Though he helped provide a new direction for rock in the mid-60s, singer and songwriter Roger McGuinn has always considered himself first and foremost a folk musician. His brilliant 12-string Rickenbacker guitar style — a mix of rippling chordal flurries and the innovative atonality normally associated with avant-garde jazz musicians — coupled with soaring leads and extensive vocal range, proved key ingredients in The Byrds’ revolutionary sound.
McGuinn credits Miles Davis with helping elevate his band’s fortunes.
“I never met Miles, but one of the people in his management group knew our producer,” McGuinn says. “His daughter had heard about us, and then Miles encouraged the people at Columbia to take a chance on us. He told them that was the music young people were listening to, rather than what was on their label. They signed us and gave us a one-song deal. Then they sat on the single for months.”
The tune McGuinn and comrades David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke cut was a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” rearranged from 2/4 to 4/4 time, with McGuinn’s upfront vocal propelled by teeming harmonies and the unusual blend of 12-string guitars and ace support from the studio group known as The Wrecking Crew. Of course, in spite of Columbia’s dilatory tactics, the song eventually became a massive hit. — by Ron Wynn