The Byrds were an American rock and roll band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1964. The Byrds underwent a number of line-up changes, with lead singer, Roger McGuinn remaining the sole consistent member until the group's disbandment in 1973.
McGuinn had been playing Beatles songs acoustically in Los Angeles folk clubs when Gene Clark (who later became The Byrds’ guitarist) approached him to form a duo. Soon after, David Crosby (who also became a Byrds’ guitarist) joined them to form a group named The Jet Set. The Jet Set soon expanded their ranks to include drummer Michael Clarke and mandolin-player-turned-bassist Chris Hillman. The band released a single on Elektra Records in October 1964 entitled "Please Let Me Love You". It was after an audition for Columbia records that the band was renamed, from ‘The Beefeaters’ to ‘The Byrds.’
The Byrds went through a journey of musical genres, adopting a somewhat psychedelic influence after their first successful year of producing the standard folk rock sound, which gave them hits such as “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” The psychedelic age saw the groundbreaking lead guitar work of McGuinn replicate the free style poetic jazz melodies of the great saxophonist, John Coltrane. Tracks such as ‘Why?’ also showed Indian Raga influence, which helped expand The Byrds’ fused genre repertoire. After the band played at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, the genre of country rock was adopted till the end of the bands’ fame. The band had undergone some personnel changes with Gene Clarke and David Crosby being replaced by session musicians.
The Byrds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 where the original lineup of Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn was honored at this induction. Gene Clark died later that year, and two years later Michael Clarke succumbed to liver disease caused by alcoholism. More recently, in 2004 Rolling Stone Magazine ranked them #45 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Though both Hillman and Crosby have expressed an interest in working with McGuinn again on future Byrds projects, no such reunion has occurred and all three have successful individual careers.
Original members included Gene Clark (born November 17, 1941, in Tipton, MO; died May 24, 1991, in Los Angeles, CA; left group, 1966), vocals; Michael Clarke (born June 3, 1944, in New York, NY; left group, 1968), drums; David Crosby (born August 14, 1941, in Los Angeles; left group, 1967), guitar; Chris Hillman (born December 4, 1942, in Los Angeles; left group, 1968), bass; and Roger McGuinn (born Jim McGuinn, July 13, 1942, in Chicago, IL, [changed name, 19681), guitar.
Later members included Skip Battin (born February 2, 1934, in Gallipolis, OH; joined group, 1969), bass; John Guerin (joined group, 1972), drums; Kevin Kelly (born in 1945 in California; joined group, 1968), drums; Gene Parsons (born in 1944 in Los Angeles), drums; Gram Parsons (born Cecil Connor, November 5, 1946, in Winter Haven, FL [changed name, c. I960); died September 19, 1973, in Joshua Tree, CA; joined and left group, 1968), guitar; Clarence White (born June 6, 1944, in Lewiston, ME; died July 14, 1973), guitar; and John York (left group, 1969) bass.
Group formed in 1964 in Los Angeles; originally named the Jet Set; signed with Elektra Records, released first single as the Beefeaters; signed with Columbia Records, released "Mr. Tambourine Man," 1965; released three LPs; released several LPs with various lineups, 1967-73; group disbanded, 1973; original members reunited to make one album, The Byrds, Asylum, 1973.
Mr. Tambourine Man, Columbia, 1965.
Turn! Turn! Turn!, Columbia, 1966.
Fifth Dimension (includes "Eight Miles High"), Columbia, 1966.
Younger Than Yesterday (includes "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" and "My Back Pages)," Columbia, 1967.
The Byrds Greatest Hits, Columbia, 1967.
The Notorious Byrd Brothers, Columbia, 1968.
Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Columbia, 1968.
Dr. Byrds and Mrs. Hyde, Columbia, 1969.
Preflyte, Together, 1969.
(Untitled), Columbia, 1970.
Farther Along, Columbia, 1971.
Byrdmaniax, Columbia, 1971.
The Best of the Byrds: Greatest Hits Volume II, Columbia, 1972.
The Byrds, Asylum, 1973.
Never Before, Murray Hill, 1988.
Sources: Mathew Jones; Tim Connor
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