Bob Haworth sees himself as a pinch hitter for folk and pop group The Kingston Trio.
The tenor guitarist and singer started performing with the trio in 1985, then again from ‘95 to 2005. During the interim, he pursued a solo career in Denver.
“I kept a suitcase packed,” Haworth laughs. “I was always on call with the trio because Nick Reynolds was not always able to tour.”
Haworth has been a fan of the trio since he was a kid, he says.
“When I was learning the banjo in the late ‘50s, I heard ‘Tom Dooley’ on the radio. It had two chords, and I said, ‘I know those chords,’ so I started playing folk music.”
Haworth’s last performance with the trio was at Britt Festivals. He retired to Jacksonville with his wife, Meri, and picked up solo gigs at wineries and other venues.
A couple of months ago, new trio member Mike Marvin called to ask whether Haworth could fill in for Josh Reynolds, Nick Reynolds’ adopted son, who had suddenly quit the group.
“I started touring with Marvin and Tim Gorelangton in early September, as a replacement for the son of the guy I replaced in ‘98,” he says. “Marvin knew me from my previous tenure with the group, and he knew I could jump in at a moment’s notice. They had dates booked and needed someone. I was well-rehearsed because guitarists John Hollis, Andrew Brock and I had just closed ‘Spotlight on The Kingston Trio’ at Camelot Theatre.
The Kingston Trio will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Rogue Theatre, 143 S.E. H St., Grants Pass. Tickets are $40, $50 or $60 and can be purchased at roguetheatre.com, by calling 541-471-1316 or at the door. The show is open to ages 21 and older.
“Most of The Kingston Trio’s early material was culled from traditional folk music. It was music that Alan Lomax had collected,” Haworth says.
Lomax, like A.P. Carter, was an ethnomusicologist, best known for his many field recordings of 20th-century folk music.
“‘Tom Dooley,’ for example, is a song written by Tom Dula while he was sitting in jail waiting for his hanging,” Haworth says. “A lot of the music was handed down over generations. The Kingston Trio rearranged some of the songs to popularize them, but primarily the music is from the tradition.
“The songs that resonate with us the most are the ones that resonate with audiences the most,” he says. “It thrills us to get the audience singing along. It’s songs like ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone,’ ‘Greenback Dollar’ and ‘Hard Travelin,’ a Woody Guthrie song. We open the shows with that one.”
A 1965 graduate of Medford High School, Haworth was bit early by the professional music bug.
“I had a folk duo in high school with John Eads called The Kinsmen,” he says. “Eads attended University of Oregon and became Medford’s city attorney. We sang Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, and all the folk music that was on the radio.”
Haworth attended UCLA for a couple of years, then transferred to UO. He was working at radio station KSHA in Medford when his employer moved to Portland to manage bands. One was The New Yorkers, formed by Bill Hudson and Kent Fillmore. (Hudson married Goldie Hawn and is Kate Hudson’s father). Haworth was asked to play with the band and replaced Fillmore in 1968.
“I worked with that band for a couple of years,” he says. “We were on a label called Jerden Records out of Seattle. The owner, Jerry Dennon, and I became friends. He called one day and said, ‘You know, I’m partners with The Brothers Four. They need to replace their tenor. That’s how I hooked up with The Brothers Four in 1970.”
Haworth played with The Brothers Four for 15 years and met many artists on the folk music circuit, including The Kingston Trio founding members Bob Shane, Dave Guard and Reynolds.
“Shane was the one who called me in 1985 when Roger Gambill died,” he says.
The Kingston Trio’s lineup changed a lot over the years.
“Guard left in ‘60, replaced by John Stewart. That was the first personnel change. Stewart wrote a lot of original music for the trio, and he had his own solo career. But, yes, the group did make several personnel changes. I think I was the seventh.”
When Shane retired in 2004, Haworth says he saw the writing on the wall.
“I could see it was going to become a tribute group,” he says. “Shane replaced himself with Bill Zorn from The Limeliters, and I sang with that group for another year. I was replaced with another Limeliter named Rick Dougherty, and that group continued up until last year when Shane made a deal with Josh Reynolds to lease The Kingston Trio name for 10 years. Josh had formed a trio and wanted the name to market it. For the last year, that group has toured as The Kingston Trio.
“The Kingston Trio really started the ‘folk music scare,’ as some called it in the ‘50s,” Haworth says. “To continue its legacy 61 years later is a real honor for me. It’s amazing. We can still do this, draw sold-out crowds and get standing ovations.”
After 13 years, Haworth is back on the road with The Kingston Trio.
“It’s changed since I traveled back in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” he says. “And a lot has changed since 9/11. I realized after being back on the road for a couple of weeks that there is a skill to traveling. The one thing is to travel light. I’m writing about it in my book, ‘Tales From the Roadside.’”
Haworth doesn’t have a publication date in mind. He’s not finished his career yet.
“There’s some stories I really want to tell, but I’ve got to wait for a couple of people to pass away first. It’s in the works. But I’m enjoying being back. I never thought I’d do this again, but here I am.”