Byrds' Gene Clark Remembered In Song

Dozens of musicians crowd Nashville club for tribute.

NASHVILLE — When pioneering Byrds co-founder Gene Clark died in 1991, almost no one but the most knowledgeable music fan took notice.

But on Wednesday, Bill Lloyd, a musical pioneer on his own during his tenure in Foster & Lloyd in the '80s, revived Clark's spirit in a three-and-a-half hour tribute at Nashville's 12th & Porter. Though it took a while to get rolling, the show came alive once the performers realized that you can't pay tribute to the Byrds — the band that led the way in the '60s for country-rock sound in Southern California and beyond — in any way without those earthy, peace-loving harmonies.

For the first three hours of the evening, recognizable local talents such as Greg Trooper, Bob Delevante and Tommy Womack plugged in and played out. A seemingly endless string of unknown songwriters also stepped up to honor Clark, who composed many of the early Byrds songs, most notably "Feel a Whole Lot Better" and "Eight Miles High." (RealAudio excerpt).

Clearly, it's hard to do justice to the celebrated Southern California sound without solid harmonies. Still, catching Walter Egan ("Magnet and Steel"), Andrew Gold ("Lonely Boy") and Bernie Leadon (of the Eagles) all in one night doesn't happen too often, even in Music City.

But to everything, turn, turn, turn. Kim Richey and some pals re-energized the crowd (especially on the Turtles' "You Showed Me," which Clark wrote), who then flipped for Webb Wilder and his band.

"I think he had the patent on the breakup song," Wilder said before launching into "Try So Hard." Shazam nailed "Eight Miles High," their version of which also appears on a new two-CD Clark tribute, available on Not Lame Recordings.

To close out the show, every last musician in the house crowded onstage for "Feel a Whole Lot Better." Al Perkins, one of the definitive country-rock guitarists, wailed away while Lloyd, who did better as stage manager than he'd admit, led on vocals. The crowd sang along enthusiastically, and for those who stuck around, Gene Clark and his trademark sound won't be forgotten for a long time to come.