Darling, a preppy Ayn Rand devotee who replaced Pete Seeger in the Weavers and who was associated with two of folk music's biggest commercial hits, The Banana Boat Song" and Walk Right In," died Sunday in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 74.The cause was lymphoma, said Allan Shaw, president of Folk Era/Wind River Records, for which Mr. Darling had made albums in recent years.
Mr. Darling was the first guitar gunslinger I came across," said the singer and songwriter Don McLean, who befriended him in the early 1960s. He practiced endlessly, and he got a beautiful sound out of his guitar and his banjo. Today you see any number of fabulous guitar players, but back then there were only a handful, and he was one."
Erik Darling was born in Baltimore and grew up in Canandaigua, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, where his father ran a paint business. His interest in folk music was sparked when the Sons of the Pioneers came to town for a concert.
One New York Sunday I took a double-decker Fifth Avenue bus down to Washington Square, where I had been told people sang folk songs. I didn't dare play that first day, but I became part of that crowd and did not miss a Sunday for years.
He improved. Later, when he was not performing and recording with his own groups, Mr. Darling played backup on recording sessions for artists like Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Oscar Brand, Jean Ritchie and Judy Collins.
In the early 1950s Roger Sprung, a banjo player prominent on the folk scene, invited Mr. Darling and Bob Carey to form the Folksay Trio, which recorded four songs, including Tom Dooley," for the tiny Stinson label. Their syncopated interpretation of the song, which introduced a signature pause, or hiccup, between the words Tom and Dooley, strongly influenced the Kingston Trio when that group recorded the song.