The Greenbriar Boys Biography

Formed in New York, USA, in 1958, this acoustic group was one of the leading exponents of urban bluegrass. The original line-up comprised John Herald (6 September 1939, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York, USA, d. 18 July 2005, West Hurley, New York, USA; guitar/vocals), Bob Yellin (b. 10 June 1936, New York City, New York, USA; banjo/tenor vocals) and Eric Weissberg (banjo, mandolin, dobro, fiddle), but in 1959 the latter was replaced by Paul Prestopino and then Ralph Rinzler (b. 20 July 1934, Passaic, New Jersey, USA, d. 2 July 1994, Washington, DC, USA; mandolin/baritone). The following year the group won the top award at the annual Union Grove Fiddlers’ Convention, while Yellin secured the first of several hits as a solo artist.

The Greenbriar Boys completed several excellent albums for the Vanguard Records label in the early 60s and became a highly popular attraction on the club, concert and festival circuits. Individually the members appeared as session musicians for, among others, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Joan Baez and Patrick Sky. The trio was later augmented by female vocalist Dian James; this reshaped unit recorded a lone release for Elektra Records in 1963. The group then underwent a radical change. James dropped out of the line-up, while Rinzler left for an administrative post with the Newport Folk Festival committee. Herald and Yellin added Frank Wakefield (b. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Wakefield, 26 June 1934, Emory Gap, Tennessee, USA; mandolin) and Jim Buchanan (fiddle), but the Greenbriar Boys’ impetus was waning and the group was officially disbanded in 1967. They have occasionally reunited. Herald took his own life in 2005.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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