Born James Joseph McGuinn III on July 13, 1942, in Chicago, IL; son of James and Dorothy McGuinn. Education: Attended Old Town School of Folk Music, 1957-60. Addresses: Record company--Appleseed Records, P.O. Box 2593, West Chester, PA 19380, phone: (610) 701-5755, website:

McGuinn, however, had changed. Like many of his peers in 1963, he began to re-examine his commitment to folk music in the wake of the Beatles' success. He continued to play acoustic music but adapted a rock beat and began to search for like-minded musicians. He formed a duo with former New Christy Minstrel Gene Clark, and later they added David Crosby. Calling themselves the Jet Set, they quickly supplemented their lineup with drummer Michael Clarke and bassist Chris Hillman. Still, something was missing from the acoustic group. This "missing" element was revealed when McGuinn saw George Harrison playing an electric, 12-string Rickenbacker in A Hard Day's Night. The band, briefly calling themselves the Beefeaters, combined their resources and bought a 12-string guitar and a bass, and by Thanksgiving 1964, the electrified group decided to call themselves the Byrds. In January of 1965, McGuinn cut a version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" with studio musicians at Columbia Records. When it became a hit six months later, the Byrds had arrived.

Between 1965 and 1973 McGuinn stood at the helm of the Byrds, forging new sounds and creating a series of groundbreaking albums. First dubbed folk-rock, the band also dabbled in psychedelic rock and pioneered country-rock. McGuinn changed his name from Jim to Roger after a short involvement with the Subud religion. Early albums like Mr. Tambourine Man in 1965 and Turn! Turn! Turn! in 1966 were noted for the close three-part harmony, Bob Dylan songs, and the ringing sound of McGuinn's 12-string Rickenbacker. The lineup of the band changed constantly. In 1968, with the addition of Gram Parsons, the band recorded Sweetheart of the Rodeo, drawing heavily from country music. The 1970 album Untitled presents both live and studio material, including one of McGuinn's most beloved songs, "Chestnut Mare." While the Byrds seemed to run out of steam by the time they disbanded in 1973, their influence has continued to be immense. "The Byrds' innovations have echoed nearly as strongly through subsequent generations," wrote Richie Unterberger in All Music Guide, "in the work of Tom Petty, R.E.M., and innumerable alternative bands of the post-punk era that feature those jangling guitars and dense harmonies."

by Ronald D. Lankford Jr

Roger McGuinn's Career

Began playing with the Limeliters, age 17; worked with Chad Mitchell Trio for two years, appearing on Mighty Day on Campus, 1961; joined Bobby Darin for several months, appeared on recording sessions with Judy Collins and Hoyt Axton, early 1960s; performed as solo artist in Los Angeles, formed several short-lived groups, early to mid-1960s; formed the Byrds with David Crosby, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke, 1964; led Byrds through numerous personnel changes, 1965-73; recorded self-titled debut, 1973, followed by Peace on You, 1974; released critically acclaimed Cardiff Rose, 1976; recorded and performed, 1980s; released Back from Rio, 1990, Born to Rock & Roll, 1992, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band--Roger McGuinn Live, 1994, Live from Mars, 1996; began posting MP3 files of traditional folksongs on Internet, mid-1990s; released traditional folksongs on Treasures from the Folk Den, 2001.

Famous Works

Further Reading



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