The Highwaymen — Wesleyan undergrads Dave Fisher, Bob Burnett, Steve Butts, Chan Daniels and Steve Trott — were one of the great successes of the early ’60s folk boom. More inclined towards folk-pop than the agit-folk that would spring up in the middle of the decade, the Highwaymen first struck it big in 1961 when “Michael”, their version of the spiritual tune “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore”, became an international number one hit. Other successes soon followed — eight albums and ten singles, including their their versions of “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and Leadbelly’s “Cotton Fields”, which was later covered by both the Beach Boys and Creedence Clearwater Revival; numerous television appearances — but the turbulent era’s shift towards protest folk, as well as line-up changes and several members’ defection to graduate school (indeed, only Fisher made a career out of music; Trott became a Federal Appeals Court judge) conspired to break up the band by 1964. Various configurations of the group continued to play throughout the years — including a 1990 performance where they opened for the country supergroup also named the Highwaymen — and though Daniels, Fisher and Burnett have passed away, their legacy is secure.
(by Stephen Haag)