“We Never Knew Just What It Was” by Mike Murphey

We Never Knew Just What It Was…The Story of the Chad Mitchell Trio

Mike Murphey (with Mike Kobluk and Chad Mitchell)
Acorn Publishing (2021)
ISBN: 9781952112652
Reviewed by Amy Lignor for Reader Views (09/2021)

Unfortunate but true, there are many who do not remember this incredible group. Let me just say, I didn’t either. But after reading this, I did my research because I found them to be exemplary; they had that “star” quality during their time period that did not come from using tricks, special lighting, speakers that caused audience members to actually lose their hearing; nor did they dress up in silly costumes or cake their faces in make-up in order to grab someone’s interest. No. These three men (specifically; Chad Mitchell, Joe Frazier and Mike Kobluk) were categorized as a “folk group,” yet were so much more. They were young, clean-cut gentlemen who had the ability to speak their minds when it came to the social issues of the day through their unique sound and beguiling words. And although they never received the credit they deserved, they stood on stages as big as Carnegie Hall and brought audiences to their feet.

Now, Mike Murphey has created this book that goes in-depth into the times and trials of the Trio, opening the curtains on a group that was more than interesting and had a ton of things to say. This being his first shot at non-fiction, Murphey states at the very beginning that his look into the Trio is more “creative” non-fiction. After all, with time moving forward and primary figures leaving this earth, it’s impossible to quote these conversations between the Trio, even with the help of two who were there. But when it comes to his portrayal of the young men, it feels more than accurate.

The tale begins in 2007 in the Spokane Opera House, with Mike and Chad talking things over forty-three years after they’d performed there and received a review calling them “depressing.” A big screen set center-stage shows clips of the Trio performing on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1963. (Five years before Mike turned the Trio over to John Denver.) Mike then went on to manage the Spokane Opera House and the entertainment events held there for years to come, which had him meeting all the “big names,” from Bing Crosby to Ella Fitzgerald.

Chad, on the other hand, had thought about staying in the industry after the Trio’s time had passed, and still felt anger over the conflict that’d broken up their group so long ago. But when these three voices got together, even after all these years, it was a stunning concert to hear. Jim Kershner of the Spokane Spokesman-Review was the one who was definitely happy about that fact, seeing as their review this time around had been placed in his hands.

The writer, along with two of the Trio, take us back in time to see the beginnings, the missed opportunities, and both the enjoyable and painful moments the three men had to go through when it was their time to shine. And it makes the reader even happier to know, after all these years, a little more about the men who shaped the minds of many and how they ended up. Intriguing, in-depth, and cool are the three words I would use to describe this book. It felt like the 60s came alive once again, and this author was kind enough to bring to the surface a band that should have been higher up on the popularity food chain. Why? Because they weren’t fluff; they actually had something to say. I thank the writer for showing that to everyone! I would definitely classify this as a “must read.”  

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