The Travelers were a 1960s-era folk-singing group of Norwich students, drawing strong influence from the Kingston Trio, Brothers Four, and the Limeliters. At the encouragement of then-NU musical director Captain Jon Borowicz, the Travelers formed in 1961 with founding members Leigh Lovering ’65, Ed Shults ’65, Rick Johnstone ’65, and Richard Wind ’63. Johnstone did not return the following year, and in 1962 the band picked up Drea Zigarmi ’63 as their stand-up bassist. Roy Conant ’67 joined the group on guitar and vocals in fall 1963.
We are honored to celebrate their music here, in the Norwich Record.
During the development of this story, Leigh Lovering and Drea Zigarmi located recordings of 11 Travelers songs, including their original, “Gone from Here,” written by Ed Shults ’65. We are delighted to present these songs, recorded more than 50 years ago, in the following playlist. (The header of the playlist indicates which song is selected; the selected song also appears in bold.)
As you enjoy these gems, scroll down for Leigh Lovering’s recollection of the Travelers’ brush with the big time.
A Brush with the Big Time
by Leigh Lovering ’65
“Gone from here” was written solely by Ed Shults. He was really the group leader and arranger. Dick Wind was our lead vocalist, although Ed also did a lot of the lead vocals. I sang vocals and Zig Zigami played string bass.
The year of 1963 was a memorable one for us. While playing gigs at the Alpen Inn in Sugarbush on Saturday nights during the winter of that year, we were approached by a gentleman from NYC named Bob Pratt. He asked us if we had any interest in coming down to Long Island on a weekend to record a demo record. He claimed he had contacts with Epic Records which was a subsidiary owned by Columbia Records.
We of course said, Sure! But really didn’t think anything would come of it.
We got a phone call from him the following May asking us to come down to his home in Glen Cove, New York, on a Saturday. We would stay over at his place that night, and then go into a studio Sunday morning, record, and be back to Norwich Sunday night before our 7 p.m. curfew.
However, he couldn’t get a studio to open on Sunday, so he rented all of the recording equipment and hired an engineer. It turned out to be the same engineer who recorded The Kingston Trio’s Stereo Concert album in El Paso, Texas.
We did not hear anything from Bob Pratt for a month. Then in mid-June, he called stating that he could not get a record deal for us because all of the labels he approached had already signed folk groups. The folk boom had peaked at that point.
He asked us if we would like to come down to the city and spend a few weeks performing at clubs. He would hire a booking agent and arranger, plus pay all of our expenses. We said, Why not?
We ended up playing at the Bitter End, Café Whey, coffee houses in Greenwich Village, and the Copa Lounge in the City. The Bitter End was where Peter, Paul and Mary were discovered, and the Café Whey was where Bob Dylan hung out.
I forgot to mention that Bob Pratt was a millionaire playboy, heir to a fortune made by leasing oil tankers to Esso Oil Co. Great experience. – Leigh Lovering ’65
“Winter Carnival … Junior Week … Regimental Ball … The hootenannies at Norwich that we did including the performers from other campuses were very well attended and tons of fun.” – Roy Conant ’67