LifeNotes: Limeliters Singer Glenn Yarbrough Passes

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• August 12, 2016
Glenn Yarbrough

Glenn Yarbrough

Singer Glenn Yarbrough, famed for his 1965 pop hit “Baby the Rain Must Fall” passed away in Nashville on Thursday (August 11) at age 86.

Yarbrough first came to prominence as the lead singer of the folk group The Limeliters in 1959-63. He toured and recorded for more than five decades.

Born in Milwaukee in 1930, he grew up in New York City and attended university in Annapolis, Maryland. His college roommate was Jac Holzman, later the co-founder of Elektra Records. Folk-music great Woody Guthrie met the roommates after a concert and sang all night for them in their dorm. Inspired, Glenn Yarbrough bought a guitar and took up folk singing.

After serving in the Army, Yarbrough moved to South Dakota and starred in his own local TV show. He launched his recording career with his debut LP in 1957 on Holzman’s Elektra imprint. Yarbrough also recorded a duet LP for the company with California folk stylist Marilyn Childs.

He also began to tour as a performer. Following an extended booking at Chicago’s Gate of Horn club, Yarbrough went to Aspen, Colorado, to run his own folk venue, The Limelite. There, he formed The Limeliters with Lou Gottlieb and Alex Hassilev.

The group’s debut LP appeared on Elektra Records in 1960. The following year, The Limeliters hit the pop charts with their single “A Dollar Down.”

Other songs associated with the group include “There’s a Meetin’ Here Tonight,” “The Midnight Special,” “This Train,” “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Gotta Travel On.” Bass player Gottlieb was the Limeliters comic spokesman. Banjo player Hassilev was also an actor and a linguist. Yarbrough played guitar, and his clear tenor was the act’s lead voice.

Glenn Yarbrough left the trio in 1963 to resume his solo career, but he often returned for Limeliters reunion concerts and tours. Group member Lou Gottlieb died in 1996 at age 72. His son is Nashville artist manager Tony Gottlieb.

“Baby the Rain Must Fall” was the title tune of a movie starring Steve McQueen and Lee Remick. Following his hit with the song on RCA, Yarbrough returned to the hit parade with 1965’s “It’s Gonna Be Fine.”

Among his other notable songs of this era were versions of Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is a Long Time,” the Jay Livingston/Ray Evans favorite “All the Time” and Rod McKuen’s “Channing Way,” “The Lonely Things” and “The World I Used to Know.”

For the rest of his life, Glenn Yarbrough divided his time between making music and sailing the boat he built. He’d sail it until he ran out of money, then he’d do shows until he’d saved up enough to take to the water again. He kept this up until he reached 80.

He moved to Nashville in 2010 to be cared for by his daughter, Holly Yarbrough Burnett. Glenn Yarbrough is survived by her, by daughter Stephany Yarbrough, son Sean Yarbrough and son-in-law Robert Burnett. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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