Former Byrds frontman to play GV
Know & Go
Who: The Center for the Arts presents
What: Roger McGuinn
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17
Where: The Center for the Arts, 314 W Main St. Grass Valley
Tickets: $35 members, $40 non-member; The Center Box Office - 530-274-8384 ext 14; BriarPatch Co-op Community Market - 530-272-5333; Tickets online at http://www.thecenterforthearts.org
Folk-rock pioneer Roger McGuinn, known as the former leader of the influential ’60s group The Byrds, will perform Thursday, Oct. 17, in Grass Valley during a concert presented by the Center for the Arts.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has made history repeatedly throughout his musical career by remaining fearlessly dedicated to experimentation. Throughout the decades, folk music was the constant thread of many of McGuinn’s songs.
“I’ve always considered myself a folksinger, even though we strapped on Rickenbacker guitars and played pretty loud. But I was a folksinger at heart because we always loved folk music. I loved the melodies and the stories,” said McGuinn.
As the leader of The Byrds, McGuinn combined the rock beat of the Beatles with the folk sensibilities of Bob Dylan to create a new genre of music known as “folk rock” with tunes like “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn, Turn, Turn.” McGuinn was the center of this sound. He the one constant in the Byrd’s ever-evolving lineup, and the jingle-jangle of his 12-string Rickenbacker became synonymous with Americana. The Byrds experimented with folk rock, country, psychedelic rock and jazz and influenced generations of bands after them from Tom Petty to R.E.M.
“I think what makes the Byrds stand out all these years is the basis in folk music. Folk music, being a timeless art form, is the foundation of the Byrds,” McGuinn said.
McGuinn, a Chicago native, studied at the Old Town School of Folk Music and, as an adolescent, was strongly influence by Bob Gibson. Within a few weeks of finishing high school, McGuinn was working with the Limeliters in California, playing guitar and banjo on their album “Tonight: In Person.”
While working as a songwriter in New York, McGuinn heard the Beatles for the first time. Soon after he began playing folk songs to a rock beat in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village. The new sound didn’t please the folk purists, so McGuinn moved to Los Angeles to work at the Troubadour. It was after an opening set for Hoyt Axton that Gene Clark approached Roger with appreciation for his new musical blend. They started writing songs together in the folk den of the Troubadour.
In 1964, McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby co-founded the group that would become the Byrds. Conga player Michael Clarke was recruited because he looked like two of the Rolling Stones. Mandolin player Chris Hillman was asked to join the group and learned to play the bass guitar. Columbia Records signed the Byrds in January 1965, and they recorded their first No. 1 hit, “Mr. Tambourine Man.” In 1968, McGuinn and Hillman hired Gram Parsons and headed for Nashville where they recorded the now critically acclaimed “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.”
McGuinn left the Byrds in 1973 to pursue his dream of a solo career. He made five solo albums on Columbia Records. McGuinn rejoined Gene Clark and Chris Hillman in 1978 on Capitol Records for three albums.
In 1981, he decided it was time to return to his folk roots and began touring solo acoustic. Arista records released “Back From Rio” in 1991, a rock album that included his friends, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Elvis Costello, Chris Hillman, David Crosby, Michael Penn and John Jorgensen. In 1995, he created the Folk Den Project, an online series to preserve and store traditional folk songs nearly forgotten.
“I was listening to a Smithsonian Folkways record, and I said, ‘You know, I’m not hearing these traditional songs even in the folk clubs or on the radio, or anywhere.’ All the new folksingers were singer-songwriters, writing wonderful material, but they were writing new folk songs,” McGuinn said.
McGuinn’s CD recorded on Appleseed Recordings, “Treasures From The Folk Den,” included duets with Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Odetta, Jean Ritchie, Josh White Jr. and Frank and Mary Hamilton. It was nominated for a Grammy in 2002 in the category of Best Traditional Folk Album.
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