Eric Darling

Also read: A Personal Appreciation

Hello good people,

I just heard an announcement that Eric Darling has died, and I suppose that many of you might not know that he is a Manumitter. A lively folk-musician, a high tenor singer, he filled in with the Weavers when Pete Seeger left them. If you’re curious, he made a couple of albums with the Weavers. I will miss him.
Best wishes, Craig Work

Dearest Craig, Oh jesus. I loved Eric. See him right before my eyes, as well as his father. I’m so sorry.
Love, Thelma

I also knew Eric and listened to him play in Washington Square and many other places around the Village. I’m still missing the old folk singing days even before Folk became popular and was generally unknown……. when we all sat in the circle and sang together … Pete Seeger and all. The growth of folk, that whole time period, was one of my favorite, most enjoyable and happy times of my life. He was a sexy cutie… so strange to be this old and hear of people who you remember as very young and vibrant passing away. How can this be. Where has all the time gone? I’m sure there are many who will miss Eric and his music. Sniff.
Judy Van

See today’s NY Times for a good musical if not personal obit. NY Times. com. Or Google for an AP version, plus lots of other stuff. I knew nothing about the Ayn Rand stuff, I’m glad to say. xxt

Dear Manumiters, Does anyone know when Erik was at Manumit? Is there a picture of him on the web site? According to the NY Times obit at, Erik was a devotee of Ayn Rand and libertarian politics … not something that one would ordinarily expect from a Manumiter. I wonder whether his Manumit experience created his interest in what according to the obit he considered “the most vital issue of our time – the thoughtful raising of children” ? Best, Ferdie


Hi Judy Van, I used to hang out in the Square in the Village, all times of day and night. And remember one evening, as the light faded, it got chilly, so I was considering going inside when this tall skinny guy stood beside me and said – in a very friendly way, “Do you play that thing?” He was gesturing to my guitar – which was always with me everywhere I went. I assured him I did, and he proposed that we might sing together – even make a moving music scene. I realized that it was Christmas eve, and we really could do carolling, so I stood, strapped on my guitar, and went with him and a small collection of cheerful singers. We toured around the Square at all the houses, and whenever we could get someone to open the door, we sang enthusiastically. It was illuminating, and when it was done, we went down McDougal street to party in his apartment (below the street level). It was a joyous party, and that’s how I first met Pete Seeger. I want to believe that Eric was with him, but I’m not really sure.
Best wishes, Craig Work


F and E: Right you are. Ayn Rand was inimical to Manumit’s sensibilities. I just can’t remember when Erik was student or whether I was at Manumit with him as a student or as a counselor…but sometime between 1948 and 1955 is a pretty good guess. xxt

Eric was at Manumit sometime while I was there – and I left during the 1946 summer. Craig Work



I heard of Erik’s passing a couple of days ago but was able to check out the Times obit, below, only just now.


Over the past couple of years we exchanged e-mails and even held a long telephone conversation. He will be missed.


Today I spoke about Erik with Pete Seeger at the Beacon [NY] Sloop Club’s Corn Festival and mentioned Manumit, which he remembers fondly. He’s agreed to consider putting in an appearance (not a concert) at a future Manumit reunion. I say get him while he’s still alive and kicking. He’s showing his age, but still manages to play and sing, encourage younger folk singers from the world over as well as assiduously to stoop over to pick up bits of llitter on the Beacon riverfront. Come say hello some Monday night Sloop Club meeting which ends up with a folk singing circle. NYC folks might chance it since the Clubhouse is by the rr station, and the trains run well into the night.


As for me, I’m still rusticating here in Rosendale / High Falls, enjoying the countryside, taking in lots of folk music, participating in activities at the Woodstock Center for Photography. Tomorrow I start taking a week-long paper making workshop at a local art center. I still haven’t fully unpacked all the boxes that I moved up here from NYC. Some may call me lazy. I call it retirement.


Best to all,

Bob Wersan


Erik Darling Dies at 74; Musician in the Weavers

By WILLIAM GRIMES Published: August 7, 2008

Erik Darling, a preppy Ayn Rand devotee who replaced Pete Seeger in the Weavers and who was associated with two of folk music’s biggest commercial hits, “The Banana Boat Song” and “Walk Right In,” died Sunday in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 74.


Erik Darling, far left, with Lynne Taylor and Bill Svanoe in 1963.


The cause was lymphoma, said Allan Shaw, president of Folk Era/Wind River Records, for which Mr. Darling had made albums in recent years.


A virtuoso guitarist and banjo player, Mr. Darling performed with two of the leading folk groups of the day, the Tarriers and the Weavers, which he joined after Mr. Seeger left in 1958.


