Sometimes things happen in the music world that make your head spin in wonder as a pop star appears from seemingly out of now where. In the olden golden dayz of the mid-century music biz, that out of nowhere star had usually put in quite a bit of advance work to be suddenly recognized for his or her skills. The old adage was something akin to this: "it takes 10 years to make an overnight sensation."
In these days of YouTube insta-Bieber ascensions, perhaps some of the value of that sort of hard road work has been overlooked and lost on a generation or three.
To that, over the course of a few articles I hope to look at some groups that whose influence was felt only after said groups and split up and its individual members moved onto other things. Here is a look at some folk groups from the early 1960s you probably never heard about. All of this music shares some similar roots with tight multi-part harmonies sung in a gospel-country-folk-cum-barbershop tradition, much in the way that Pete Seeger and his original group The Weavers did in the 1950s before they were blacklisted. Acoustic guitars and banjos inevitably pop up in the mix. Its a hootenanny, folks.!
First up are The Journeymen...
Many fans of The Mamas and The Papas (big hit 60s vocal folk-rock group) know that some half of the group came out of a group called The Mugwumps (ya can't make this stuff up folks). But few (myself included) knew that lead Papa John Philips was in a folk trio called The Journeymen. I recently found one of their albums and it is a classic post-Weavers assemblage riding the then new wave of popular folk harmonies filling in the gaps as rock and roll took a post-Buddy Holly / pre-Beatles breather. In that group was also one Scott Mackenzie who later had a huge hit with Philips' hippie anthem "If You're Going To San Francisco;" at last, I finally got the connection and how Mackensie seemingly appeared out of no where. While I have been listening to a pristine original pressing on Capitol Records, you can find the album reissued on CD up on Amazon.
Connecting the dots....
The Modern Folk Quartet (MFQ) is one of Warner Brothers Records offerings to the genre. Same kinda thing. Harmonies. Gospel. Poetry. Depression and elation sung side by side with passion and grace. Nice stuff. So who is in the band? Well, first off is a fellow named Tad Diltz who went on to greater fame under his birth name Henry Diltz, the legendary photographer of the Woodstock festival (who also did album covers for The Doors, CSN and many others). Again, if you ever wondered "how did that guy get that gig?" well now you know. He was there at the right time and the right place, clearly making friends early in his career, contacts that would serve him well later when he gave up singing for photography. Other members of this band also went on to greater fame. Chip Douglas joined The Turtles, which became one of the biggest American rock bands of the day, riding the wave of post-Beatles "folk-rock;" he went on to produce hits for The Monkees (and The Turtles!). Jerry Yester worked with The Lovin' Spoonful and with his wife Judy Henske. Yester's brother was in The Association whom he produced and he went on do many things including producing for The Turtles, Tim Buckley's first two albums and Tom Waits!
Oh, you might wonder how those latter came about: Well, consider that the MFQ was managed by one Herb Cohen who later managed Frank Zappa, Tim Buckley and Tom Waits, among others. Jim Dickson produced their first album (who later managed The Byrds). Connections, baby. Its all about connections. According to the Wiki, they were last heard from in 2003 when they reformed and toured Japan (where they are still popular).
Lots of dots being connected here, eh folks?