The Kingston Trio: Welcome To Our Time Machine

by Angie Ripple  |  Tuesday Dec. 31st, 2019

The Kingston Trio was the biggest band in the world until the Beatles came along, those pesky Beatles, and we’re still selling out concerts all over the United States.” That was Mike Marvin’s response to my question: “What would you want someone who isn’t familiar with The Kingston Trio to know about the band?” The band is a big deal, then and now, and their timeless acoustic style is something no other band is doing.

The trio began in 1955 in San Francisco. The original members Nick Reynolds, Bob Shane and Dave Guard brought talent and tenacity to the stage, harmonizing in their signature-striped shirts playing banjos, bongos, and guitars. Their charisma emanated in each performance; with on-stage banter and storytelling, the group entertained audiences worldwide for years.   

“Remember there is nothing more boring than perfection,” said Nick Reynolds in one live performance.

Fans of the legendary folk group now have an opportunity to re-discover their timeless music on the current “Keep the Music Playing” tour coming to Bozeman’s Emerson Theatre on February 9, 2020. The tour celebrates the group’s more than 60 years of entertaining audiences with performances of twenty four of the Trio’s best-loved songs.

Angie Ripple: Has The Kingston Trio been to Bozeman before, or Montana?

Mike Marvin: We played a sellout in
Billings for New Year’s Eve two years ago. And we’ve been to the Custer Battlefield, that whole tour felt very Montana-like.

AR: How did you come to be in the band?

MM: My cousin was Nick Reynolds, and he was a founder of the band. I had always played guitar and that was always a part of my life, and when Nick died about ten years ago it was kind of like inheriting the family business if you know what I mean, it was a little like that. Reynolds was the founder and he taught me everything about The Kingston Trio when I was a kid, and he took me in as a teenager and then I used that experience and when the opportunity came up about three or four years ago to take over The Kingston Trio I did it.

When it came time to actually step up and do The Kingston Trio we took it seriously, we focused down and started deep rehearsals and really worked hard for about three years getting the show to where it
is now.

The current trio of Mike Marvin, Tim Gorelangton and Don Marovich have been touring for the past twenty six months; the Emerson show will be about the 140th show!

MM: We recreated the trio’s original 1960-61 show in terms of spirit, but we’ve modernized it. It doesn’t feel antiquated or retro, it feels good. The only thing we don’t do that other groups like us do, is we don’t spread across the stage, we play to a single mic and we do all our harmony blending on stage. We don’t have a guy in the back mixing it or any of that kind of stuff. It’s pretty raw and real, and audiences just seem to really love it because it’s so rare. I don’t think there is anyone in the United States doing anything even close to what we’re doing.

AR: It sounds a little like what bluegrass bands are doing.

MM: There is a bluegrass vibe, there’s a country vibe to it all. The Kingston Trio was never really a folk band in the classic sense, but on the other hand the first Grammy ever awarded for Country & Western music was won by The Kingston Trio and it will go down in history as winning the first Grammy ever for Country music, and that was our group! All together I believe the group has won three Grammy’s and a Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The Kingston Trio’s most popular songs include Tom Dooley, MTA & Where Have All The Flowers Gone. It’s all about the songs and the music, and even someone who doesn’t know the group would certainly know the songs.

MM: In our show there are twenty-four songs. Even the new song Armstrong, which is about Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, turned out to be kind of a Facebook hit this year; we have a lot of requests for it now. It’s been a pleasant surprise, I must say, because there hasn’t been a hit song from the group since the early 1960s.” With a little luck, the new album coming out this February will strike a chord with listeners and another hit will arise.

Right now the trio has really been on a roll and people really seem to like it. I had a woman come up to me last week and she said, ‘For two hours I was seventeen years old again. She must have been eighty years old.’ Then another woman said to me ‘my husband passed away seven months ago and the song you sing ‘Scotch and Soda’ that was our song.’ We get a lot of that from the audience.

For all of our skiing readers, Mike’s story begins with skiing in Northern California. Mike grew up in Tahoe City and after high school he launched himself into the world of extreme skiing by designing and executing the first base jump with a parachute off of El Capitan in Yosemite in 1972. A similar jump was used for the James Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me. Mike’s professional ski career lasted about six years and led him to Hollywood where he made even more movies, including the cult classic ski film Hot Dog which kicked off Xgames type ski sequences called Chinese Downhill. He also was instrumental in the making of  Legends of the Fall, based in Montana. Mike hopes to makes some turns while visiting Bozeman, but he won’t be hucking any cliffs this time.

MM: Sometimes I think that all the traveling around the country making ski movies, and then making Hollywood movies, the perfect poda to it all is The Kingston Trio and songs and stories or stories and songs, it’s all pretty cool. I’m looking forward to the Bozeman show, I played one of my ski movies in the area in November of 1974 and that was the last time I was there doing a concert.

Welcome Mike back to Montana, as he, Tim and Don “Keep the Music Playing” at the Emerson Cultural Center’s Crawford Theatre February 9, 2020 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available now at https://thekingstontrio.brownpapertickets.com/  

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