Mr. Darling “was the first guitar gunslinger I came across,” said the singer and songwriter Don McLean, who befriended him in the early 1960s. “He practiced endlessly, and he got a beautiful sound out of his guitar and his banjo. Today you see any number of fabulous guitar players, but back then there were only a handful, and he was one.”


Erik Darling was born in Baltimore and grew up in Canandaigua, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, where his father ran a paint business. His interest in folk music was sparked when the Sons of the Pioneers came to town for a concert.


After his parents divorced, he lived with his mother in New York City, where he attended the Rhodes Preparatory School.


“One New York Sunday I took a double-decker Fifth Avenue bus down to Washington Square, where I had been told people sang folk songs,” he once wrote. At the time he knew only a few basic guitar chords. “I didn’t dare play that first day, but I became part of that crowd and did not miss a Sunday for years,” he wrote.


He improved. Later, when he was not performing and recording with his own groups, Mr. Darling played backup on recording sessions for artists like Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Oscar Brand, Jean Ritchie and Judy Collins.


In the early 1950s Roger Sprung, a banjo player prominent on the folk scene, invited Mr. Darling and Bob Carey to form the Folksay Trio, which recorded four songs, including “Tom Dooley,” for the tiny Stinson label. Their syncopated interpretation of the song, which introduced a signature pause, or hiccup, between the words Tom and Dooley, strongly influenced the Kingston Trio when that group recorded the song.


After Mr. Darling’s next group, the Tunetellers, disbanded, he and Mr. Carey formed the Tarriers, a trio that searched desperately for a stable third member until a young actor named Alan Arkin agreed to leave Los Angeles and join the group, which soon scored a Top 10 hit with “Cindy, Oh Cindy.”


In 1956 the Tarriers (once billed as a dog act called the Terriers by a confused promoter) adapted a traditional work song that the folk singer Bob Gibson had heard in Jamaica and brought to Washington Square. After fusing it with another Jamaican song called “Hill and Gully Rider,” they recorded it for Glory Records as “The Banana Boat Song” and watched in amazement as it climbed the pop charts and set off a craze for calypso music, fueled in part by Harry Belafonte’s reworked version of their song, “Day-O.”


The Tarriers, swept along by the calypso tide, appeared in the film “Calypso Heat Wave,” whose performers included Maya Angelou. “Every time we appeared on a TV show, the set was palm trees and bananas, or pilings, barrels and docks, or all five,” Mr. Darling once wrote.


When Mr. Seeger left the Weavers, Mr. Darling replaced him, initially on a trial basis as the group rushed to complete a half-finished album. He stayed for four and a half years as the group evolved into a genuine quartet rather than a trio appended to Mr. Seeger.


“He had an interesting voice rather than a beautiful voice,” Mr. Shaw said of Mr. Darling. “But he was a superb instrumentalist and arranger.”


Mr. McLean said: “Erik brought new energy and new harmonies to the group. He was good for them, and they were good for him.”


His voice blended better than his libertarian politics, however, which eventually created friction.


In 1962 Mr. Darling formed the Rooftop Singers specifically to update “Walk Right In,” originally recorded by Cannon’s Jug Stompers in the 1920s but rearranged by Mr. Darling with twin 12-string guitars, played in a pounding, percussive style. The song became a No. 1 hit and created a fad for 12-string guitars.


The Rooftop Singers disbanded in 1967, and Mr. Darling, after recording a duet album with Pat Street, a replacement vocalist for the Rooftop Singers, drifted away from the music business for many years.


In 1994 he recorded “Border Town at Midnight” for Folk Era, a collection of western-tinged songs that reflected his new home, Santa Fe, N.M. In 2000 he recorded a concept album, “Child, Child,” devoted to what he called “the most vital issue of our time — the thoughtful raising of children.”


Mr. Darling is survived by his former wife, Joan, of Chapel Hill. Shortly before his death he completed an autobiography, “I’d Give My Life!: A Journey by Folk Music” (Science and Behavior Books).


Mr. Darling “brought folk music to people who had never heard it before,” said Richie Unterberger, an author of several books on the genre. “It might not have been the rootsiest folk music, but it was very enjoyable to listen to.”


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:


Correction: August 11, 2008

An obituary on Friday about the folk singer Erik Darling misstated the given name of another folk singer who brought to Washington Square a traditional folk song he had heard in Jamaica that became part of “The Banana Boat Song,” a hit for the Tarriers when Mr. Darling was a member of that group. He was Bob Gibson, not Don.

Posted in: In Memory of

Leave a Comment (0) ↓