A (Little) Road Less Travelled

(with apologies to Robert Frost)

I start today’s journey with a trip down memory lane.  I was working at CPRI (Children’s Psychiatric Research Institute) in the summer of ’72 (summer student employment).  I somehow discovered that The Association were playing at the (recently opened) Ontario Place Forum in Toronto.

A postcard perfect night skyline

A postcard picture perfect night skyline

Armed with the knowledge, I determined to attend the concert.  I finished my shift that day around 3:00 p.m. and caught the train for the two(plus)-hour trip to my destination.  I didn’t know Toronto at that time (nor was I familiar with the public transit system) but, through the kindness of strangers, managed to make my way to Ontario Place in time to catch the band’s performance.  In several respects, I’m glad I made the effort.  The group had just released Waterbeds in Trinidad!, the album which would mark the end of the road for the band (as I knew it).  The album closes with Brian Cole, the bassist, singing lead on A Little Road and A Stone to Roll.  I couldn’t know, at the time, that it would be the band’s final album… or that, a few days after this performance, Brian would be dead (he passed away August 2nd, 1972).  I may have been a little weary when I reported in for my 7:00 a.m. shift the next day… but very pleased to have successfully undertaken the journey.

So, with that concert and that musician in mind, here’s Brian and the guys singing A Little Road and  A Stone to Roll.

Brian Cole 1942-1972

Brian Cole 1942-1972

A Little Road is where our journey begins…  but what is our final destination?  You see, when I was looking at the song, I noticed that it was written by John Stewart… and that name sounded familiar.  A quick check with Wikipedia confirmed my suspicion.  John Stewart enjoyed quite a successful career as a solo performer and songwriter.  But he achieved his first major success as part of a trio- The Kingston Trio. This folk ensemble scored several major hits in the 50’s and early 60’s.  Among the most notable (here introduced by the Smothers Brothers)…

A cautionary tale!

Another point of interest… do you know this song?

Of course you do… and it’s one of many written by John Stewart!

Now, taking a sharp turn to the right… did you know that that there were other Stewart musicians in the family?  John’s younger brother, Michael, formed We Five and the folk-rock group reached #3 in 1965 on the Billboard charts with this…

As an aside, the song was originally recorded in 1964 by Canadian folk duo Ian and Sylvia (who wrote the song).

Ian and Sylvia circa 1968

Ian and Sylvia circa 1968

Back to the We Five for a moment.  In 1967 the group achieved modest success with a song first recorded by The Kingston Trio in 1964.  Let’s Get Together sounded something like this in the hands of “The Five”…

By the way, if you’d like to compare that version to the trio’s, here’s the original arrangement (performed live).

Of course, for most “children of the 60’s” the definitive version of the song was recorded and released by The Youngbloods in 1967 where it reached a modest #62 on the charts.  In 1969, however, the song was re-released after it gained attention for its use in a public service announcement.  This time the anthem went to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Here it is…

The Youngbloods... with beautiful hair

The Youngbloods… with beautiful hair

In an odd way our journey now concludes by returning (more or less) to where we started.  Here’s John Stewart performing live,A Little Road…

John Stewart

John Stewart

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