Friday, April 15, 2011

Kingston Trio -- "A Worried Man" (1959)

I've been away on a business trip,
Travelin' all around 
I've got a gal and her name is Sue,
Prettiest gal in town
She sets my mind to worryin'
Every time I'm gone 
I'll be home tonight
So I won't be worried long!

Think again, you big dope.  Because Bobby's in the living room, holdin' hands with Sue.  And Nicky's at that big front door, 'bout to come on through.  In other words, that gal of yours is giving it up to half the guys in town. 

This song brings to mind a foam beer "koozie" I saw at a convenience store in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, many years ago.  (The Yankees used to hold spring training in Ft. Lauderdale, which is why I was there.)  It read as follows:

Definition of a worried man:
A wife, a mistress, a mortgage payment --
All one month overdue!

I regret that I did not buy that koozie.  It would have completely captured the current zeitgeist -- both the breakdown of traditional family values and a troubled economy, n'est-ce pas?

(I did buy a different koozie.  It read "Every man needs a wife -- you can't blame it all on the government."  So the trip wasn't a total loss.)

You may be asking yourself, "KINGSTON TRIO???"  I admit, this song is a bit of a departure from the usual fare on 2 or 3 lines.  But I like to mix it up -- be spontaneous -- go with the flow -- throw the occasional breaking ball to a right-handed hitter when the count is 3-2 and the bases are loaded.

The Best of the Kingston Trio (which was released in 1962) is one of the first LPs that I remember my family owning.  When my parents bought a Magnovox console stereo in the early 1960s, they bought a lot of jazz records, which were of little interest to me.  But I loved Mitch Miller and the Gang's Sing Along With Mitch record.

The Mitch Miller was a lot of fun to sing along with, and I still remember most of the songs on that LP.  Here's an example of the charmingly archaic lyrics the album featured:

That's where my money goes
To buy my baby clothes
I buy her everything
To keep her in style (well, well, well!)
She wears silk underwear
I wear my last year's pair
Say boys, that's where my money goes!

(There may come a time when I forget my name and my childrens' names and every other important fact I know -- but I will never forget those lyrics.)

The songs on the Kingston Trio record were more contemporary and interesting.  Several of them were about criminals -- "Tom Dooley" (I think my junior high boys' chorus sang that song, along with "There Is Nothin' Like a Dame" from South Pacific), "Everglades," "Tijuana Jail," and "Bad Man's Blunder."

It's hard to believe just how popular the Kingston Trio was back in the day.

They released their first album in 1958 and it went to #1 on the Billboard album chart.  (That album included "Tom Dooley," which sold 3 million copies.)

The Kingston Trio issued 18 more albums between 1959 and 1964 -- an average of three albums per year.  Five of those albums went to #1, five were either #2 or #3 albums, and three others made the Billboard top 10.  They had four albums in the top 10 simultaneously for five weeks in 1959.  That is positively Beatles-esque.

Purists sneered at the Kingston Trio because they were so successful, accusing them of prostituting folk music.  The group never claimed to be real folksingers, but they made folk songs wildly popular here and abroad.  

Eventually, the Trio expanded its repertoire to include songs like "It Was a Very Good Year" (which later became a hit for Frank Sinatra) and "Scotch and Soda."  They recorded music by young songwriters like Hoyt Axton and Rod McKuen (remember Rod McKuen?), and were one of the first American groups to perform a Jacques Brel song in English.  Last but far from least, they popularized the famous anti-war ballad, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" 

This song is one of their more light-hearted ones.  It uses the chorus of the old folk song, "Worried Man Blues":

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song
It takes a worried man to sing a worried song
I'm worried now, but I won't be worried long

But "Worried Man Blues" -- which was recorded by the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, among others -- is about a man who is in prison.  

Here's "Worried Man Blues" performed by the legendary bluegrass duo, the Stanley Brothers:

The Kingston Trio's version is quite different:

Here's a link you can use to buy this song from iTunes:

A Worried Man (Remastered) - The Capitol Years (Remastered)

Here's a link to use if you prefer Amazon: 

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