We Never Knew Just What it Was...
the story of the Chad Mitchell Trio

Book Cover

For all their differences, Mike Kobluk and Chad Mitchell never disagreed on the quality of their music.  The rehearsal process of creative collaboration—finding songs and harmonies— was sacred.

The Chad Mitchell Trio was better than anyone in the emerging 1960’s folk scene.  But as Mike, Chad and Joe Frazier raced along a frantic treadmill of rehearsals, recording sessions, nightclubs and concerts, Mike and Chad began to realize the demand for musical perfection was the only thing they had in common.  Their personalities were and remain polar opposites.  When Chad left in 1965, neither mourned the parting.  John Denver replaced Chad.  Two years later, Joe’s demons caught up to him forcing Mike and John to fire Joe.

When folk reunions became popular, fans and folk historians agreed that The Trio was the one group that would never take the stage again.  Their schism was just too great.  Mike and Chad hadn’t spoken in twenty years.  Then came a call.  I will if he will.  Their mentor and music director Milt Okun worried they were making a mistake.  They couldn’t possibly be as good as their fans remembered.

They were.  Mike and Chad kept their day jobs, and their distance.  But once again, they shared the music.

The book, written by Mike Murphey, with Mike Kobluk and Chad Mitchell, is the first comprehensive telling of The Trio’s journey that began at Gonzaga University in 1958 and ended in 2014 with their Farewell Concert, sponsored by WFMA.  It's an intimate biography of the Trio, with extensive interviews with Mike and Chad, a forward by ‘almost’ CMT member and Trio friend, Tom Paxton, and the behind the scenes story of their first reunion in 1986 based on interviews with the musician who made it happen, Doris Justis.

The Ballad of Murder Incorporated

Early in 1963, The Chad Mitchell Trio was hired to perform on a comedy album recorded at RCA Victor studios in New York City. Comedian Wally Cox wrote a script poking fun at the controversy raging at that time over what could be legitimately called a folk song and who could be considered pure and unsullied folk singers. Along with the Belafonte Singers, the trio recorded several songs used on the album. Only one of those songs was performed solely by The Trio.

At one point, Cox suggests that folk songs were not solely the province of hillbillies. He suggested people with urban roots—citibillies—could also share in folk music traditions. He offered “The Ballad of Murder Incorporated” as an example.

“The Ballad of Murder Incorporated” was written by Ernie Lieberman, who performed under the name Ernie Sheldon. Ernie replaced Lou Gottlieb in The Gateway Singers in 1958. He later joined The Limeliters as Glen Yarbrough in the Limeliters. He was an accomplished lyricist whose most famous song was Yarbrough’s biggest hit, “Baby the Rain Must Fall.”

Once Cox’s album was recorded, it received a cold reception from RCA. The project never got out of the studio and only three copies of the album were pressed. Mike Kobluk received one of the copies under instructions to show it to Milt Okun and the other members of the trio.

“I didn’t think the whole thing worked at all,” Mike said. “The album just wasn’t funny. So I didn’t show it to anyone. I just put it away.”

In fact, Mike didn’t dust off his copy of the album until fifty-five years later when he played it for author Mike Murphey and Chad Mitchell during one of their interview sessions for “We Never Knew Just What It Was … The Story of the Chad Mitchell Trio.” That was the first time Chad ever heard the recording.

The album might not have been funny, but this song is, and it was performed superbly by Mike, Joe and Chad accompanied by Paul Prestopino on guitar.

Available Now!

The book and song are available for purchase on our online store now!  We are offering the book and CD in the following packages: