Standing in front of a microphone ... was not the same thing as playing and singing in Washington Square or in someone’s apartment with reckless abandon (which would have been better). I could not help but think that every nuance would count. The result was, I couldn’t sing and play the guitar at the same time on one of the songs. RECORDING SESSION 101: you cross the George Washington Bridge to a New Jersey basement and sing. Still, our syncopated version of “Tom Dooley” on this little record was the one from which the Kingston Trio got their version of the song (as the late Dave Guard has told us), and that song gave them the number one hit that began their career.Darling found his first commercial success with The Tarriers, a trio that included future Oscar winner Alan Arkin. After backing up folk singer Vince Martin on his hit "Cindy, Oh Cindy," the group recorded a version of "The Banana Boat Song."*
Our version of the song was performed on the Hit Parade TV show for eight weeks. Without intending to, we had started the Calypso craze. We were not even singing Calypso--“The Banana Boat Song” was a Jamaican folk song and most of our material was North American folk music--but the music industry needed to label what we were doing. Every time we appeared on a TV show, the set was palm trees and bananas, or pilings, barrels and docks, or all five. We were covered by Capital Record’s version of the same song, “Day-O," by Harry Belafonte. With Capital’s power, as well as Belafonte’s ability to dramatize songs and perform, it is Belafonte’s version of the song that is remembered to this day.Though their musical interests reached beyond the West Indies, The Tarriers' Darling-era YouTube offerings are limited: here's "Chaucoun," the trio's rendition of the 19th-century Haitian song "Choucoune."
I thought that if the three of us recorded “Walk Right In” as Leadbelly would have, with the sound of a twelve-string guitar, but in our case with two twelve-string guitars playing exactly the same notes in unison, we’d have a hit. The only problem was that there were no twelve-string guitars being made at the time. We waited six months for the Gibson Company to build us two of them.They followed up with "Tom Cat," a cover of Cliff Carlisle's "Tom Cat Blues." Some prudish radio programmers refused to play the somewhat risqué tune. When invited to appear on Hootenanny, The Rooftop Singers played it safe.
I discovered that a writer and folk music enthusiast in Japan, Jeffrey Yamada, had bought my original 12-string (from the Mandolin Brothers) that was used on the "Walk Right In" single. He strummed it for me over the phone. "You know what this is?" he said. I never dreamed. Such is the way of the world.*The clip is from the 1957 low-budget musical Calypso Heat Wave—Alan Arkin's earliest IMDb credit. He talks about his stint with The Tarriers in this interview, starting at about 6:20.
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