The Shaw Brothers were born 10 minutes apart on a winter day in 1941. It was the start to a lifelong partnership that would make countless fans feel like part of their family over the decades.
“Any of us in show business realize that performers have an onstage presence that is a lot of times very different from their offstage presence,” said John Goyette, who represented the duo in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “But the Shaw Brothers — they were genuine, kind persons. What they projected on stage was who they were. I loved working with them. I personally feel a great sense of loss that both are gone.”
It’s a sentiment much repeated in the two weeks since Rick Shaw died at 79 on Jan. 28 at the Edgewood Centre in Portsmouth — the same care facility where his twin brother, Ron, spent his last days in 2018.
“They were a class act — down-home, down-to-earth boys. Arguably New Hampshire’s most famous folk artists. They will be missed,” said promoter Richard Smith, of Cuzin Richard Entertainment, which handled bookings for fairs and other outdoor events for the twins for a half dozen years.
The Shaw Brothers performed around the world, signing some major record label deals and sharing stages with everyone from Bob Hope and Jay Leno to John Denver and Tommy Makem along the way.
But through it all, they rebuffed any suggestions that they leave their beloved New Hampshire for bustling entertainment meccas on the West Coast. A part of their schtick on stage was about their one big move down south — from Stewartstown to North Conway.
Over the years, the brothers’ favorite place to perform was Prescott Park in Portsmouth, where their annual concerts drew thousands each summer.
“They never stopped having the joy of just making music with friends. I don’t think they ever lost sight of that,” said Sallie Macintosh, who was Ron’s companion and penned Rick’s recent obituary.
Rick, who was likely dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, lived with Ron and Macintosh in their Kittery, Maine-area home from 2013 until he moved to a memory-care unit at the Edgewood Centre in 2017.
By that time, Ron was battling cancer. When Ron realized the end was near, he, too, went to Edgewood to spend what would be his last 10 days with his twin. He died there on Easter Sunday 2018.
“Ron needed to be with his brother. They were that close. It would have been devastating (for both) not to be together at that time,” Macintosh said.
Growing up in New Hampshire, the Shaw Brothers spent as much time as possible outdoors. Both were excellent skiers and loved to hike, climb and fish. Rick became an avid fly fisherman and retained that interest all his life.
The pair began performing as students at the University of New Hampshire, but left college to tour as the Windjammers, the Tradewinds and The Brandywine Singers, appearing on the TV show “Hootenanny.”
The two became The Shaw Brothers in 1968 after Rick returned from service in Vietnam. They toured extensively, and appeared on “American Bandstand,” “The Tonight Show” and “ABC’s Wide World of Entertainment.”
The Shaws were part of the Hillside Singers, a folk group assembled in 1971 to record the jingle “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” for a Coca-Cola commercial that had fans everywhere humming the catchy ditty. The group later re-recorded the song as a single.
”They were very talented, and they were very nice, kind men,” Macintosh said. “It’s very hard to explain but they just sparkled. They made magic on stage but in person they were just as delightful and just as fun. They were just literally a joy to be around.”
Friends remember the Shaw Brothers for their blended baritone, and for the time they’d spend with longtime fans.
“So many times at the conclusion of shows, I would be wanting to go home (after) a long day and equally long but enjoyable night,” Goyette said with a laugh. “But they would hang out until the last autograph seeker had their programs signed. That’s just who they were.”
At home, the brothers were best known for the paean to their native state, “New Hampshire Naturally.” The Legislature voted to adopt it as an official state song in 1983. It’s one of 10 songs designated as “state songs” in RSA 3:7.
The song begins:
”There’s a place I know where the purple lilacs grow and the sparkling rivers rush down to the sea; where snow-capped mountains rise high into the clear blue sky and the seasons come and go so naturally.
“Oh, New Hampshire. New Hampshire is where I want to be. Oh, New Hampshire. I love New Hampshire naturally.”