The Chad Mitchell Trio, a popular 1950s and ‘60s folk group known for their satirical songs criticizing contemporary events, performed in Trail at least once. One of their members, Mike Kobluk, is from Trail, something that formed part of the comedic introduction to a song on their album At the Bitter End, recorded live on March 19, 1962. You can hear it below or follow along the transcript.
Chad Mitchell: I think that it might be appropriate for us to introduce ourselves individually to you. My name is Chad Mitchell, and I’m from Spokane, Washington.
Joe Frazier: My name is Joe Frazier, and I’m from Lebanon, Pennsylvania. Lebanon is situated in one of the most fertile valleys in the east coast.
Mike Kobluk: My name is Mike Kobluk and I come from the great Canadian southwest. I come from a town called Trail, British Columbia. It’s noted for its lead-zinc smelter, which is world known. It’s the biggest in the world.
Frazier: Well, everybody knows that in Pennsylvania we have a great many steel mines and steel mills and things. Lebanon has one of the largest ones there. That’s my hometown.
Kobluk: Trail is not a one-industry town, though! Trail also is the centre for the Elephant brand fertilizer which is … No, this is true! No, really, this is true, though. They have a company there that makes nothing but Elephant brand fertilizer and it’s the biggest company of its kind in the whole world.
Frazier: Well, Lebanon, Pennsylvania is right near Hershey, Pennsylvania. You’ve all heard of that. That’s where they make all the chocolate. There are more candy bars made there than any other place in the whole country.
Kobluk: Trail is also noted because last year the Trail Smoke Eaters hockey team won the world hockey championships, over in Sweden.
Frazier: The amateur hockey championship.
Kobluk: The world hockey championship, over in Sweden.
Mitchell: I guess I forgot to mention that Spokane, Washington is the apple, cherry, and blue leaf cabbage centre of the United States.
But when was their Trail show? Although I’d heard about it, I only recently found it: turns out they performed at the Trail Junior High School auditorium (now the Bailey Theatre) exactly one month before the Bitter End show, on Feb. 19, 1962.
Trail Daily Times, Feb. 16, 1962
The Trail Daily Times also revealed that prior to the show Kobluk became the first person presented with the key to the city. I don’t know if that honor was ever repeated, but it was distinct from the granting of the freedom of the city. (Kobluk was also inducted into the Trail Home of Champions monument, along with his brother Joe, a longtime radio announcer and manager.)
Trail Daily Times, Feb. 17, 1962
The packed auditorium enjoyed many of the trio’s famous songs including Mighty Day and Lizzie Borden.
Trail Daily Times, Feb. 20, 1962
The next day, the trio performed at Kobluk and Mitchell’s alma mater, Gonzaga University in Spokane. They received a very positive review in the Spokesman-Review from Ed Costello who noted they had “improved markedly” since their previous appearance two years earlier and were “stronger musically, they have more assurance, polish and when it comes to showmanship they have really ‘arrived.’”
But another two years later, Costello took a dimmer view, calling the trio’s show at the Spokane Coliseum “depressing” because he felt their songs were too political. The pan was notorious enough that when the trio reunited for a triumphant concert in Spokane in 2007, reviewer Jim Kershner noted: “That guy was dead wrong.”
What’s not widely known, however, is that Costello had his own Trail connection: he was editor of the Times in the mid-to-late 1940s and might have run into a young Michael Kobluk, whose name was then showing up in the newspaper for his boxing, hockey playing, and piano playing.
Two more bits of related trivia:
• After Chad Mitchell left the group, he was replaced by a young singer named Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. You know him better as John Denver.
According to the terrific book We Never Knew Just What it Was: The Story of the Chad Mitchell Trio, decades after achieving world domination as a solo act, Denver was supposed to attend a Mitchell Trio reunion at Kobluk’s place in Christina Lake. But he couldn’t make it because he was busy filming a TV special. He promised to be at the next one. However, he didn’t get the chance. The following month he died in a plane crash.
• Mike Kobluk’s childhood home still stands at 1903 Second Avenue in East Trail (seen below). It ought to have a plaque on it. For that matter, you could create a walking tour of the homes of famous people who grew up in Trail. Or for specific groups: the homes of the 1939 and 1961 Trail Smoke Eaters, for instance, at the time they won their world championships. Maybe I’ll add that to my to-do list.