DURHAM — Ron Shaw, 77, one-half of the beloved locally-raised singer-songwriter folk duo, The Shaw Brothers, has passed.
He died April 1 in Portsmouth.
Known for their songs about New Hampshire, as well as for being part in the Hillside Singers, which recorded the hit single "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" in 1971, twin brothers Rick and Ron Shaw were raised in North Conway, but have been living in the Seacoast area for many years.
The brothers had retired from the music business several years ago but were known in the Mount Washington Valley for their performances over the decades at the Oxen Yoke, at Arts Jubilee at Cranmore and the Eagle Mountain House.
The Shaw Brothers were given the title "New Hampshire's musical ambassadors to the world" by late Gov. Hugh J. Gallen.
They wrote and recorded many songs about New Hampshire, including, "New Hampshire Naturally," "The Ballad of the Concord Coach," "The Gundalow Song," "The Day the Tall Ships Came" and "Flight Without Wings" about Hannes Schneider’s love for skiing. They wrote and performed that song for Cranmore's 50th anniversary celebration in 1989 of the Schneider family's arrival in North Conway from Austria in 1939.
At the Oct. 16, 2013, N.H. Executive Council meeting, The Shaw Brothers were invited to perform several songs including their well known “New Hampshire Naturally,” dubbed the “New Hampshire Song.” This song, one of the eight honorary songs in the state of New Hampshire, was officially named a state song in 1983.
At that meeting, Rick and Ron Shaw received a commendation for their service to the state of New Hampshire, with late District 1 Executive Councilor Ray Burton noting, “This is a great meeting, can’t get much better than The Shaw Brothers.”
Born in West Stewartstown, they moved to North Conway at an early age. As local youngsters, they skied with the Eastern Slope Ski Club’s Junior Ski Program. They began their singing careers at a young age, harmonizing to cowboy songs with their father.
The brothers, who attended the University of New Hampshire beginning in the fall of 1959, began singing on campus at events and fraternities, and were soon taking their act all over New England. In 1962, along with a few college friends, they received top honors at the first National Inter-Collegiate Music Competition.
Over the years, Rick and Ron would move around to and from different record labels and be a part of various music acts, some of which included the Windjammers, the Tradewinds, the Brandywine Singers, the Pozo Seco Singers, the Hillside Singers, and finally, simply The Shaw Brothers.
It was as the Hillside singers that they recorded the popular Coca-Cola commercial song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony),” after the music director on the Coca-Cola account, Billy Davis, wanted to create a record version of the commercial jingle. This song rose to number 13 on the pop charts. They were also featured on American Bandstand, the Tonight Show, the Johnny Mathis Show and ABC Wide World of Entertainment among others.
They would often return to North Conway to visit with their Aunt Minnie Cooper, who ran Minnie’s Korner Kitchen, at the corner of Kearsarge and Main Streets next to the North Conway 5 and 10. As Vicki Johnson MacDougall of Kearsarge posted on Facebook this week, “I remember Minnie's Korner Kitchen made Shawburgers which I enjoyed back in the day.”
Tamworth resident David L. Eastman, 74, writer of "Country Ecology" heard on WMWV 93.5-FM and published by The Conway Daily Sun every Saturday, was a few years behind the Shaw twins at the University of New Hampshire.
He recalls that in that era, the Kingston Trio was leading the folk movement, and the Shaws were UNH's answer to them. When they performed on campus, and later when they began receiving regional and then national acclaim, Eastman said that everyone in campus was incredibly proud of them.
They were even more so when their careers enjoyed greater success with “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” and other songs.
Eastman — who helped to promote their music when he worked at local radio station WBNC — said he was sorry to learn of Ron’s passing.
"They were very talented. Ron (who primarily played banjo and guitar) could play anything," he said.
Added Paul Giblin on Facebook, "I got to know Rick and Ron Shaw through the Flying Yankee restoration project I managed for a number of years. I invited them to perform at one of the fundraising galas we held in Concord in 2005. I had been a fan of their music for many years prior to that. Meeting and spending time with them that evening is something I'll truly never forget."
In other Facebook posts, Nancy Wiggin recalled often seeing the brothers perform at the Oxen Yoke, as well as when they performed at a benefit for Project Graduation for Kennett High. "(They) most graciously consented to performing an outdoor concert at the 'old' KHS to raise funds for Project Graduation when my kids were at Kennett. They gave an amazing performance!"
Cindy Russell, executive director of Arts Jubilee, said the Shaw Brothers performed the first season in 1983 and again in Jackson in 1984.
To hear The Shaw Brothers' recorded music, go to allmusic.com/album/follow-me-mw0000619190 or find them on Facebook.
NOTE: This was updated from the print version: Ron Shaw was 77, not 75 as the print version stated Friday. Ron Shaw's longtime companion, Sallie Macintosh, told The Conway Daily Sun that the family is working on an obituary and on plans for a celebration of life at a latter date.