we’re rehearsing—and every now and then she’ll hear a song and shout out, ‘Yes!’” said Grove.
“I’ve done a pretty good job and could retire--and there I’ve said that word--but what the hell is that?” he concluded. “A musician doesn’t retire until the music leaves him. Music hasn’t left us, and we’re not going to leave music.”
Folk Legacy Trio video