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Chad Mitchell Trio returns to Spokane

The Chad Mitchell Trio performs Saturday night at INB Performing Arts Center.  Courtesy of WestCoast Entertainment (Courtesy of WestCoast Entertainment / The Spokesman-Review)
The Chad Mitchell Trio performs Saturday night at INB Performing Arts Center. Courtesy of WestCoast Entertainment (Courtesy of WestCoast Entertainment / The Spokesman-Review)

Group’s show comes on anniversary year of New York debut

In 2007, the Chad Mitchell Trio played its first show since 1964 in its hometown of Spokane. The response was ecstatic. A near-capacity INB Performing Arts Center crowd poured out the love for Gonzaga University’s key contribution to the ’60s folk boom. In typical self-deprecating style, the trio said they “surprised even ourselves.” Since then, the Chad Mitchell Trio revival has gained momentum. More bookings poured in. The trio has been doing about six or seven shows a year around the country, including three Chad Mitchell Trio cruises, a Washington, D.C., concert attended by President Barack Obama (more on that later) and a career-capping show for the World Folk Music Association.

So WestCoast Entertainment is bringing them back to the INB for one more celebration of folk nostalgia, although in typical trio style, they have not let it go to their heads.

“So as long as we can continue to not embarrass the legacy of the group …,” said original member Mike Kobluk.

“I thought, ‘How many more years do we have to sing? I mean, there is a limit,’ ” added Mitchell.

This is their 50th anniversary year, dating from the time the GU students kicked off their career in New York. Within a few years, they had appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show” three times and “Hootenanny” four times, as well as the “Today” show and many others.

The group disbanded in the mid-1960s. Mitchell went on to be the entertainment director for the Delta Queen cruise ship lines and eventually moved back to Spokane, where he was a real estate agent and appeared in several Spokane Civic Theatre musicals.

Kobluk became the manager of the Spokane Opera House (now the INB) until he retired in 2000.

Joe Frazier, the third member of the trio, is the vicar of an Episcopal church in Big Bear, Calif. The trio still uses two of their original accompanists, Paul Prestopino on banjo and guitar, and Bob Hefferan on backup guitar.

“We truly are one of the last of the original folk groups standing,” said Mitchell.

This Spokane show will be similar to the 2007 show, except this time, there will be no opening act. (Tom Paxton opened then.)

“It will be similar to the extent that we’ll be doing material from the ’50s and ’60s, but we’ll be able to do a lot of the songs we didn’t get to last time,” said Kobluk.

The show will also include film clips of the trio’s appearances on “Ed Sullivan,” “Dinah Shore” and others.

They’ll tell stories, crack jokes and indulge in their trademark political satire. One of their biggest hits in the ’60s was “The John Birch Society,” altered in 2007 to become “The George Bush Society.”

Speaking of politics, in March the trio played a D.C. concert celebrating 40 years in Congress for Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.). When Obey, a lifelong fan, introduced them, he mentioned that, by the way, the president would show up later that evening.

“I thought, ‘Wow, there’s nothing like being upstaged before you’re upstaged,’ ” said Mitchell.

When the trio was singing its last song, a buzz pervaded the room. Obama had arrived. He made a short speech congratulating Obey on his years of service and then stuck around to shake hands.

“So we have the distinction of doing the first 40 minutes of the show, and having the president do the last five minutes,” said Kobluk.