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 , 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 . 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 , 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.
 Why Aren’t They In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame: Frank Sinatra