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The Rooftop Singers

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Rooftop Singers

Rooftop Singers

© Vanguard Records

Description:

Contemporary folk, singer-songwriters, vocal group

Comparisons:

The Rooftop Singers were a very popular group during the mid-20th Century folk music revival, alongside some traditional music revivalists like the Weavers (Darling took over after Pete Seeger left that group) and the New Lost City Ramblers. While the Weavers performed traditional songs with a more mainstream-palatable pop sensibility, and the New Lost City Ramblers were hugely dedicated to performing folk songs the way they were traditionally performed, the Rooftop Singers' music fell somewhere between the two, offering something for both audiences. Fans of Peter, Paul, and Mary, Gus Cannon, and some less overtly political folk groups would be interested in learning more about the Rooftop Singers. As for more contemporary comparisons, fans of the Rooftop Singers might be interested in some of the latest crop of folk "revivalists" like the Lumineers, the Head and the Heart,and others who rely heavily on harmony for building a pop-tinged sound against traditional-styled music.

Rooftop Singers Lineup:

Erik Darling (vocals, guitar)
Bill Svanoe (vocals, guitar)
Lynne Taylor (vocals)

Recommended Albums by the Rooftop Singers:

Vanguard Visionaries (Vanguard Records) compare prices

Purchase/Download Rooftop Singers MP3s:

"Walk Right In" (from The Best of the Rooftop Singers)
"Wild Mountain Thyme" (fromThe Best of the Rooftop Singers)
"Mama Don't Allow"

Rooftop Singers Biography:

Eric Darling was born in Maryland in 1933 and grew up inspired by the budding traditional folk music movement which was emerging throughout his youth. One of his first bands - the Tarriers - even had somewhat of a hit song with their version of "The Banana Boat Song" (purchase/download), before Darling was offered the opportunity to take Pete Seeger's place in one of his favorite bands of all time - the Weavers - in 1958.

In 1962, after a brief effort at a solo career, Darling pulled a trio together to record a version of the Gus Cannon classic "Walk Right In." The original had been recorded in 1929 by Cannon's jug band, but Darling thought it would sound good with an updated arrangement and more pop-sensible vocal part. He enlisted the help of singer-guitarist Bill Svanoe and jazz chanteuse Lynne Taylor, to round out the three-part harmony he had envisioned.

The trio recorded the tune for Vanguard Records - then a huge supporter of the burgeoning folk music revival, such as it was - and the recording quickly became remarkably successful. It landed atop Billboard's Hot 100 chart in 1963, and scored hits on both the country and R&B charts as well. The album on which the song lived (titled, appropriately, Walk Right In) earned a Grammy award for Best Folk Recording and the group was invited to play at the Newport Folk Festival that same year.

Considering their somewhat manufactured beginnings - being drawn together for the purpose of reviving a particular song so that it could be sold as a single - it's hardly surprising that the Rooftop Singers are still known to this day as one-hit wonders. Nonetheless, their performance of "Walk Right In" remains considerably more popular than Cannon's original version, and it has landed them in the company of landmark folk revivalists like the Weavers and their contemporaries.

Their one hit notwithstanding, the trio stuck together for a total of four years and three albums, though Taylor left after the second disc and was replaced by Mindy Stuart (who then left and was replaced by Patricia Street shortly before the group stopped performing together completely). Despite their dissolution, Street and Darling continued to make music together as a duo even after the Rooftop Singers were no more.

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