Halifax Three

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The Halifax Three made a couple of professional but rather bland folk albums in 1963, very much in the mold of commercial vocal harmony-oriented groups of the folk revival, such as the Kingston Trio.…
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The Halifax Three made a couple of professional but rather bland folk albums in 1963, very much in the mold of commercial vocal harmony-oriented groups of the folk revival, such as the Kingston Trio. Those albums, and the group, would be totally forgotten today if not for the presence of Denny Doherty in the Halifax Three lineup. Within a year or so of the Halifax Three's demise, Doherty had linked up with John Phillips and Michelle Phillips to form the Mamas & the Papas, in which his strong vocals, often taking the leads, were an essential part. However, little of the originality of either the Mamas & the Papas as a group, or Doherty as a singer, could be heard in the two Halifax Three LPs. The first and tamer of the pair, 1963's The Halifax Three, combined adaptations of traditional folk material with a few originals by the group's Richard Byrne, as well as covers of songs by folk songwriters such as Oscar Brand. Slightly earthier folk, blues, and country influences were heard in the superior follow-up, San Francisco Bay Blues, which offered a similar mix of conscientiously sung and arranged folk.

The Halifax Three formed at a New Year's Eve party in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1960, when Doherty sang for the first time with Byrne and Patrick LaCroix. At first called the Colonials, they made a rare single for Rodeo Records in 1961 ("All My Trials"/"They Call the Wind Maria") and did a lot of local television, moving on to bigger success on the Montreal nightclub circuit. In May 1962, they successfully auditioned for Epic Records in New York, their name changing at this point to the Halifax Three. An active touring schedule throughout North America and some national television appearances couldn't help make the albums big sellers, and they disbanded shortly after a relocation to California.

The group did help plant the seeds of the Mamas & Papas and other folk-rock of the future, however, as Doherty became friendly with John Phillips and Michelle Phillips while touring with the Phillips' folk group the Journeymen, in the fall of 1963. Additionally, in concert, the Halifax Three augmented their lineup with instrumentalist Eric Hord, who later played on some of the Mamas & the Papas' hits, and his replacement Zal Yanovsky, who would later play guitar in the Lovin' Spoonful (and be a bandmate of Doherty and Cass Elliot in a short-lived 1964 pre-folk-rock group the Mugwumps). Neither Hord nor Yanovsky, however, appear on either of the Halifax Three's LPs. Both of the albums were reissued on the single-disc CD compilation The Complete Halifax Three, which adds the 1963 non-LP single "All the Good Times" as a bonus track.