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The Highwaymen :Unique Folk Group

Updated on February 25, 2017

The Highwaymen

The Highwaymen performing
The Highwaymen performing

Who were The Highwaymen?

The Highwaymen were another original great sounding folk group from the 60s folk revival. They were one of the few folk quintets (groups of 5). According to Wikipedia, they were "a...collegiate folk group, which originated at Wesleyan University." They had 2 top Billboard hits, "Michael" in 1961, and "Cotton fields" in 1962.

The logo of The Highwaymen:

Logo of The Highwaymen from an album cover
Logo of The Highwaymen from an album cover | Source

The start of The Highwaymen: - [info. from Wikipedia]

1958, Dave Fisher, a freshman at Wesleyan University, who...had sung in a doo-wop group, got together with four other freshman, Bob Burnett, Steve Butts, Chan Daniels, and Steve Trott, to form a folk quintet which they called the Highwaymen, with Dave becoming their arranger and lead singer.

"The Highwaymen."  Their first album
"The Highwaymen." Their first album

The first big hit for the Highwaymen: - [info. gleaned from Wikipedia:}

  1. The same year, (1958), Dave Fisher "arranged a version of the African-American spiritual Michael, Row the Boat Ashore,"
  2. The next year (1959) while they were still sophomores, "his arrangement was released by United Artists."
  3. Then, In 1960, they recorded their first album,which included "Michael" :

    It includes: "Michael," " Big rock candy mountain," "The gypsy rover," "Greenland Fisheries," "Take This Hammer" along with several "obscure songs. "Even the obscure songs here are worth hearing." --Peter Durward Harris. If you wish to have this album for sentimental reasons, you can find this album listed by itself on Amazon, However, your best bet would be to get the 4 album, 2CD set listed last on this page.

Their first big hit (continued) ("Michael goes #1:)

  1. "In 1961, ["Michael"] reached #1 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart with the abbreviated title, 'Michael', earning them a gold record."
  2. "Michael" "also reached #1 in UK and #4 in Germany."

Take a listen: - See why they hit #1:

WHY did Dave choose this subject matter? - What do you think?

Did Dave Fisher choose this song because he had religious or Spiritual leanings?

Why did Dave Fisher choose to arrange a Spiritual?

See results

The early career of The [original] Highwaymen - [info. from Wikipedia and The Highwaymen website:]

  • In 1961 the Highwaymen recorded their 2nd big [single] hit, "Cottenfields," which went to #13 on the top 100.
  • In 1962, Steve Trott left the group to enter Harvard Law School. He was replaced by Gil Robbins, father of actor Tim Robbins.
  • The Highwaymen recorded eight albums and ten singles,
    • They appeared on The Johnny Carson Tonight Show.
    • They appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" three times.
    • In June 1963, they recorded the live album, "Hootenany With The Highwaymen."
    • In October, 1963, they recorded the album "One More Time."

The Career of the Highwaymen (continued)

  • They appeared on The Johnny Carson Tonight Show.
  • They appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" three times.
  • In June 1963, they rcorded the live album, "Hootenany With The Highwaymen."
  • In October, 1963, they recorded the album "One More Time."

A concert at MIT:

  • Also In October of 1963, The Highwaymen did, as they say, "one of our better performances in a wonderful concert hall on the campus of MIT. By great luck, the concert was recorded, and by even greater luck the tape was preserved without serious deterioration since then.".
  • [From The Highwaymen website:] "We have arranged to have a two-CD set made of the whole concert,, It was hailed as "the best compilation or reissue of 2009" by Blitz magazine." Here it is (below:)

The Cambridge Tapes:

The end of the Highwaymen:

  • In 1964, The Highwaymen broke up, the members going their separate ways, taking differing college courses.

The later career of The Highwaymen: - [Info. gleaned from Wikipedia]

  • The Highwaymen continued for three more years with Dave Fisher, the only remaining member of the original group, as musical director and with new members Renny Temple, Roy Connors, Moses Henry and Alan Scharf.
  • The recorded 2 more albums, "The Spirit and the flesh", which is as the title suggests, is a mix of spiritual and secular folk songs, and "On a New Road").
  • They performed numerous concerts and several T.V. shows.
  • They disbanded for good in 1967.

The Highwaymen reunions: - [Info. gleaned from Wikipedia]

  • in 1987, the original Highwaymen, except Daniels (who died in 1975), reunited for their 25th college reunion. concert.
  • Since then they have performed ten to twelve concerts a year.
  • Johann Helton joined the group in 1991.
  • They performed for the last time in August 2009 in Massachusetts.

Your best bet: this great re-mastered 2 CD set:

You can get four of their best original studio albums all in one place with this great 2 CD set. I have several of these songs on other CDs, and they really sound great - I couldn't imagine those songs being sung by another group. I'm sure you won't be sorry with this set.


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