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Erik Darling's place in the history of American music has been assured by his trend-setting recordings. When Darling formed the Rooftop Singers in order to record "Walk Right In," he had no idea this would create a twelve-string guitar craze. But, having been deeply moved by the twelve-string playing of Leadbelly, Darling was convinced that this sound would make a success of the song. Six weeks after its release, "Walk Right In" was the number one song in the nation, and within the next year, twelve-strings of all shapes and sizes, including electric, appeared in most music stores where before there were none. The Rooftop Singers played most of the major colleges and cities in the United States and Canada, toured New Zealand and Australia with Josh White, Judy Collins, Bud & Travis, and appeared at folk festivals, state fairs, and on such television shows as the Tonight Show, Steve Allen, and American Bandstand. While with the Rooftop Singers, Darling began writing songs with group member, Pat Street, who appears with the group on the CD-ROM that documented the music and artists used in the film Forrest Gump. The Darling & Street songs, "Rainy River" and "That Ain't Love" can be heard on the Vanguard CD, "Best of the Rooftop Singers."
This latest, solo CD, "Child, Child," recorded for Wind River Records, gets its title from another Darling & Street song. Darling feels that this record represents the most complete composition, as an integrated whole, he's ever recorded -- not only because the title song represents his concern for what he believes is "the most vital issue of our time -- the thoughtful raising of children," but because he spent 14 months arranging as well as writing songs for this project, and discarded many completed tracks, until the right songs fell into place. "I wanted the album to create a healing experience if listened to as an entire work, in one sitting," says Darling. As well as traditional folk songs, the record includes new versions of Darling's major hit records, "Walk Right In" and the "Banana Boat Song."
Early on, while frequenting Washington Square, when people sang folk music there, Darling heard two musical fragments from Jamaican folklore -- he joined them together, wrote verses, and created the "Banana Boat Song," which became a hit with the Tarriers (Alan Arkin, Bob Carey, Erik Darling). The song came on the charts within weeks after its release, went to number 4, and stayed on the charts for 19 weeks. The song swept the world, was performed on the Hit Parade television show for 8 weeks, and began "the Calypso craze." The group headlined at the Apollo with the great Duke of Iron from Trinidad.
The Tarriers were the first folk group to follow the Weavers ("Goodnight, Irene" and "On Top of Old Smoky") with worldwide fame. They came into being, in fact, because of Darling's desire to sing in a group like the Weavers. The Tarriers appeared in the Columbia Pictures movie Calypso Heatwave with Maya Angelou, and performed in Paris, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, the United States, Canada, and on major TV shows, their first TV appearance being the Ed Sullivan show. After Alan Arkin left the group to pursue his acting career, Darling was asked to take the place of Pete Seeger in the Weavers, the group that had originally inspired him to be a group singer. This was a dream come true, and Darling recorded and toured with the Weavers for four and a half years. To find his own path in music, he then left the group, went on the road, and then formed the Rooftop Singers.
His career began as a teenager, when Darling had moved to New York. He first began to learn harmony singing when he joined the singers and musicians who sifted into and out of Washington Square. The synergy of the Washington Square gatherings made it a folk music Mecca, attracting such notables as Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Mary Travers, Bob Gibson, Billy Faier, Frank Hamilton, Tom Paley and hundreds of others. Out of those early days, before folk music had become a music industry category, Roger Sprung -- one of the key players at Washington Square -- put together a group (The Folksay Trio) with Bob Carey and Darling that recorded a new version of "Tom Dooley." It was from this naturally syncopated arrangement that the Kingston Trio developed their version of the song, which, in turn, became the first "folk music" hit and established a new music-bin category: "Folk."
Over the years, Darling's banjo accompaniment has enhanced the recordings of Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Judy Collins, the Norman Luboff Choir, Ed McCurdy, Jean Richie, the Chad Mitchell Trio, Oscar Brand, Johnny Ray, and others. Darling has made three solo LPs: "Full Stop" for Elektra, "Train Time" and "True Religion" for Vanguard. His early playing of bottleneck slide-guitar on the song, "True Religion," inspired such blues greats as Danny Kalb of The Blues Project. To Darling's amazement, the "True Religion" LP has recently been bid up to $78.on eBay. Along with composing the "Child, Child" album, Darling has been writing screenplays, and completing an autobiography of his adventures in music, which began in the streets of New York and in Washington Square, and continues with this present CD.
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