Alex Hassilev, the Last of the Original Limeliters, Dies at 91

Alex Hassilev, a multilingual, multitalented troubadour and the last original member of the Limeliters, one of the biggest acts of the folk revival of the early 1960s, died on April 21 in Burbank, Calif. He was 91.

His wife, Gladys Hassilev, said the cause of his death, in a hospital, was cancer.

Before Beatlemania gripped America’s youth in 1964, the country fell in love with the tight harmonies and traditional arrangements of folk music — and few acts drew more adoration than the Limeliters, a trio made up of Mr. Hassilev, Glenn Yarbrough and Lou Gottlieb.

Mr. Hassilev played banjo and guitar and sang baritone, not only in English but in French, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian, all of which he spoke fluently. His bandmates were equally brainy: Mr. Gottlieb had a doctorate in musicology and Mr. Yarbrough once worked as a bouncer to pay for Greek lessons.

Urbane and witty, they packed coffeehouses and college auditoriums with a repertoire that mixed straight-faced folk standards like “The Hammer Song” and cheeky tunes like “Have Some Madeira, M’Dear,” “The Ballad of Sigmund Freud” and “Charlie the Midnight Marauder.”

At their height, between 1960 and 1962, the Limeliters were playing 300 dates a year and recording an album every few months, two of which — “Tonight in Person” (1960) and “The Slightly Fabulous Limeliters” (1961) — reached the Billboard Top 10.

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