Saturday, April 24, 2010

Trios: The Kingston Trio

The Kingston Trio: Charlie on the MTA


I call it pop-folk. In the 1950s, a number of groups arise who played and sang traditional songs on acoustic instruments, but were not folk artists, exactly. These groups had carefully developed stage routines, and there performances were scrubbed clean of any roughness. Often they cultivated a clean-cut image by appearing in matching outfits. All of this applied to The Kingston Trio, but they also showed how much could be done within this set of limitations. Charlie on the MTA is a fine example. This is a protest song, but not one that would provoke much controversy. The song concerns a transit fare increase in Boston, and it uses humor to make its point. The Kingston Trio's reputation for using humor in their act actually helps put this one over, and the limitations of the pop-folk form become a strength. By putting over their objections to a fare increase in the most non-threatening manner, The Kingston Trio assured that their protest would reach the widest possible audience.

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