The Greenbriar Boys -- John Herald, Ralph Rinzler and Bob Yellin (and later Frank Wakefield) -- were one of the most influential bands of the East Coast 1960s bluegrass revival, helping bridge the gap between the semi-retired old-timers of the '40s and '50s and the eager young'uns of the early '60s folk boom, who wanted to soak up as much "authentic" hillbilly culture as they possibly could. In the early days of the Greenwich Village-based earnest folkie college/coffeehouse scene, what you knew was, quite frankly, more important than how well you could play it, and like many of the would-be bluegrassers of the time, the Greenbriar Boys did sound a bit ricketty from time to time. That was okay, though... their hearts were in the right place, and they had fun digging up great old material.
John Herald "went solo" in the 1970s, getting into more eclectic, country and rock-tinged material, recording several solo albums as well as taking part in the loosely-defined Woodstock Mountain Revue and other folkie projects. Here's a quick look at his work, and that of the Greenbriar Boys.
The Greenbriar Boys "Best Of The Vanguard Years" (Vanguard, 2002)
A nice mix of newer bluegrass and historically-oriented ballads such as "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight" along with pop culture goofs like Wayne Raney's "We Need A Whole Lot More Of Jesus (And A Lot Less Rock and Roll)." This generously programmed 2-CD set collects material from their influential LPs on the Vanguard label, recorded between 1961-66, and charts the group's rapid progress from a somewhat awkward-sounding (but very enthusiastic) ensemble into a more, cohesive professional band. When Rinzler left the group in order to devote himself fulltime to booking shows and promoting events, hotshot mandolin whiz Frank Wakefield came in and added some extra instrumental ooompf. Fans of the New Lost City Ramblers and those interested in the history of the modern bluegrass scene should definitely check this collection out -- it's a nice glimpse into the innocent early years, and definitely shows these guys at their best.
The Greenbriar Boys "Big Apple Bluegrass" (Vanguard, 2003)
More nice stuff from these sleek city slickers. If the Best Of set above piqued your interest, this disc is a nice follow-up, including a few album tracks left of the other set, as well as a bunch of previously unreleased material for the hardcore fans to savor.
The Greenbriar Boys "The Best Of The Greenbriar Boys And John Herald" (Vanguard, 1972) (LP)
Vinyl enthusiasts may prefer tracking down this old LP, which wrapped things up for the band... To date, there don't seem to be any "best-of" sets for Herald himself...
The Greenbriar Boys "The Greenbriar Boys" (Vanguard, 1960) (LP)
The Greenbriar Boys "Ragged But Right" (Vanguard, 1962) (LP)
The Greenbriar Boys "Dian And The Greenbriar Boys" (Vanguard, 1963)
(Produced by Jim Dixon)
The trio backs folk singer Dian James...
The Greenbriar Boys "Better Late Than Never" (Vanguard, 1965) (LP)
John Herald "John Herald" (Paramount, 1973) (LP)
John Herald "...And The John Herald Band" (Bay Records, 1978) (LP)
John Herald "The Real Thing" (Rooster Records, 1984) (LP)
John Herald "Roll On John" (Shoeshine Records, 2000)
John Herald "Just Another Bluegrass Boy" (2005)
This posthumously-released album is listed on the John Herald website (linked to below) though I'm not sure if it's available elsewhere...
Hick Music Index