Singer Glenn Yarbrough dead at 86
By Juli Thanki
August 12, 2016
Folk singer Glenn Yarbrough, a founding member of vocal group The Limeliters and a prolific solo artist, died at home in Nashville on Thursday night after several years of declining health. He was 86 years old.
Glenn Robertson Yarbrough was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Jan. 12, 1930. He grew up in New York City, and as a child, helped support his mother by working as a paid boy soprano at Grace Church.
After graduating high school, he attended St. John's College in Annapolis. There, he studied philosophy and roomed with Jac Holzman, co-founder of Elektra Records. One day in 1950, "This Land is Your Land" singer Woody Guthrie came to town for a performance. After the show, he played guitar and sang songs all night in Holzman and Yarbrough's room. The day after that impromptu dorm room concert, Yarbrough bought a guitar of his own.
Yarbrough served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War: first he deciphered codes, then was part of the entertainment corps. Upon returning home to New York City, he resumed his music career, then relocated to South Dakota to help his father run a square dance barn; he also performed on his own television show on one of South Dakota's first TV stations. In the mid-1950s, Al Grossman, who ran the Gate of Horn, a small folk club in Chicago, booked Yarbrough for a two-week engagement. Here, he developed some of the most important relationships of his career with artists like Odetta and Shel Silverstein.
Yarbrough then ended up in Aspen, where he ran a club called the Limelite. He ended up forming a folk group with Alex Hassilev and Lou Gottleib, who arranged music for the Kingston Trio; they took their name from the club and released their first album, "Limeliters," on Elektra Records in 1960.
(In 2013, the music of The Limeliters was introduced to a new generation when their song "Take My True Love by the Hand" was included in the final season of acclaimed drama "Breaking Bad.")
In the mid-1960s, at the peak of the Limeliters' success, Yarbrough left the group (though he often returned for reunion tours) and pursued a solo career with RCA. As a solo act, his single "Baby, the Rain Must Fall" (the theme song for the film of the same name) was his most successful release, peaking at No. 12 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1965.
He continued to make records and tour for another five decades, but he balanced his music with his other great passion: sailing. According to his daughter Holly Yarbrough Burnett, Yarbrough built his own boat, and he'd sail until the money ran out; then he'd get back on the road to play some more shows. He continued this routine until he was 80.
He had elective surgery on his larynx in 2010 in hopes of saving his singing voice, which was faltering. The surgery was largely unsuccessful, and he went into cardiac arrest while in the recovery room. The staff resuscitated him, giving him a tracheotomy and putting him on a ventilator. Following his surgical procedures, he moved in to Burnett's Nashville home to recuperate.
Though he suffered from dementia in the last years of his life, according to Burnett, her father remained a "warm happy man."
"I feel like Dad had a wonderful, lucky life lived on his own terms and filled with adventures of his own choosing," she added. When Yarbrough died, the annual Perseid meteor shower was at his peak. "I think he wanted to hitch a ride on a passing meteor," Burnett said. "That would be just like him."
Yarbrough is survived by his children: Stephany Yarbrough, Sean Yarbrough and Holly Yarbrough Barnett. Funeral arrangements are unknown at this time.
YARBROUGH, Glenn (Glenn Robertson Yarbrough)
Born: 1/12/1930, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
Died: 8/11/2016, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A.
Glenn Yarbrough’s westerns – actor, singer, lyricist:
Wagon Train (TV) – 1964 (guitarist)
High Noon: The Clock Strikes Noon Again (TV) – 1966 [performer: “Theme Song”]
Ride Beyond Vengeance – 1966 [performer: "You Can't Ever Go Home Again"]
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys – 1969 [performer: "The Ballad of Marshal Flagg"]