Roger McGuinn turns to his folkie roots
Rock legend Roger McGuinn, original front man of The Byrds, one of the most influential pop music bands of the 1960's, teams with Marty Stuart, five-time Grammy nominee, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8, Musikfest Cafe, ArtsQuest Center, SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem.
The Byrds achieved huge commercial success in 1965 - '66. The group pioneered the genre of folk-rock, then transitioned to psychedelic-rock and country- rock.
McGuinn and David Crosby were two of the band's original members. They released hits like "Mr. Tambourine Man," written by Bob Dylan, and "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season.)"
McGuinn, voted one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists by Rolling Stone magazine, is known for developing the "jingle-jangle" (ringing arpeggios) style of guitar playing.
"I was a folk musician first," McGuinn explains of how he developed his signature guitar-playing style in a recent phone interview from his home in Florida. "So I played the banjo with a three finger picking style. I simply applied it to the guitar."
Roger and his wife, Camilla, both committed Christians, tour the world extensively. "It's like a honeymoon," says McGuinn.
Is it difficult to keep the faith in a rock and roll world? "We don't live in a rock and roll world anymore," replies McGuinn. "Mostly, I do solo shows. I like to play in theaters. My shows are very autobiographical. When I pair up with Marty [Stuart] it's separate and special."
McGuinn also lectures at colleges across the United States, giving motivational speeches. He tries to impart the importance of taking opportunities when they come, as he did at the age of 17 when he entered the music business.
In July 2000, McGuinn testified before in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about artists who do not receive royalties, and the illegal downloading of music from the Internet. To paraphrase the Buggles' hit, "Video Killed The Radio Star," which launched MTV in 1981, did the internet kill the radio star?
"Back in 2000 I believed that the Internet was the new radio," says McGuinn. "It was a good tool for artists because it promoted them, even low-profile individuals. Look at Justin Bieber, a teenager whose video went viral and now he's famous."
How does McGuinn, credited with being the father of country-rock; feel about the contemporary Nashville sound?
"Some members of The Byrds had bluegrass backgrounds," says McGuinn. "When we released 'Sweetheart of the Rodeo' [in 1968], it was the first time an entire album of country music had been done by a rock band.
"I think there are different people in Nashville now. Some are loyal to the old roots, and some want the new sound. If you listen to Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings now, their songs are slick-sounding."
When asked if he has any favorite new artists, McGuinn says he listens to XM Radio and recently enjoyed Matt Nathanson's "Sky High Honey." "It's encouraging to see young talent come up," he says.
Does McGuinn plan on visiting the C.F. Martin Guitar factory in nearby Nazareth during his Lehigh Valley visit? "I certainly will," replies McGuinn. "Martin sells two signature models of mine. I frequently use the five-string banjo and the 12-string guitar. For most performances, I'll play my Rickenbacker and the HD-7."
Rickenbacker International Corp. first offered the Roger McGuinn Limited Edition Model 370-12RM in 1988.
Martin Guitar began offering the HD-7 Roger McGuinn Signature Edition Acoustic Guitar in 2005.
McGuinn is very excited about his ongoing internet project, Folk Den, which tells the history of traditional songs. He records a different song each month for a podcast, which can be downloaded to an Mp3. "Folk Den is more of my legacy than The Byrds," he says. "I've been doing it for 18 years."
The web site is: ibiblio.org/jimmy/folkden/
Also for stories about his and Camilla's travels: rogermcguinn.blogspot. com/