The MFQ’s Chip Douglas and The Wilcox Three

Here’s something for fans of the Modern Folk Quartet (aka The MFQ), and maybe a few Turtles and Monkees historians as well: some sample tracks from The Wilcox Three LP: The Greatest Folks Songs Ever Sung.

What’s the Monkees-Turtles-MFQ-Wilcox Three connection?

None other than Douglas Farthing Hatlelid, better known as Chip Douglas: gifted instrumentalist, singer, writer, arranger, producer…and the third most famous folk musician to ever matriculate at Hawaii’s famed Punahou School.*

Recorded in 1961 on the mainland (at the RCA Victor’s Music Center of the World in Hollywood), Greatest Folks Songs was released on RCA’s budget label as RCA Camden CAL-669. True to its title, it sported ten “experienced” folk tunes, and if not for a couple of exceptions, the album title could have accurately been amended to read The Greatest Folk Songs Ever Sung…by The Weavers.

The trio (which also included Fred Claassen and Steve Tilden), however, does a fine job with each. Especially impressive is the banjo work by Douglas, a skill not often heard, as he played upright bass for the MFQ. And although the song list was primarily Weavers, the feel is early Kingston Trio, more specifically as the latter sounded in their initial effort for Capitol. In other words, not a lot of nuance, but great energy, and Douglas’ musical precociousness in much in evidence throughout.

Just click on the back cover image (that’s Douglas in the middle of the photo) to read the liner notes and the track listings. In case that doesn’t work for you, the LP track listings are as follows:

Side One:

  1. Tom Dooley
  2. Goodnight, Irene
  3. Kisses Sweeter Than Wine
  4. The Roving Kind
  5. Darling Cory

Side Two:

  1. The Wreck of the John “B”
  2. Sylvie
  3. Down By the Riverside
  4. So Long (It’s Been Good to Know Yuh)
  5. When the Saints Go Marching In

Here are four sample tracks from the LP.

First is the up-tempo Darling Cory (recorded by many individuals and groups since the late 1920s), featuring Douglas on banjo. It’s difficult to make comparisons to any current young musician (few modern youths take up the Vega banjo these days), but keep in mind Douglas was still a teenager when these tracks were recorded.

Next is “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine.” The Weavers charted with it 1951, and Jimmie Rogers’ version was a hit in 1958.

Here’s The Roving Kind, written by cowboy actor and singer Rex Allen (who also provided the original voice of the audioanimatronic host/father in General Electric’s Carousel of Progress at the 1964-65 World’s Fair, Disneyland and Walt Disney World). Guy Mitchell had the early 50s hit with this one.

Finally, the classic Leadbelly tune popularized by the mighty Weavers: Goodnight, Irene.

As many folk fans know, Douglas was seriously considered to replace fellow Hawaiian Dave Guard when he left The Kingston Trio in 1961, a spot that went to John Stewart. The one strike against Douglas was his youth. He was under 21 and couldn’t play club dates.

Following a couple of years and two great albums with The Modern Folk Quartet (their sophomore effort, Changes, is one of the top popular folk LPs of all time in my humble opinion) he played bass with the Turtles (most notably on the hit Happy Together) and produced two albums for The Monkees (Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd.). In the strange coincidence (or small world) department, he also produced the Monkees’ last hit single, John Stewart’s Daydream Believer.

Note: Other members of the early 60s MFQ were Henry Diltz, Cyrus Faryar and Jerry Yester, who each played an integral part (in various ways) in the late 60s folk rock era. Yester’s brother Jim (of the Association) joined with the group for several reunions in the 80s and 90s, making them a quintet (which fortunately didn’t alter the group’s shorthand “MFQ” designation).

For a Wikipedia entry in Douglas, click HERE.

For a brief Wikipedia entry on the MFQ, click HERE.

There are too many sites with good info on the MFQ to list here (and their official site is mostly in Japanese, since the MFQ are still very popular in Japan), so hit those search engines!

craig hodgkins

* The first two being Kingston Trio co-founders Dave Guard and Bob Shane.

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~ by Craig Hodgkins on April 27, 2008.

6 Responses to “The MFQ’s Chip Douglas and The Wilcox Three”

  1. I really enjoyed the beautiful music. Now I’ll have to dig around for my Kingston Trio CD…!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Toni. Fortunately, a lot of The Kingston Trio stuff is still in print even if you can’t find your CD. Please check back soon for some more fun music.

  3. Chip is quite a musician!
    I had thought that a studio musician (such as Eric Weissberg) played the banjo part on “Home Is Where the Heart Is”; when in fact, it was Chip!
    Solid, straight ahead bluegrass banjo…wow!

  4. I believe that Roger McGuinn was also considered as a replacement for Dave Guard in the Kingston Trio.
    He too was under 21 years of age.

  5. WOW Craig, I appreciate your blog. I was married to Fred Claassen…. in the photo (on the left of Chip) on Wilcox Three Album…. they grew up together in Hawaii and were best friends. Memories of jamming on Lookout Mountain back in the day were Chip, Steve, Davy, Peter, Mike, Tad Diltz (henry), Jim and Jerry Yester, Turtles, Byrds, Cyrus Faryar, staying in David Cassidy’s house on the north shore…. Now with Davy leaving us much too soon, I find myself going down memory lane. Unfortunately Fred passed away in 2005. Such good times and great people and so much talent. Thanks for keeping it alive! Blessings to you! carol claassen

    • I first heard of the MFQ at the Troubador, Los Angeles; wow, what a place for coffee and Folk Music back in the early 60’s!
      Along with the MFQ the night I was there, were Eric Weissberg, and a mix of other recording folkies on stage and in the audience.
      I had never before heard harmonies and arrangements that typified the MFQ, and I was blown away!
      Two years ago, I had the great pleasure to meet Chip, Henry and Cyrus, who autographed my guitar (I have yet to meet Jerry, alas).
      Chip was kind enough to show me some of those “progressive” chords they used in “Brandy”; a simple melody made beautiful but still tastefully understated by their expressive chord arrangements.
      In my opinion, they were the best at what they did and brought a fresh perspective to the genre.
      If you can locate a copy, the MFQ Christmas album is a must have!
      Art

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