Dave Fisher, singer and vocal arranger for the early ’60s folk group the Highwaymen, died May 7 of myelofibrosis, a bone marrow disease, in Rye, N.Y. He was 69.
Connecticut-born Fisher founded the unit — originally known as the Clansmen — as a Wesleyan U. freshman. The group’s earnest arrangement of the spiritual “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” released as “Michael” in 1961, became a No. 1 hit at the height of the urban folk boom.
The Highwaymen’s “Cotton Fields” reached No. 13 later that year. Their last chart single “Bird Man” — inspired by the film “Birdman of Alcatraz” and featuring narration by Burt Lancaster — was issued in 1962.
After the group disbanded in 1964, Fisher moved to Los Angeles, where he was active as a composer for such TV shows as “BJ and the Bear,” “The Fall Guy” and “The Highwayman.”
In 1990, the original members of the Highwaymen briefly threatened to sue the all-star country group — Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash — who shared their name. They instead reformed, and the ’60s unit opened for the country act in Los Angeles. The show led to a second act for the folk group, which went on to perform and record anew.
Fisher is survived by wife Elaine, a son, a daughter, , a stepson and a sister.