(Read all about The Limeliters after the video)
The Limeliters are an American folk music group, formed in July 1959 by Lou Gottlieb (bass violin/bass), Alex Hassilev (banjo/baritone), and Glenn Yarbrough (guitar/tenor). The group was active from 1959 until 1965, when they disbanded. After a hiatus of sixteen years Yarbrough, Hassilev, and Gottlieb reunited and began performing again as The Limeliters in reunion tours. On a regular basis a continuation The Limeliters group is still active and performing. Gottlieb died in 1996 and Hassilev, the last founding member who had remained active in the group, has retired, leaving the group to carry on without any of the original members.
The group's origins
Gottlieb, fresh from obtaining his Ph.D in musicology, was in the audience when Alex Hassilev and Glenn Yarbrough appeared on stage to sing a duet together. Gottlieb, who was then working as an arranger for The Kingston Trio, originally thought that "these two guys" could help him make some demos for the Trio.
Soon, they packed up and headed to Aspen, Colorado, to work at a club called "The Limelite," which Yarbrough and Hassilev had purchased after singing there during the previous ski season. After a short period of perfecting their act, they set off for the "hungry i" in San Francisco, which at the time was the California nerve center for the mushrooming contemporary folk movement. The owner had just had a group with three long names strung together and wasn't about to put "Yarbrough, Hassilev, and Gottlieb" up on the marquee. But the group had not yet decided on a name. They chose "The Limeliters".
Their success was immediate. Only two days after their professional debut, the group received offers from three recording companies. In early 1960 they released their first album on Elektra. Soon after they signed with RCA Victor and a string of best-selling albums followed.
Never having a true chart-topping hit record, they were well known for their repertoire of rousing songs including such as "There's a Meetin' Here Tonight," "City of New Orleans," "A Dollar Down" (their only charting single, peaking at #60 in 1961), "Have Some Madeira M'Dear", "Lonesome Traveler," "Wabash Cannonball," "Whiskey in the Jar," and many others which are performed on their more than 25 record albums and in their concerts.
The Limeliters' album Tonight: In Person reached number 5 on Billboard in 1961, and was on the U.S. charts for 74 weeks. The reissue in 1961 of their earlier Elektra album made the top 40 and spent 18 weeks on the charts. Their third release, The Slightly Fabulous Limeliters, made the top ten in the same year, charting for 36 weeks. Another album with staying power was one of folk songs for children of all ages, Through Children's Eyes. It remained charted for 29 weeks and peaked at #25.
The group maintained a hectic workload during their peak of popularity. In addition to the numerous recordings, they made numerous television appearances, and their personal appearances totaled more than 300 performances a year. For three years, The Limeliters were the musical representatives for Coca-Cola. Their rendition of the jingle, "Things Go Better with Coke" became a national hit. The group also did commercial work for L&M cigarettes.
In 1963 they sang several songs for the film McLintock!.
The group's career nearly came to an end when they suffered a plane crash in Provo, Utah while on tour.
The Limeliters break up
Yarbrough left the group in 1963. Gottlieb and Hassilev continued the Limeliters but only as a recording act, recruiting former Gateway Singers tenor Ernie Sheldon (r.n. Ernest Lieberman) as Yarbrough's replacement. Sheldon wrote the lyrics for what became Yarbrough's biggest solo hit, "Baby the Rain Must Fall."
When the trio's RCA Victor contract expired in 1965, Gottlieb and Hassilev formally retired the act. By then Yarbrough was a successful soloist on records and in concert. Hassilev became a producer with his own recording studio and pressing plant, while Gottlieb headed the Morningstar commune on a ranch he purchased near San Francisco.
The Limeliters return
During the 1970s, the Limeliters embarked on a series of yearly reunion tours with Yarbrough. Stax Records released a reunion recording in 1974, and in 1976 the group released two concert albums on their own Brass Dolphin Records. These were so successful that in 1981, Hassilev and Gottlieb decided to reform the group and to get back into the mainstream of entertainment. With the addition of tenor Red Grammer and John Dalia they once again began entertaining audiences with their famous sound.
After eight very productive years, Grammer left the group to pursue a solo career as a children's artist. In 1990, he was replaced by another tenor, Rick Dougherty, whose wide-ranging musical background and bright stage presence brought another fresh dimension to the group.
Gottlieb's death in 1996 was a great loss for the group, but his high baritone part was taken up by a former Kingston Trio member, Bill Zorn.
In 2003, Zorn and Dougherty left the group (as of 2014, they're both members of The Kingston Trio) and in early 2004, tenor Mack Bailey and comedian baritone Andy Corwin joined the group. In 2006, Hassilev retired and left the band. Soon afterward, Gaylan Taylor joined in 2006. In 2012, Don Marovich joined up with the Limeliters.
Glenn Yarbrough died from complications of dementia in Nashville, Tennessee on August 11, 2016, at the age of 86.