A legendary music group, The Byrds created and performed such memorable 1960s tunes as “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and “Eight Miles High." It has been 39 years since The Byrds performed together, but it hasn't stopped Roger McGuinn, the band's co-founder, from having a soaring solo career.
McGuinn will be performing at at Woodbridge Middle School on Wednesday at 7:30 pm.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing this engaging legend and found him to be as pleasant and nice as he is talented.
You attended the Latin School of Chicago and Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. What kind of schools were they and what did you learn there?
Roger: Chicago’s Latin School was a prep school with small classes, it prepared students for college. The Old Town School of Folk Music was a kind of music conservatory for learning folk music. It had classes for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students. I attended it on Saturday afternoons for three or four hours. I had already taught myself some guitar, so I was in the intermediate class for that, but I was in the beginner’s class for banjo. Although we sometimes sang while we played, there were no formal voice lessons there. I did, however, take some voice lesson later on when I was in San Francisco, and I learned diaphragmatic breathing.
Did you attend college?
Roger: No, I got hired right out of high school by the Limeliters. I did, however, play at a lot of colleges and got a feel for what is was like there.
Your bio makes it sound like you went from playing solo in coffee house to pro? Did you hook-up with Judy Collins, Bobby Darin, and the Chad Mitchell Trio by playing in coffee houses?
Roger: Yes and no. Actually the Limeliters found me playing at Gate of Horn, a bar with a cabaret room, which was something new for the time (the late 1950’s). Cabaret rooms were quiet rooms attached to bars. Here an act could perform without the noise of the bar. I was still in high school when they discovered me, so they had to wait until I finished high school to sign me. After I hooked–up with the Limeliters, the word was out about my playing and I made these other connections.
You worked with Bobby Darin and did song writing at Darin’s T.M. Music. Did this involvement make your career soar?
Roger: No, I got a series of opportunities, but only as a sideman. The Byrds was the real breakthrough for my career.
Where did you meet Gene Clark, co-founder of The Byrds, and what launched the group to stardom?
Roger: I met him at “The Troubador”, a music venue, in 1964. The single “Mr. Tambourine Man” became number one on the charts, and this launched it.
The Byrds only stayed together until 1973. Why?
Roger: There were many personnel changes. The members kept leaving for various reasons and I kept replacing them, but then I was the only one left.
What do you feel was the best part of your career?
Roger: Right now, because I am enjoying myself the most. I use this as my measuring stick.
Why did you return to folk music?
Roger: I noticed around 1995 when the internet opened up more to the public that there was not a lot of folk music there. I started offering free downloads of folk music and now offer 190, soon to be 192.
You are still heavily booked to play all over the country. Do you plan to play indefinitely?
Roger: Yes, playing is a labor of love for me. Segovia is my inspiration. He played until he died at 93, and he was booked to play that day.
Do you have any words of wisdom to offer young musicians who want to succeed as performers?
Roger: Practice! Bobby Darin also used to say, “It doesn’t matter how much you play at home, you need to get up and play under pressure in front of an audience."
Tickets for the 7:30 pm performance are $25 in advance and $28 at the door. Advance tickets can be bought at Town Hall or by visiting http://woodbridgeartsnj.tix.com. For more info, call 732-602-6015.