THE FABULOUS GATEWAY SINGERS
Gateway Recollections 3
The distinguished academic ANN LIEBERMAN is the wife of Ernie Sheldon. She shares with us some of her own memories of the great Gateway nights.
“I used to go to the Hungry I on Saturday nights (as we had two small children), and loved sitting through the 5 shows. The sound of the Gateways was so exciting, and having learned all the songs, I loved quietly singing along with them.
When they took a break, I would go across the street where the Kingston Trio was singing and help make an audience for them (this was before they got a big hit).
It is great that these CD's are being issued so that others can enjoy this important and wonderful music.
ROBERT JAMES in Missourifinds his Gateway CDs bring back fond memories, and especially enjoys playing “Midnight Special”
“My Wife and I saw The Gateway Singers many times.. They were our favorite group. We were big folk fans in the 50s and 60s, and spent lots of time at the Gate of Horn in Chicago. “
BILL HINMAN, who especially likes “The Gateway Singers at the hungry I” recalls seeing the group live.
“We saw the Gateway singers live in a performance at The University of California Riverside. Elmerlee Thomas carried us away!”
KITTY KLEPPERT considers The Gateway Singers a wonderful part of her childhood, and appreciates the new releases on CD.
“I grew up listening to the Gateway Singers as a young girl. My dad discovered them on a business trip to San Francisco sometime in the late 50s I believe. He had three albums, and my sisters and I knew all the lyrics by heart. My dad still has the albums. I recently decided I'd like to have CDs of at least Puttin' on the Style and wanted to share the music with a friend of mine.”
GRANT CALKINS of Camarillo, California writes in with the very special perspective of having seen the Gateway groups perform several times.
”"I was a freshman at Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo) in the fall of 1957 when I saw an advertisement for a concert in the gym featuring some folks named The Gateway Singers. Great R&B was all around at the time (Elvis, Fats Domino, etc), but when I was introduced to folk music via The gateway Singers that evening , I was blown away!
Later that year - or was it the year following - The Gateway Singers returned to San Luis Obispo for another gig, this time in the auditorium at SLO High School. As with the previous concert in the Cal Poly gym, the place was packed! Again, I had never heard better music in my life. I had by that time started dabbling in guitar and banjo myself, and so I appreciated how Jerry Walter made his 5 string sing! I'll never forget that, and the same for beauty of Emerlee Thomas' contralto voice as well. I recall seeing the Gateways one last time at the Ice House in Pasadena several years later - perhaps 1963 or '64? Were they still the same group composition? I just don't recall. One song that stands out to this day was Walter's version of Pretty Saro. The slowly picked 5 string accompanying his rich baritone voice made this beautiful haunting song a lasting memory!
I have seen and heard all the great folk groups many times - Kingston Trio, Bud and Travis, Limelighters, Chad Mitchell trio, etc - and each was excellent in their own right and I would go to see any one of them again. But the best of them all by the usual measures - harmony, instrumentation, vocal rhythm - and the most important measure of all, emotional impact, - was The Gateway Singers!”
wTONY OOSTENBRINK of Edmonton, Alberta, hopes to bring the Gateway sound to a whole new audience of listeners.
“Comments: I borrowed or "inherited" the Gateway Singers in Hi Fi album from my father, who went to a Gateway Singers concert at the University of BC in the early 60's I believe, where he bought the album. My Dad said that the hall was packed to the rafters, and was a very memorable experience for him.
I happened to play this album in 1973 when I was 10 yrs old, and discovered Big Rock Candy Mountain. I must have played that song hundreds of times. I've never let the album get away from me. I love every song.
In recent years I've done internet searches but didn't turn up too much till now. So thank you. I knew I wasn't alone in appreciating this group.
My wife gave me a new retro turntable last Christmas. The first album I played was the Gateway Singers. And my Dad just happened to be right there.
I've never heard any Gateway Singers songs other than those on the Hi Fi album. Is there any chance of GS material coming out on CD? I would love to hear about this
I've been thinking of bringing my album to the CKUA radio station, http://www.ckua.com/. They plays all kinds of historical music. They are based here in Edmonton, but this station has an audience
all over this world (no pun intended!).”
DOUG GREENBERG in Berkeley has been waiting for Gateway Singers CDs to come on stream for many years, and he shares here some of his recollections about the group.
