The Byrds Roger McGuinn at Guilford High School, part 2
Frank Schier, Editor & Publisher
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-123981203131582.jpg’, ‘Photo by Frank Schier’, ‘(From left) Guilford music students Nathan Whitham, Colin Stalter, Roger McGuinn, C.K.Traylor, and Assistant Principal Kaaryn Kennington discuss music and The Byrds.‘);
Note: Every once in a while in this business, I am truly touched and feel blessed by a story I get to cover. Sometimes I can see the hand and beauty of creation operating in peopleand my faith in human nature is recharged. The energy and unique spirit of each genre of music moves me and helps me along in lifehence my thankfulness being involved with Charlottes Web, the RAMIs and various friends in all aspects of the business over the years. Sometimes music and its appreciation even reaches out of the past. Recently, one of our former music critics, John Rosenbloom, called me, and said he wanted to have lunch at Octane to talk to me about a big story. That big story was The Byrds legendary Roger McGuinn was going to give a presentation for a small group of English and music students at Guilford High School…and he didnt want any publicity until it was over. Heres another installment on that story.
Guilford English teacher Nancy Petersen had told Rosenbloom it was very unlikely McGuinn would reply to a request to talk to her class in the realm of Rosenblooms Sonic Literature presentations. Rosenbloom had dealt with the music industry for many years and sent a request to the musicians management company. McGuinn replied.
He told Rosenbloom he had just begun going to colleges to speak about his music, and he really liked the idea of coming to a high school.
He told his story of when he was going to the upscale Latin High School, and Chicago folk music legend Bob Gibson came to his class and spoke and played. Gibson inspired him to hang out at the Old Towne School of Folk Music, the Gate of Horn night club and take formal guitar lessons. Thats where he was picked up by the Chad Mitchell Trio as one of their back-up players in the Twilighters. Then, he was hired away by Bobby Darren. Then, he worked in the song factory, the Brill Building, in New York, and The Byrds were born to live as legends today.
After all that, Its my turn to be Bob Gibson, he told Rosenbloom. Rosenbloom said he read a book about The Byrds, and the first paragraph was about Bob Gibson.
The Beatles revolution was already in gear, but McGuinns roots were in folk. By this time, he had started to incorporate different elements of music into rock. Most folk music is written in 2/4 time. Most rock music is written in 4/4 time. Jazz has 5/4 and 4/4 as well. McGuinn also loves classical music. McGuinn began to meld these time signatures and the cross reference passages and lyrics from all styles of music. The Byrds music became an encyclopedia of music genres.
Paul Jay Robbins, writing for the Los Angeles Free Press at the time, said, …The Byrds have gone through The Beatles and into a totally novel and fascinating place. They successfully united an audience of average teen-agers, Bach, Bartok and Cage, aesthetics, folkniks, sophisticated middle-agers, r&r devotees, and serious hippies into one joyous commitment. The key words are unite and commitment.
Their first big hit was Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan. The Byrds moved folk to rock before even Dylan himself. McGuinns electric 12-string and the songwriting talents of Gene Clark moved The Byrds to the Top Ten in American popular music and into the fore of the 60s counterculture.
That culture took its toll on the original band and its new members as well. Gene Clark died of drug abuse. Michael Clarke died of drug abuse. Graham Parson died of alcohol and drug abuse. Kevin Kelly died of drug abuse. Clarence White was killed by a drunk driver. Skip Battin died of complications from Alzheimers. David Crosby had a liver transplant and other challenges. Along with Chris Hillman, Gene Parsons, and John York, Roger McGuinn survived.
Going back to the 60s, suppose I told you The Byrds played Rockford College, and it was the first time David Crosby wore his trademark cape. Thats true.
To be continued…
from the April 15-21, 2009, issue
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