Those of us who were around at the time might remember that the decade of the 1960s was one that saw a lot of different types of music bouncing around. One of the most popular was folk music, some of it highly political but much of it just light and irresistibly addictive to listeners. That was the case with the music of groups like the Rooftop Singers, a threesome that struck gold in 1962 with “Walk Right In.”
The trio was the brainchild of Erik Darling, who’d already had some success as a member of the Weavers during the years following Pete Seeger’s departure from that seminal folk group. He’d also kept busy as a studio guitarist and back-up singer, and had done some solo work too, all leading up to him recruiting singer/guitarist Bill Svanoe and veteran jazz vocalist Lynne Taylor for a new trio they named the Rooftop Singers.
Darling had “Walk Right In” in mind from the very beginning, although he might not have anticpated how well they’d do with it. The song had been written and recorded in 1929 by Gus Cannon, accompanied by his Jug Stompers. When the newly-formed Rooftop Singers revised the lyrics and added dual 12-string guitars, it caught the attention of the record-buying public and soon rose to the top of the charts. It ended up as the all-time best-seller for prestigious Vanguard Records, and was so popular that the album containing the song was Grammy-nominated. (The royalties and notoriety also helped Cannon, who was still around at the time.)
As for the Rooftop Singers, it can be tough to follow up when your first record is a #1 hit, and even though the trio did have good-selling records on songs like “Tom Cat” and “Cool Water” things inevitably went downhill. Taylor left first and was replaced by Mindy Stuart. She stayed for a while but then departed, and Darling and Svanoe continued working as a duo for a few more years before finally going their separate ways.