At a time when the old Protestant Ethic seems to have given way to a new American Dream—easy success and early retirement—singer Glenn Yarbrough has it made both ways. By touring three months a year with his popular folk trio, the Limeliters, he salts away enough to spend the other nine cruising the world on his ketch Jubilee.
In fact, in anticipation of that Jubilee Day when his schedule becomes 12 months off, zero on, Glenn just abandoned his $150,000 spread in the Hollywood Hills and established his family and only crew (wife Ann and daughter Holly, 5) permanently on the craft. Behind Yarbrough’s dramatic decision, he says, was his inability to “take the constant bombardment of bad news—at sea I never have to look at TV or listen to the radio.” So now, at 45, Glenn has finally become skipper of both his own ship and of his soul.
The Yarbroughs’ floating castle is comfortably beamy (30 tons), as is Daddy (255 lbs.), more than a decade after his relaxed tenor made the Limeliters the hootenanny heirs to the Kingston Trio. When folk music crested in the mid ’60s, the group split, and Glenn soloed with hits like Baby, the Rain Must Fall. “We’re not hangout buddies,” says Lou Gottlieb, who with Alex Hassilev completes the trio. “We’re crotchety, neurotic, elderly gentlemen.” Still, when a broken ankle put Yarbrough’s sailing plans in drydock last year, the Limeliters reunited for what they sarcastically call “The 39th Annual Glenn Yarbrough Farewell Tour.” But as soon as he grossed enough to float his next cruise, he left the old boys high and dry again.
Yarbrough has always suffered from wanderlust. He was born in South Dakota and hitchhiked around the U.S., Canada and Mexico as a youth before lighting at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md. for its “Great Books” curriculum. (He still stows the complete set of 100 volumes aboard the Jubilee.) Yarbrough was groomed as a singer by pop impresario Albert Grossman. Along the way Yarbrough had two kids by a first wife and later achieved male martyrdom by going to jail for refusing to pay her alimony.
He met Ann, now 33, when she pursued him in the pre-groupie 1960s at the L.A. Troubador. Having previously shaken down his second mate and Holly in the Med and the South Pacific, Yarbrough last week set off for the Caribbean. “We’ll put in at Bermuda for the hurricane season and then decide where to go,” Glenn muses. “Then perhaps we’ll take a Bicentennial cruise up the New England coast. The only bad part about being in the ocean,” he reflects, “is knowing I’ll have to come back to shore and work.” His new life plan has already suffered one setback. He originally calculated his 1975 itinerary before fuel prices bobbed up again, and he fears that he might be forced to change his schedule to eight months cruising, four months crooning.