the solo folk flight of roger mcguinn


roger mcguinn. copyright photo by john chiasson.

roger mcguinn. copyright photo by john chiasson.

For years now, Roger McGuinn has been working as a solo concert artist, mixing his setlist between the folk songs he has loved all his life and the timeless pop works he sang during the ‘60s and ‘70s as the principal vocalist and mainstay member of The Byrds.

When he makes an album, he records for a label he runs with his wife Camilla. Most of his projects are strict labors of love, like the four disc, 100 song set of traditional folk tunes he released as The Folk Den Project or the newly released compilation of sea-themed songs, CCD.

In short, the 21st century McGuinn leads a quiet but ultra content artistic life. A thirst to re-group with his remaining Byrd-mates? Not interested. An opportunity for a big budget album with a major label? He’ll pass there, too. Playing shows of folk songs and past hits and recording traditional music in a manner with which he will have complete artistic control is all McGuinn, 69, wants. And now that he has it, he couldn’t be happier.

“I think I’m in the best place I’ve ever been,” said McGuinn, who performs tonight at the Grand Theatre in Frankfort. “I’m not enslaved by a big record company that’s telling me what to do. We make our own CDs. We have our own label. I mean, what label would let you record 100 folk songs for an album or 23 sailing songs, for that matter? So this is really the best time of my life.

The CCD album of sea chanties and sailing tunes represents a corner of the traditional folk world that McGuinn has long envied. Such songs have regularly popped up on his post Byrds albums – most directly on his 1976 solo effort Cardiff Rose. Even the record’s cover art of a sailing ship on a stormy sea reflects his fascination of such music.

“This is just a genre that lends itself to doing a specialty album. But I’ve always had a love of sailing songs. I love the gusto and the camaraderie they have. It just makes you feel good to sing those songs. You get to vicariously be on the seas, smelling all that salt air.”

While McGuinn’s archivist-style work at reintroducing and recording numerous genres of traditional folk music (he plans to record folk albums of Christmas music and children’s songs next), there is no lasting escape from the band that landed McGuinn in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But the ways in which his tenure with The Byrds have inspired succeeding generations of country and rock artists continue to surprise. Take last December, for instance, when country star Marty Stuart invited McGuinn onto the stage of the Grand Ole Opry to play with his band.

The Byrds played the Grand Ole Opry once – in 1968, when the band teamed with the late Gram Parsons to produce Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Today, the recording is considered a landmark country album by Americana and alt-country performers and fans. The Opry itself, though, was not impressed at the time. Even though the Byrds members cut their hair to please corporate Nashville’s conservative views on appearance and style, the powers that be were not amused. As result, another 42 years would pass before McGuinn would play a Byrds song at the Grand Ole Opry.

“There was a stigma in those days in Nashville. We were fairly conservative looking by the time we got to play the Grand Ole Opry. But by their standards, we had come from that hippie background. So we were suspect as being Communist sympathizers or something. I don’t know. But it was uncomfortable.

“It was a lot of fun playing there with Marty. But I don’t know if I ever got really emotional about it. I just thought it was fun. Marty always felt The Byrds didn’t get a fair shake at the Grand Old Opry the first time.”

Stuart isn’t the only artist to acknowledge the lasting inspiration of The Byrds’ rock and country recordings. Perhaps the most obvious of those disciples would be Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. But McGuinn said he isn’t surprised that newer generations of artists, especially country artists, have taken so readily to the band’s music.

“It’s surprising because I regard country music as an outgrowth of folk music and all the old songs from England, Ireland. Scotland and Wales. Those songs came over to the South and got distilled before making their way to Nashville and Memphis as country music.

“I grew up listening to country music as part of folk music, so I wasn’t surprised by the acceptance. I am happy, though, that the political barrier got broken by the Outlaw guys – people like Willie (Nelson), Waylon (Jennings), David Allen Coe, Kris Kristofferson and others. The perception of country music having this right wing political agenda got broken down, so I was glad to see that.”

Of course, there is always the nagging question as to whether or not McGuinn might ever tour again with his surviving Byrd brothers, David Crosby and Chris Hillman. Both have said they are open to the idea.

“David and I would love to go out and play a mini reunion tour with Roger,” Hillman said prior to his June performance at the Opera House. “But it won’t happen. And that’s alright.”

“I think it would pollute what we did to go out as a band now,” McGuinn said. “It would be a money grab, and that’s not what I’m in this for. I just like to play for people. I don’t need a lot of money to be comfortable.”

Roger McGuinn performs at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St. in Frankfort.  Call (502) 352-7469. Tickets are $20, 25 and $40.

Ask pregnant friend to be maid of honor

Post-Tribune (IN) June 22, 2007 | ROBERT WALLACE THIS ELECTRONIC VERSION MAY DIFFER SLIGHTLY FROM PRINTED VERSION Dr. Wallace — Jenny and I have been best friends for more than 10 years. We are both 19. My fiance and I are planning a late August wedding. He is 24, a college graduate, and is employed by a stock brokerage firm; I do modeling part time. I want to have my best friend to be my maid of honor; it would mean a lot to me. It so happens that Jenny is now almost six months pregnant (she’s not married) and will be quite “large” on my wedding day. My fiance isn’t bothered by this and neither am I. My mother has a much different view. She thinks that it will be disgraceful for Jenny to be part of the wedding ceremony. She thinks guests will make fun of her and that will spoil my special day. I know what I plan to do, but I’d like to hear your opinion. — Melody, Toronto, Ontario. here maid of honor in our site maid of honor

Melody — It’s your wedding and should be planned so that you and your husband-to-be will be happy. A wedding ceremony is our way of showing the world that a marriage is taking place. It’s a happy, thrilling, but solemn occasion where all eyes should be focused on the bride and groom.

Invite your best friend to be your maid of honor, and have a beautiful wedding and enjoy a wonderful and long life with your husband.


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