The Kingston Trio

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

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"Where Have All the Flowers Gone" was, on its face, an improbable hit for the Kingston Trio, authored by Pete Seeger, a folksinger and composer of didactic, confrontational, politically oriented topical songs of the kind that the Kingston Trio usually avoided. And, indeed, it was a more overtly political song and a more serious topical song than the group was known for. And the fact that it was a hit for the group helped set in motion events that neither the group nor its author could have foreseen in 1961. In late 1961, the group was just looking for a hit. It seemed as though the Kingston Trio's fortunes were declining -- the polished harmony-based folk-style songs that had garnered them millions of sales in their first three years weren't making the charts as singles anymore, and the departure of co-founder Dave Guard in mid-1961 (and his replacement by a still untested John Stewart) had left their future uncertain; and while their concerts were still well attended and their LPs still sold well enough to make the Top Ten, they needed something new in the way of a song to put them back before a public wider than the collegiate audience that they already owned. In October of 1961, soon after finishing their album Close-Up, the trio appeared in Boston on the same stage as a new folk ensemble, Peter, Paul and Mary, whose set included a new Pete Seeger song called "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." Seeger had been inspired to write the song by a passage out of Mikhail Sholokhov's novel And Quiet Flows the Don, and it reflected the antiwar spirit that infused the left during those years; Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary were kindred spirits politically, but it was the Kingston Trio who jumped on the song when they heard it performed by their slightly younger rivals -- they headed back to New York the next day and cut "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" in a single six-hour session. Released by Capitol in December, it peaked at number 21 two months later, in February of 1962, propelling the group to a new wave of popularity and establishing some minimal politically correct credibility for them within the burgeoning folk/protest community. (Ironically, the song may have been an even bigger hit in Germany, sung in German, by Marlene Dietrich, where its antiwar sentiments seemed to tap into a vein of bitter regret over World War II and the subsequent Cold War that had gone largely unexpressed by the German people). In later years, some historians would omit the Kingston Trio from mention in accounts of Seeger's career and songwriting in the early '60s, favoring the more politically focused Peter, Paul and Mary, but it was the Kingston Trio's hit that made Seeger a very bankable songwriter at a time when he was politically suspect, and it undoubtedly helped force the issue of the broadcast blacklist to the forefront. Had that song not been a hit in the trio's hands, it's unlikely there would have been the pressure that developed to allow Seeger to sing his own work on programs like ABC's Hootenanny, thus revealing to the public the ban that he faced, and bringing into focus some of the most fiercely fought ideological and political battles of the period.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
No Image 1962 Capitol 3:00
Early American Heroes 1984 Pair 3:01
No Image 1985
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels
No Image 1989
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels
Tom Dooley 1989 Special Music 3:04
The Capitol Collectors Series 1990 Capitol 3:04
The Greatest Hits [Curb] 1990 Curb 3:02
No Image 1991 Pair 0:00
Songs of Protest 1991
Various Artists
Rhino 3:04
No Image 1992 Special Music Company / Special Music 3:01
No Image 1993
Various Artists
Time / Life Music
No Image 1995 First Choice / Intersound 3:32
Greatest Hits [Cema] 1995 EMI-Capitol Special Markets / CEMA Special Markets 3:04
Hits from 1962 1995
Various Artists
Richmond 3:08
The Capitol Years 1995 Capitol 3:02
Original 1996 Disky 3:04
Songs You Know by Heart: Folk 1998
Various Artists
Unison 3:00
Back to Back Hits 1998 EMI-Capitol Special Markets / CEMA Special Markets 3:03
American Songs of the Wild Frontier & The Front Porch 1999
Various Artists
Fine Tune 3:03
Treasury of Folk: Folk Classics 1956-1964 1999
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:03
Treasury of Folk, Vol. 1 1999
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:03
Memories Are Made of This, Vol. 2 [Disky] 1999
Various Artists
Disky 3:03
Both Sides of the Kingston Trio, Vol. 2 2000 Silverwolf Records 3:24
Memories Are Made of This [Disky 10 CD #1] 2000
Various Artists
Disky 3:03
Story 2000 EMI Music Distribution 3:03
Vietnam: Songs from the Divided House 2001
Various Artists
Q Records 2:28
The Extreme Kingston Trio 2001 Silverwolf Records 3:24
The EP Collection 2001 See For Miles Records 3:04
Celebrate America [Gateway] 2001
Various Artists
Gateway Records 2:56
Absolutely the Best 2002 Fuel 2000 3:03
The Folk Years: Blowin' in the Wind 2002
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:03
Kings of the American Folk Revival 2003 American Legends 3:23
The Folk Years [Box Set] 2003
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:03
Memories Are Made of This [EMI Box Set] 2003
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:03
Greatest Hits [Collectables] 2003 Collectables 3:04
K-Tel Presents: The Fabulous Fifties: 18 Wonderful Memories 2004
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 3:07
Music of Your Life: It Must Be Love 2004
Various Artists
Distribution Solutions / Time / Life Music 3:03
Greatest Hits [Compendia] 2005 Compendia Music Group 3:32
All Sides of the Kingston Trio 2005 Silverwolf Records 3:24
Spirit of America 2005 American Legends 3:26
Platinum Collection 2005 Prime Sound 4:07
Hits of the 60s: Those Were the Days [3 Disc] 2006
Various Artists
BMG / Delta 3:03
The Essential Kingston Trio 2006 Shout! Factory 3:03
No Image 2006 Capitol / EMI 3:03
The Golden Age of American Popular Music: The Folk Hits 2008
Various Artists
Ace
Flashback! 1963 2009 Folk Era Records 3:26
Pop Memories of the '60s: Honey 2009
Various Artists
Tiem Life 3:03
...Next Stop Is Vietnam: The War on Record 1961-2008 2010
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 3:24
Pop Memories of the 60s [Time-Life Box Set] 2011
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:03
Music of Your Life 2012
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 3:03
Collection 1958-1962 2018 Acrobat Music 3:02
Holiday Box 2018 Silverwolf Records 4:07
American Music Library: The Hits of 1962
Various Artists
Fantastic Voyage 3:04