February 15, 2010
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Victoria
Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 244 days
One of the best aspects of a world voyage is the tremendous variety of entertainment and activities we are able to offer our guests. Recently on Queen Victoria’s second leg of this World Voyage, our guests were delighted to find that one of the musical legends of the 1960’s was not only on board, but was also going to present two lectures about his life and amazing career. It was great to spend a bit of time with Roger and his wife Camilla, and chat about his work. He told me that one of the most common misconceptions from many of us in the UK is that the Byrds are not in fact a British band! So for those of you like me who maybe know his music more than the man himself, here’s a potted history.
Jim McGuinn, later known as Roger, was already a veteran of the New York and Los Angeles music scene when he co-founded the group that would become The Byrds with Gene Clark and David Crosby in 1964.
Prior to forming the Byrds, Roger toured and performed folk music with the Limeliters, Chad Mitchell Trio and Bobby Darin as a guitarist and banjo player. Originally from Chicago, Roger studied at the Old Town School of Folk Music and was active on Chicago’s folk scene, where he was strongly influenced as a teenager by Bob Gibson. Within a few weeks of finishing high school, Roger was working with the Limeliters in California, where he played guitar and banjo on their album “Tonight: In Person.”
After touring for a while with Bobby Darin, Roger moved to New York at Darin’s request, to work for his publishing company. He and Frank Gari co-wrote the song, “Beach Ball,” and performed it with Darin, as the City Surfers, on a very rare single released in July 1963. After hearing the Beatles for the first time, Roger began playing folk songs to a rock beat in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village. His experiments in merging folk and rock took him to Los Angeles and the Troubadour, where he met Gene Clark and then David Crosby who added his unique concepts of harmony to the duo, thereby completing the beginning of one of the most influential bands of the ’60s.
In January 1965 Columbia Records signed the Byrds and they recorded their first number one hit, “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Three years later McGuinn and Chris Hillman hired Gram Parsons and headed for Nashville where they recorded the now critically acclaimed “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.”
Roger McGuinn disbanded the Byrds in 1973 to pursue his dream of a solo career and made five solo albums with Columbia Records. Roger’s latest release in 2006 was a 4 CD 100 song Box Set of Rock, Electrified Blues and Folk, rich in Rickenbacker “Jingle Jangle” – called “The Folk Den Project”.
This was Roger’s first time, lecturing on board so I asked him how he found the experience; he was kind enough to write this Guest Blog:
Guest Blog – Roger McGuinn – Founder Member Of The Byrds
My wife Camilla and I just completed a leg of the Queen Victoria World Voyage from New York to San Francisco through the Panama Canal. I was invited to give two lectures on board entitled “How Folk Music took me to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” We joined in the excitement with the other guests to experience one of the Seven Wonders of the World!
The camaraderie of the voyage began the first day at our restaurant table with the three other couples who sat with us; one from New York, one from Scotland, and another from Australia. By the end of the voyage neighboring tables were sharing stories of their daily adventures with our gregarious group. The restaurant quickly became a gathering of friends.
The “Victorian London” motif of the ship and dressing for dinner each evening set the stage for the feel of an elegant by-gone period of time. We had a breathtaking view from a fantastic balcony. It was too nice to keep to ourselves, so we hosted two “sail away” parties during our voyage; one from Cartagena and the other from Acapulco.
After we traversed the Panama Canal, I gave my first lecture about my early influences in music in the beautiful Royal Court Theatre. I began with singing a bit of “Heartbreak Hotel,” the song that inspired to make music my life’s ambition. Throughout the lecture I spoke of the career opportunities that came serendipitously along the way throughout my 50 years in the entertainment business, beginning with being hired for my first professional job when I was 17 by the Limeliters. My keynote presentation included clips from those early years and the people I worked with including the Chad Mitchell Trio, Ertha Kit, Bobby Darin, Judy Collins and Paul Simon. Then I recounted the story of the formation of the Byrds.
My second lecture began with the story on how Miles Davis was responsible for the Byrds being signed to a recording contract on Columbia Records. The 45 minutes seemed to fly by as I told the stories of the songs, the musicians, the movie sound tracks and my current projects. There was little time for questions, but I met with the folks after the lecture and heard about how my music affected their lives. Queen Victoria created a small town feeling for all the guests. There were no strangers on board.
In the mornings we always enjoyed the televised shows of Alastair Greener, the Entertainment Director. He kept us informed of the daily lectures, shows and adventures available. There was so much to do, but there were days where we just sat on the balcony and enjoyed the changing colors of the ocean and sky.
After a long leisurely dinner with our table mates, we often went to the various dance venues. I have never considered myself a dancer but the elegance of the evenings prompted us to dance the night away to the sounds of some wonderful bands.
Queen Victoria captures the grand days of ocean voyages! We are looking forward to our next trip! All the best, Roger McGuinn
I’d like to thank Roger again for his wonderful lectures and for taking the time to talk to us on the Blog. Not only is he a legend in the music business but a fascinating person to talk to. Roger was also kind enough to coming on the morning TV show that our guests watch and we thought you may like to see a clip from that:
You can find out more about Roger at his website by clicking on this link. www.mcguinn.com
I’ll be back again on Thursday with my regular weekly post and more news from the World Voyages on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria. Cheers Alastair.