Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: The Kingston Trio

Let me ask you a question. If there was a popular group during the Rock & Roll era who monopolized the album charts for a several year period, was responsible for about 15% of the sales for that period for their major label, laid the groundwork for a touring circuit, was a forerunner for many imitation groups and a major influence on a genre of music that they basically created the market for from nothing, and whose first five studio albums all hit #1 on the charts, one would think that such a band would be a no-brainer for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, right? One might think so, but that group is the Kingston Trio, and they are not in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame at all. Nor are they widely considered among the most notable snubs, largely because despite the fact that their peak period of popularity was between 1957 and 1964, they are not considered sufficiently “rock” to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, despite immense popularity and massive musical and cultural influence. Not only have they not been inducted as a band, which they would clearly deserve, they have not even been inducted as an early influence [1], which would also be a fair way of recognizing their influence on later rock acts without considering them a Rock & Roll Act as well, similar to the way that pre-rock blues and R&B acts like Nat King Cole have been inducted.

The Influence Of The Kingston Trio

The influence of the Kingston Trio exists on so many levels that it is staggering to look at it now, considering the obscurity of the group in contemporary culture. The success of their debut album and its hit single “Tom Dooley” influenced the Grammys to make a new category for Best Folk recording, because no such category had existed before. The band was responsible for providing a market for folk music in the United States that had been entirely known which brought existing folk acts and songwriters to public prominence and that also paved the way for the later urban folk that would lead to such acts as Bob Dylan and the folk rock of bands like the Byrds, and contemporary acts like the Lumineers and Mumford and Sons. Before the Kingston Trio, there was no viable popular folk music tradition in the mainstream public, which seems unthinkable today given the enduring popularity of folk music and folk rock. They influenced the fate of music labels and makers of musical instruments by making acoustic guitars and folk-labels like Elektra viable commercially and creatively, serving the future singer-songwriter community well. The band owned a restaurant that was part of the center of the San Francisco psychedelic scene. The band’s mix of folk music and a collegiate audience was responsible for creating a college tour that formed the basis for careers as diverse as REM and Tom Lehrer, and that cemented the link between folk rock and college rock and leftist politics, a link that continues to this day. Not only that, but the band has been cited as influential by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members like Stills and Crosby, members of the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, ABBA, the Bee Gees, Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, among many others [2]. With this sort of recognized and unrecognized influence, it seems almost criminal that the band has not yet been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in some fashion.

Why The Kingston Trio Deserves To Be In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

How much does a band have to do? They made folk music commercially viable and paved the way for many people to follow. They made it possible for a band to make a living touring college campuses, which apparently no one had done before, but a lot of bands have done since (most notably bands like REM and Ten Thousand Maniacs). They popularized a particular political worldview that has endured in the genres they blazed a trail for, whether one likes that or not. Their first five studio albums hit #1 [3], selling millions of copies in the 1950’s. They popularized songs like “Tom Dooley,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?,” “It Was A Very Good Year,” “Greenback Dollar,” and “Seasons In The Sun,” even bringing previously unknown foreign language songs into the American popular consciousness. They started a folk boom that endured as a viable component of popular music in the United States and around the world. How much more can a band do to deserve induction into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, whether as an act or as an early influence? I don’t know how much more a single band could be expected to do.

Why The Kingston Trio Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?

I don’t know. Somebody tell me: Is it unacceptable to be a trailblazing commercial folk act that sings other people’s songs in a polished way for a wide audience? I can’t think of any other excuse—even Bob Dylan and Joan Baez praise them from the folk community.


Put them in. They’ve waited long enough already.

[1] Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Frank Sinatra

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kingston_Trio

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kingston_Trio_discography

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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21 Responses to Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: The Kingston Trio

  1. alexvoltaire says:

    I appreciate that you are covering a neglected group that doesn’t get much attention as a Rock Hall snub, but I am not sure I agree. The Kingston Trio, in my opinion, robbed folk music of much of its edge and radical political vision by doing standards like “Tom Dooley” and “Sail Away”. Essentially, it was folk music for Rockefeller Republicans and twee collegiates. In the same way that Pat Boone was a massively successful artist who should never get in the Rock Hall for covering Little Richard records in a less threatening, suburb-friendly manner, The Kingston Trio should also be passed over for castrating the Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie sound. You’ve made the most persuasive case I’ve seen on their behalf, but if an influential folk group should get in, I think it should be Peter, Paul & Mary.

    • I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think it should be an either or matter. There should be room for several more folk acts, including Peter, Paul and Mary.

  2. Pingback: Black Label Warning | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Todd says:

    This Is the best suggestion I have ever seen. Everybody has forgotten them. And they are so influential. I say we spark it up again. Thank you for such a great argument.

    • You’re very welcome 🙂

    • richard says:

      first of all i cannot find a link with the rock and roll hall of fame that a person could contact to get someone to listen. i might be mistaken but i think this whole deal is a joke. they need a person familiar with this era to get these groups the credit they deserve and ten to one it aint happenin. thanks for letting me vent.

      • You’re welcome, and I don’t mind letting people vent about such matters. It’s a shame that there isn’t anyone to contact, but I suspect the people who manage the building of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland keep themselves pretty separate from the nominating committee that chooses the group from which the inductees come in a given year.

  4. mak1091 says:

    its a crime that peter paul and mary are not inducted, so influential, and its not rock and roll only as evidenced by rap stars and gospel singers being inducted.

    • Yeah, folk and folk rock and related genres have really gotten the shaft. I have not written at length about Peter, Paul, and Mary yet, but you are right, they are an obvious induction.

  5. mak1091 says:

    thanks for the response, It has to change from what it is to the Music Hall of Fame, even something out of the ordinary like the Monkees, they started something new and had hits. just to throw a monkee wrench into the discussion pardon the pun.

    • You’re very welcome. Technically, they consider themselves the music hall of fame for the rock & roll era, but there are some big blind spots in what they choose to induct, not only when it comes to acts but whole genres of music.

  6. mak1091 says:

    Have you found a way to influence them, the process seems to be that artists have to put them up and need x number of votes. i find that odd considering for example peter paul and mary, why would they need to be put up, it should be obvious

    • I have seen a way for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to be influenced by outside figures. One of the ways is for Facebook and Twitter campaigns to promote the sharing of posts like this series that get an artist talked about in social media. The #InductJanet campaign is one that I have a great deal of respect for myself, given that Janet Jackson is a very obvious case for induction as well. Basically, it boils down to the fact that there are so many acts that have been neglected and ignored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame that in order to be inducted one needs a certain amount of buzz.

  7. mak1091 says:

    Thanks for the input, i am not a facebook kind of person, would not know how to do something like that. Wish there was a current star who could jump on the band wagon. FYI, totally agree with Janet Jackson as well

    • I’m not sure which current artists would jump on the bandwagon, but I think that a somewhat older artist like a James Taylor or someone else whose singer-songwriter style was strongly influenced by folk music would be ideal to raise their profile. I must admit that I owe a great deal of my awareness of acts that have been excluded from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to the people who comment on my blog who inform/remind me of acts they view as unfairly neglected, which often inspires me to research them a bit more :D.

  8. mak1091 says:

    Fun note, i just went on facebook and sent a message to james taylor, who knows it might work, good idea thanks

  9. Zenos Frudakis says:

    Don McLean should also be in the Rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame

  10. mothfire says:

    ARRGGGHHH! I had to learn Tom Dooley on guitar when I was 10 years old. I hated it. It killed guitar for me for 9 years.
    John Stewart on the other hand (not an original member)… I would put him in.

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