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Chad Mitchell Trio: Unique Folk Group

Updated on October 26, 2017
The Chad Mitchell Trio
The Chad Mitchell Trio

Why I'm making this page about the Chad Mitchell Trio:

I'm making this page about the Chad Mitchell Trio because, as you may know, I love American folk music, and The Chad Mitchell Trio was another one of the great folk groups of the 60s folk revival in America. They sang both traditional folk songs and political protest folk songs. They were unique in that none of them played instruments and in that they were particularly known for their satirical songs about current events.

I greatly enjoyed hearing them on the radio at that time, and I recently purchased their "Collection" album (featured below) and play it every day. I especially enjoy their version of the spiritual, "You can tell the world."

First, check out how the Chad Mitchell Trio started and take a listen to one of their spotlight songs, and check out some of their albums. Then note their later changes and their successes, listen to more of their songs and check out more of their albums, including the great collection album I mentioned. I will list that one last.

The Beginning of The Chad Mitchell Trio - (info. gleaned from Wikipedia and the Chad Mitchell Trio official website:)

  1. [According to The Gazette:] In 1959, when the Spokane Washington based Gonzaga University glee club folded, William Chadbourne Mitchell of Spokane "was asked to form a group which could perform for college functions." He formed the Chad Mitchell Trio of himself, Mike Pugh from Pasco, Washington and Mike Kobluk from...Canada plus Jim McGuinn accompanist (on guitar or banjo).
  2. [According to Wikipedia:] In the summer of 1959, Rev. Reinard W. Beaver encouraged them and asked them to travel with him to New York City to try performing in the new folk-music scene.
  3. Musical arranger Milton Okun helped them to professionally polish their performing skills.
  4. Because of #3, they were able to land "a key booking at New York City's Blue Angel club and radio appearances with Arthur Godfrey and television appearances with Pat Boone."
  5. In his May 1960 Carnegie Hall concert, Harry Belafonte invited them to appear as backup singers and gave them a small featured spotlight. He then signed them to his Belafonte Enterprises management firm.

Take a listen:

Here's one of their spotlight numbers:

The original Chad Mitchell Trio

The original Chad Mitchell Trio
The original Chad Mitchell Trio

Changes and Success of the Trio: - (Info gleaned from Wikipedia)

  1. During the summer of 1960, Mike Pugh left to go back to college. They auditioned over 150 singers and finally chose Joe Frazier of Lebanon, Pennsylvania to replace Pugh.
  2. In 1962, after doing mostly traditional folk songs, they released the satire "The John Birch Society," establishing their ability to do controversial material.
  3. Also in 1962, they departed from Belafonte Enterprises.

In March 1962, they did a concert at Greenwich village's Bitter End. The concert was recorded resulting in the album listed below, which showcases the trio at their best -- informal, irreverent, and totally entertaining. Discarding their suits from earlier album covers, they now performed in comfortable sweaters along with their accompanists, future Byrd Jim McGuinn, former Weaver Fred Hellerman and bassist Bill Lee. The audience was more intimate as well, the coffeehouse audience responding more reverently than the raucous, huge crowd on the Mighty Day on Campus album. The trio's choice of material is solid, mixing traditional folk songs arranged by Milt Okun with more contemporary songs written by the likes of Bob Gibson ("You Can Tell the World," "Blues Around My Head") and Tom Paxton ("Come Along Home"). The album starts off with a bang with the ingeniusly wicked "The John Birch Society" and Woody Guthrie's "Great Historical Bum" is preceded by some humorous braggging.

Check out this Chad Mitchell Trio Album:

  1. In 1963, they moved to Mercury Records, enabling them to add more aggressively political songs to their repertoire.
  2. They appeared on the TV show Hootenanny.
  3. In 1965 Mitchell left to embark on a solo singing career. He was replaced with the young, unknown singer/songwriter John Denver. Denver wrote some of the group's songs, but the group retained the well-known "Chad Mitchell Trio" name.
  4. In 1966, Frazier left the trio and was replaced with David Boise.
  5. After a final live album, Kobluk left and was replaced with Michael Johnson. Because contractual requirements prohibited using the "Mitchell" name after the last original member left, they became "Denver, Boise and Johnson," but soon disbanded.

    Read the Wikipedia article

Take another listen to the Chad Mitchell Trio:

And listen to this, another humorous number by them:

Reunions of the Chad Mitchell Trio:

[From Wikipedia] in 1987, "The Mitchell/Kobluk/Frazier trio and John Denver reunited... for several concerts, [and PBS] broadcasts.... These are the only recordings of all four members." Read the Wikipedia article

Reunion Part 2
Reunion Part 2

Like its predecessor, the Chad Mitchell Trio's Reunion, Part 2 is drawn from a concert given by Chad Mitchell, Mike Kobluk, and Joe Frazier at the Spirit Square Center for the Arts in Charlotte, N.C., in 1987, their first appearance together since the 1960s. The earlier album, Mighty Day: The Chad Mitchell Trio Reunion, contained performances of most of the trio's better-known songs, but there are a few gems left over, notably a cover of Tom Paxton's "The Marvelous Toy" (a chart hit for the group) and a rendition of the Depression-era standard "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," plus a couple of nice surprises: "Barry's Boys," the trio's parody of 1964 right-wing presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, gets updated into a parody of 1987 right-wing President Ronald Reagan in "Ronnie's Boys"; and Bruce Cockburn's "Nicaragua" makes an appropriate and timely (for 1987) addition to the trio's repertoire. As on Mighty Day, former group member John Denver makes a cameo appearance.

 

Finally, get this great collection CD for less on eBay:

As I said, above, I have this CD and play it all the time. It's a great mix of traditional folk and more modern bluesy folk. It also has the humorous "John Birch Society," which is good for a laugh, and, at the other end of the spectrum, the sublime gospel song, "You can tell the world," which I love. They say they love the next song after that one, "The Strangest Dream," and ask the audience to sing along with it, but, the one I really love is "You Can Tell the World," although all of them are great, and it really is a great mix of styles.

What do you think of the Chad Mitchell Trio?

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