The Rooftop Singers were an American progressive folk-singing trio in the early 1960s, best known for the hit “Walk Right In”. The group was composed of Erik Darling and Bill Svanoe (vocals, guitar) with former jazz singer Lynne Taylor (vocals).
Darling put the group together in June 1962 specifically to record an updated and uptempo version of a 1929 Gus Cannon folk blues song, “Walk Right In”. The trio recorded the song for Vanguard Records, with updated lyrics and an arrangement featuring paired 12-string acoustic guitars. The record became the most successful single in Vanguard’s history.
In the U.S., the song was #1 for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1963. It spent five weeks atop the Easy Listening chart, which would later become known as the Adult Contemporary chart. In addition, “Walk Right In” reached both the R&B chart (peaking at #4) as well as the country music chart (peaking at #23). The song reached #1 in Australia on the Kent Music Report in 1963, and it made the Top 10 on the UK Singles Chart in the United Kingdom, peaking at #10. The recording sold over one million copies, gaining gold disc status.
The album that contained this song was also called Walk Right In, and was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Folk Recording category. The group was more influenced by ragtime, blues, and songster material than contemporaneous folk groups such as The Weavers, which Darling belonged to until just before he formed the Rooftop Singers. They were also less overtly political.
The group played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963. Vanguard released several further singles, the most successful being “Tom Cat” (#20 in May of ’63). Yielding to pressure from her husband, Taylor left the trio shortly after Vanguard released the group’s second album, Good Time!. Darling and Svanoe then recruited Mindy Stuart to replace her. This line-up recorded one final album, Rainy River. Patricia Street replaced Stuart shortly before the Rooftop Singers formally disbanded in 1967. Darling and Street continued working as a duo into the early seventies, recording the album The Possible Dream for Vanguard.
Lynne Taylor (born in 1928) died in 1982 at age 54, and Erik Darling died on August 3, 2008, aged 74, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from Burkitt’s lymphoma.