Best Of The Vanguard Years The Rooftop Singers


Catalogue Id:
VCD 79749

When a group has a massive hit with its debut record - and in the case of the Rooftop Singers, we are talking B-I-G (13 weeks riding high in the Billboard Pop Chart in 1963, with two weeks in the #1 slot and an international chart presence)- as often as not the song becomes their epitaph. The pressure of living up to that initial success is just too great for all but the most creative. The Rooftop Singers are now remembered exclusively for the hit Walk Right In yet, as this "Best Of" compilation attests, they recorded many excellent tracks for Vanguard between the years 1963-64.

Though their line-up of "two guys with guitars and a girl" was the same as Peter, Paul & Mary's (and other trios of the folk boom era), the Rooftop Singers distinctively drew on deep influences from the jazz vocal tradition in addition to folk scene trends. Singer Lynne Taylor had sung in the late 1950s with both Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich and recorded as a solo artist for Coral and you can hear echoes of this apprenticeship in the group's rendition of Duke Ellington's It Don't Mean A Thing (the relaxed swinging rhythm is provided by Ellingtonian bassist Wendell Marshall and drummer Johnny Cresci).

In fact, it's the jazz-tinged, gospel and jug band repertoire that have stood the test of time better than the outright folksy and bluegrass stuff. Risselty, Rosselty is as ridiculous as it sounds (but thankfully only 51 seconds long) whereas You Don't Know a sublime piece of singing with lovely single string acoustic guitar support. Hey Boys (a version of Lead Belly's Linin' Track) will appeal stylistically to anyone checking out again (or for the first time) Oscar Brown Jnr's recent CD re-release.

The 12-string guitar may have dominated the sound of the hit Walk Right In (and helped define a sound that would soon be taken up and honed to perfection by the Byrds) but it played only a supporting role on most of the Rooftop Singers' recordings - Twelve String being an obvious exception. Bill Svanoe and Erik Darling both doubled and alternated on 12 and 6 string guitars. Darling also played banjo on all the tracks included in this retrospective except for I'm Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail, on which Svanoe straps on the 5-string.

Of the 27 tracks included, five are previously unreleased, one was released only as on a 45rpm single and the rest comes from their two Vanguard albums "Walk Right In!" (1963) and "Good Time!" (1964).

After a period running a family counselling practice, Darling is again performing. Svanoe went on to become a successful Hollywood scriptwriter and playwright before taking up teaching at the University of North Carolina. Lynne Taylor died in 1979 at the age of 43.

By John Crosby


Track listing


Side 1

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