The Rooftop Singers were a male-female folk revival group founded in 1962 by singer, songwriter, guitarist, and arranger Erik Darling (September 25, 1933 - August 3, 2008). The initial lineup consisted of Darling, Bill Svanoe, and jazz singer Lynne Taylor, with some personnel changes along the way. The Rooftop Singers differed in a number of respects from the mostly all-male folk groups of the early 1960s as they were a mixed gender ensemble with no discernible political leanings. In addition, their music was heavily influenced by such non-folk genres as jazz, blues, bluegrass, and ragtime, and they also made use of then-unconventional instrumental arrangements.
Before forming The Rooftop Singers, Darling had been a member of The Weavers since 1958, and prior to that, had co-founded another folk group that later came to be known as The Tarriers (of "The Banana Boat Song" fame). He left The Weavers in June 1962 and, later that year, assembled a folk trio that would come to be known as The Rooftop Singers specifically to record an updated arrangement of "Walk Right In," a 1929 Gus Cannon country blues song he came across by chance. Darling's new version featured updated lyrics and paired 12-string acoustic guitars which were new to folk music at that time.
The Rooftop Singers debuted in 1963 with "Walk Right In," which topped both the Adult Contemporary and Pop/Rock charts, making it the most successful single in the history of the group's label, Vanguard Records. It also became a crossover hit on both the R&B and Country charts and charted internationally. "Walk Right In" was the title song to the group's first album which received a Grammy nomination in the Best Folk Recording category.
The Rooftop Singers went on to have two more hits later in 1963 with "Mama Don't Allow" and the then-risque "Tom Cat," and the group performed that same year at the Newport Folk Festival. Lynne Taylor left The Rooftop Singers in 1966 shortly after the release of their second album, "Good Time," and was replaced by Mindy Stuart. The new trio recorded one final album, "Rainy River," before Stuart was replaced by Patricia Street who came on board shortly before the group disbanded in 1967. Darling and Street continued on as a duo into the early 1970s, and Darling later went solo.
- The New York Times remembers Erik Darling.
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The Rooftop Singers
- Tom Cat 1963
- Walk Right In 1963
(This song topped both the Adult Contemporary and Pop/Rock charts and later also became a hit for the Moments (1963) and Dr. Hook (1977).)
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