Folk Pioneer Passes Away

Nick Reynolds, a Menlo alumnus and one-third of the seminal Kingston Trio folk group, died Oct. 3 at a San Diego hospital. He was 75.

“Nick was a good guy and a good student,” said Dorothy Skala, Menlo's Director Emeritus of Alumni Relations and a 51-year employee of the college. “It was a harder for him to keep up his studies as the group got more popular, and I remember Judge Russell pulling him out of (local folk club) The Cracked Pot to make sure he went to class.”

Nick had been hospitalized the past several weeks with acute respiratory disease.

A San Diego native and the son of a career Navy officer, Nick attended the University of Arizona and San Diego State University before enrolling in Menlo College as a business major. He met long-time friend and Kingston Trio co-member Bob Shane at a particularly boring accounting class where the latter student had fallen asleep.

The two quickly discovered a shared love for music and performed at several frat parties before Bob eventually introduced Nick to Stanford student and musician Dave Guard. After a few fits and starts—Nick briefly left the nascent group after graduating from Menlo in 1956—the three friends officially christened themselves The Kingston Trio.

The group's big break hit after they landed a gig opening for comedienne Phyllis Diller at San Francisco's legendary Purple Onion nightclub. Legend has it the Trio sent out 500 invitations to everyone they knew at Menlo and Stanford to ensure a series of sell-out shows. The Kingston Trio subsequently earned a five-month headlining gig at the Purple Onion, where they were spotted by Bob Hope's manager and soon secured a recording contract with Capitol Records.

The Trio catapulted to even greater success after scoring a number-one hit with “Tom Dooley.” From 1957 to 1963, The Kingston Trio were one of the most critically and commercially successful acts in the American music industry and opened the door for later artists like Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul & Mary.

Beatlemania, the increasing politicization of popular folk music and line-up changes (Dave Guard departed in 1961 and was replaced by singer-songwriter John Stewart) led to a decline in the group's fortunes, but the Trio still provided much needed exposure to such songwriting talents as Gordon Lightfoot and Tom Paxton.

Although Nick left the music business soon after the Trio's dissolution in 1967, he always remained close to Menlo College. In 2006 Nick and Bob � who also graduated in 1956—received the College's inaugural Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor Nick considered to be greater than the group's two Grammys.

Nick is survived by his wife, Leslie; sons, Joshua and John Pike Reynolds; daughters Annie Reynolds Moore and Jennifer Reynolds; and his two sisters.