“I grew up in Palo Alto, California, where my parents were huge Gateway Singers fans. So all of us kids (born between 1948 and 1953) became fans, as well. We had all of their LP's, plus the solo album by Elmerlee Thomas. We went to see the Gateway Singers at Palo Alto High School, an experience I will never forget.
For me, hearing them brings back a very happy and harmonious time in my own childhood. I remember the Gateway Singers playing in the background frequently as I enjoyed a tabletop baseball game, sorted baseball cards, or played with our pet dog. Their music is something that brought us all together.
More recently (some years back now), I had a very interesting conversation with Elmerlee Thomas' son, Elmer Lee, who is an accomplished blues singer. He had some interesting things to say about the group's career.
My parents saw the Gateway Singers perform at the Hungry i several times. My mother, who is now 83, waxes nostalgically about those days.
I have to say I remain perplexed as to why the record companies who hold the original tapes of these albums continue to have no interest in re-releasing the material. I can't imagine it would cost that much, and there would be lots of people interested. Of course, the silver lining here is that your project benefits Travis Edmonson a lot more than would a commercial re-release.”
JACK LEACH is a first-generation Gateway Singers fan who elaborates on what was so special about the group.
"“San Francisco was the place to be in the 60's for many reasons, especially folk groups and new entertainers---there were many small clubs such as the Purple Onion and the Hungry I where numerous stars
got their start, such as Barbra Streisand, Bob Newhart, and others. The city was easy to get to and prices were reasonable so my wife and I, just out of college, came often.
The folk era had begun in the East with Pete Seegar and the Weavers, but the West Coast was where the music had blossomed - Joan Baez, Kingston Trio, Limeliters, to name a few. But the best and earliest were the Gateway Singers.
They had style, voices, and stage presence. None of the succeeding groups could compare with the raw musical talent. Elmerlee Thomas was an accomplished classical singer. Lou Gottlieb was the resident intellectual who was completing his doctorate in music. Jerry Walter was a fine baritone who played the best 5 string banjo of any group (who had also played Jack Armstrong, The All American Boy on radio in his youth). And then there was the excellent tenor of Travis Edmonson, later Travis of Bud and Travis.
I remember the superior harmonies and arrangements which were punctuated with Elmer lee's perfect pitch. When Travis did Malaguena Salerosa, it brought the house down. Lou played the bass and acted as emcee and his droll wit kept the audience in stitches. He later left to go back to school and eventually started the Limeliters with Glen Yarbrough and Alex Hassilev. He was replaced by Ernie Sheldon, a competent singer and guitar player, but not the personality of Lou.
Today I replayed all three of my vinyl records and although they are well worn, the quality of the singers came through. I have been fortunate to have seen all the early San Francisco groups, and there is no doubt that the Gateway Singers were the finest, in my opinion, of all time."
Californian GEORGE WILSON has played his Gateway Singers LPs into oblivion, and is pleased to get his favorite albums on CD.
“I probably heard of the Gateway Singers for the first time in a place called the Rainbow Sign in Belmont Shore (Long Beach) CA. in the '50's. They played a lot of folk, flamenco, classical and jazz at the time. I never had the privilege of seeing the Gateway Singers in person, but, I bought an LP and have just about worn it out through the years. " The Good Reuben James" is an all-time favorite. I don't spend a whole lot of time reminiscing, but music brings back memories like crazy. The music lives on.”
JACK WOOLSEY , semi-retired vet and breeder of champion horses, is a first-generation Gateway Singers fan who remembers their live performances at the hungry I, and sheds a bit of light on what the experience was like.
”I have great memories of the times my wife and I attended Gateway Singers performances at the hungry i. They were hilarious and exceptional on their instruments.
The Gateway Singers were ALIVE, and continuously carried on with things that were important to us, such as political comments and remarks about local events around San Francisco. They were a hoot ,and my wife and I enjoyed them very much.
They would banter back and forth., and you never knew what they were going to say. The Gateway Singers were always extremely funny and upbeat."
And you won't want to miss
Experience your own hungry i reunion with the wonderful DVD featuring commentary by Enrico Banducci and performances by The Kingston Trio, Limeliters, Mort Sahl, jonathan Winters, Stan Wilson + rare Lenny Bruce footage. Just click the icon to order direct from Amazon!