Today is the birthday of The Byrds leader and frontman Roger McGuinn, who was born in 1942 in Chicago, Ill. While The Byrds were best known for their successful covers of Bob Dylan songs, he and the band played a crucial role in mixing folk, rock and psychedelia into a distinctly Californian mix that also proved highly influential.
In 1964, McGuinn formed the Jet Set, who would later become The Byrds. The band members were never shy about wearing their influences on their sleeves (some would say mimicking is a more accurate term) and decided to intentionally misspell their name, just like the Beatles, who had stormed America in the preceding years. Billing themselves as America's answer to the British Invasion, The Byrds were signed to Columbia with the backing of Miles Davis; however, their big break came in 1965 when the band met Bob Dylan, who not only was a lasting influence but provided the group with their first hit, "Mr. Tambourine Man." At this time, McGuinn described The Byrds' approach as taking the folk sensibility of Dylan and adding a Beatles-esque rock beat.
In 1965, The Byrds released Turn, Turn, Turn, which yielded a hit
single of the same name; that was also the last album to feature vocalist Gene Clark. Their next album, 1966's overtly experimental Fifth Dimension, was notable for McGuinn's prominent use of a 12-string Rickenbacker and for the single "Eight Miles High," one of the first pop songs ever banned because of supposed drug references. By this time, McGuinn was exerting an increasing influence on the band, and in 1967 singer David Crosby left as well, eventually ending up as a main ingredient in international folk-stars Crosby, Stills, & Nash. The Byrds' next two albums, The Notorious Byrd Brothers and Sweetheart of the Rodeo introduced country rock to a wide audience and also introduced guitarist Gram Parsons, later of The Flying Burrito Brothers.
From 1969 to 1973, The Byrds were essentially comprised of McGuinn and backing musicians. In 1976, McGuinn was a prominent member of Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue and he has had a sporadic solo career since then. The Byrds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, and McGuinn's style continues to have an impact on artists such as Tom
Petty and R.E.M., who have toured and recorded with McGuinn.
Other birthdays: Stephen Jo Bladd (J. Geils Band).