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The Byrds - A Brief History


For many, The Byrds were the greatest of the American groups, and helped bring Bob Dylan's songs into the music mainstream, especially with their first US and UK number one single, 'Mr. Tambourine Man' in 1965.

Though The Byrds had a varied personnel, the classic line-up was really the mid-1960s quintet of Jim (later Roger) McGuinn on 12 string guitar and vocals, Dave Crosby on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Hillman on bass, Mike Clarke on drums, and Gene Clark on vocals and tambourine. Gene Clark left due to a fear of flying, and Dave Crosby left amidst some acrimony in '67. This quintet also had a hit single with another Dylan song, 'All I Really Want To Do', and hits with the psychedelic science fiction terror tale (!) 'Eight Miles High', and Pete Seeger's 'Book Of Ecclesiastes' adaptation 'Turn, Turn, Turn' - the group's second US number one single.

The Byrds still had some other notable names in their line-up. None more so than country rock founding father Gram Parsons, who lasted from April to July 1968, before quitting on the eve of a South African tour, with roadie Carlos Bernal impersonating the enigmatic Gram! In The Byrds line-up at the same time was accomplished pedal steel guitarist 'Sneaky' Pete Kleinow. Clarence White was another fine guitarist, who managed to stay in The Byrds for several years, joining in September '68, but he was tragically killed by a car in 1973 - the same year Parsons also died. Gene Clark even rejoined the group again - albeit briefly - in '67.

Jim McGuinn became Roger McGuinn, after involvement with the Subud religion, and was the one constant feature in The Byrds, and it was his jingle-jangle guitar sound which has influenced so many bands since.

The Byrds effectively quit in 1973, though there have been reunions involving several members over the years. Gene Clark died in 1991, Mike Clarke in 1993, and 'Sneaky' Pete Kleinow in 2007. The band's legacy is impressive - they turned millions on to folk rock, space rock, country rock, psychedelia, and even Jesus rock.

- Paul Rance/

Roger McGuinn's website

The Byrds

THE BYRDS CDs available from - in association with
THE BYRDS CDs available from - in association with