Rick Dougherty
   Of The Kingston Trio

 

 

Our family lived in La Grange, Illinois, a little town about twenty miles SW of the Loop, where I was born in 1948. I’m told that as a baby my mother would hum lullabies to me in the cradle and that I would hum along with her (probably because I didn’t know the lyrics). We left there when I was five, so my main memories are of digging tunnels through the waist-high snow and listening to my mother play piano. She was very accomplished and I loved listening to her playing Chopin, Beethoven and Bach while I lay under the piano watching her feet on the pedals.

In 1953 we moved to Altadena, California, where I grew up with my older brother and two younger sisters. My parents and sister Pat loved to sing, and so we would harmonize during long drives and stage full productions of the popular musicals at home. At school I was enlisted in the choir a year earlier than usually permitted as I was heard singing on the playground. I also held the school detention record for singing in class, singing in the halls, singing in detention….

By the time I reached high school, folk music was in full swing and I devoured every record I could get my hands on. I learned the guitar and started singing at open mikes, jam sessions, parties; anywhere I could get a moment. On New Year’s Eve, before the big Rose Bowl parade, the churches would turn every vacant storefront along Colorado Boulevard into a coffee house and we would bring our guitars and sing all night long for coffee and doughnuts and watch the parade in the morning.

In 1971 our family moved north to San Francisco and I began playing small clubs in the area. When a friend said that there was a great music scene happening in Denver, I began what would become my life as a traveling folk singer for the next twelve years. I played all over Western states, refining my solo guitar style and learning new material and styles. But by the early 80s the small clubs began closing and the first of the electronic gadgets made its appearance (remember the Roland Rhythm Machine?). I had been thrown out of the only rock band I had ever joined after wearing ear plugs to a rehearsal, and realized that I simply couldn’t go along with this. I decided to return to California to finish my degree in math and computers and to my music for myself.

But for all my good intentions I couldn’t help but sign up for one music theory course. By the end of the first semester I was signed up with the music department and had become assistant stage director for the opera program. After graduation I started directing for the many small opera companies in the area and over the next 15 years I directed almost 40 operas.

Now, the truth is that the only difference between a folk singer and an opera director is that opera directors starve with dignity, so by 1990 I was facing some very grim prospects when I got a call from Alex Hassilev of the Limeliters. Red Grammer, their tenor, was leaving the group, they remembered me from when we had met in Santa Rosa, and asked if I would like to join. So I was on the road again doing the music I loved, only now it was for a national audience on the big stages. These times were full of wonderful experiences, both when the group included Lou Gottlieb and after his death in 1996 when it included Bill Zorn.

Then things got a little hectic. In 2002 both Bill Zorn and I left the Limeliters. Bob Shane asked Bill to rejoin The Kingston Trio - the group Bill had sung with in the mid-70s. I joined Glenn Yarbrough and Dick Foley in The Folk Reunion to go on the “This Land is Your Land” tour with The Brothers Four and The Kingston Trio.

When the tour ended, Glenn decided to go back on his own and I was once again a free agent. Then I got another call, this time from Bob Shane, asking if I too would like to join The Kingston Trio. The rest of the story has yet to be written, but I can only see a very bright future ahead; bringing the music I have always loved to yet a new generation of listeners.