Roger McGuinn

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Roger McGuinn
McGuinn performing in 2011
McGuinn performing in 2011
Background information
Birth nameJames Joseph McGuinn III
Also known asRoger McGuin
James Roger McGuinn
Jim McGuinn
Born (1942-07-13) July 13, 1942 (age 80)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • Guitar
  • vocals
Years active1960–present

James Roger McGuinn /məkˈɡwɪn/ (born James Joseph McGuinn III; July 13, 1942)[1] is an American musician.[2] He is best known for being the frontman and leader of the Byrds. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work with the Byrds. As a solo artist he has released 10 albums and collaborated with, among others, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Chris Hillman. The 12-string Rickenbacker guitar is his signature instrument.[2]

Early life[edit]

McGuinn was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, United States,[3] son of James Joseph McGuinn Jr (b. 1909) and Dorothy Irene (b. 1911), daughter of engineer Louis Heyn.[4][5] His parents worked in journalism and public relations, and during his childhood, they had written a bestseller titled Parents Can't Win. He attended the Latin School of Chicago. He became interested in music after hearing Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel", and asked his parents to buy a guitar for him. (During the early 1980s, he paid tribute to the song that encouraged him to play guitar by including "Heartbreak Hotel" in his autobiographical show). Around the same time, he was also influenced by country artists and/or groups such as Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, and the Everly Brothers.

In 1957, he enrolled as a student at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music,[6] where he learned the five-string banjo and 12-string guitar.[2] After graduation, McGuinn performed solo at various coffeehouses on the folk music circuit where he was hired as a sideman by the Limeliters, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and Judy Collins and other folk music artists in the same vein. In 1962, after he ended his association with the Chad Mitchell Trio, McGuinn was hired by Bobby Darin as a backup guitarist and harmony singer. Darin wanted to add a folk roots element to his repertoire because it was a burgeoning musical field. Darin opened T.M. Music in New York City's Brill Building, hiring McGuinn as a songwriter for $35 a week. About a year and a half later, Darin became ill and retired from singing.

During 1963, just one year before he co-founded the Byrds in Los Angeles, McGuinn was working as a studio musician in New York, recording with Judy Collins and Simon & Garfunkel. At the same time, he was hearing about the Beatles (whose first American appearances would come in February 1964) and wondering how Beatlemania might affect folk music. When he saw George Harrison play a 12-string Rickenbacker in the film A Hard Days Night, it inspired McGuinn to buy the same instrument.[2]

By the time Doug Weston gave McGuinn a job at the Troubadour nightclub in Los Angeles, he had begun to include Beatles' songs in his act. He gave rock style treatments to traditional folk tunes and thereby caught the attention of another folkie Beatle fan, Gene Clark, who joined forces with McGuinn in July 1964. Together they formed the beginning of what was to become the Byrds.[6]

The Byrds[edit]

During his time with the Byrds, McGuinn developed two innovative and very influential styles of electric guitar playing. The first was "jingle-jangle" – generating ringing arpeggios based on banjo finger picking styles he learned while at the Old Town School of Folk – which was influential in the folk rock genre. The second style was a merging of saxophonist John Coltrane's free-jazz atonalities, which hinted at the droning of the sitar – a style of playing, first heard on the Byrds' 1966 single "Eight Miles High", which was influential in psychedelic rock.

McGuinn with the Byrds at a concert held at Washington University in St. Louis (September 1972)

While "tracking" the Byrds' first single, "Mr. Tambourine Man", at Columbia studios, McGuinn discovered an important component of his style. "The 'Ric' [12 string Rickenbacker guitar] by itself is kind of thuddy," he notes. "It doesn't ring. But if you add a compressor, you get that long sustain. To be honest, I found this by accident. The engineer, Ray Gerhardt, would run compressors on everything to protect his precious equipment from loud rock and roll. He compressed the heck out of my 12-string, and it sounded so great we decided to use two tube compressors (likely Teletronix LA-2As) in series, and then go directly into the board. That's how I got my 'jingle-jangle' tone. It's really squashed down, but it jumps out from the radio. With compression, I found I could hold a note for three or four seconds, and sound more like a wind instrument. Later, this led me to emulate John Coltrane's saxophone on "Eight Miles High". Without compression, I couldn't have sustained the riff's first note."[7]

"I practiced eight hours a day on that 'Ric,'" he continues, "I really worked it. In those days, acoustic 12s had wide necks and thick strings that were spaced pretty far apart, so they were hard to play. But the Rick's slim neck and low action let me explore jazz and blues scales up and down the fretboard, and incorporate more hammer-ons and pull-offs into my solos. I also translated some of my banjo picking techniques to the 12-string. By combining a flat pick with metal finger picks on my middle and ring fingers, I discovered I could instantly switch from fast single-note runs to banjo rolls and get the best of both worlds."[8]

Another sound that McGuinn developed is made by playing a seven string guitar, featuring a doubled G-string (with the second string tuned an octave higher). The C. F. Martin guitar company has even released a special edition called the HD7 Roger McGuinn Signature Edition, that claims to capture McGuinn's "jingle-jangle" tone which he created with 12 string guitars, while maintaining the ease of playing a 6-string guitar.

Roger McGuinn at Kralingen (1970)

After Mr. Tambourine Man in 1965, "Turn! Turn! Turn!", written by Pete Seeger with the lyrics drawn from Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, was the Byrds' second Number One success in late 1965. In 1966, “Eight Miles High” peaked at no. 14 on the U.S. charts, achieving enduring classic status, even though the song was subject to a U.S. radio ban due to its alleged reference to recreational drug use. 1967 found the Byrds sliding still further in the charts, while maintaining their musical excellence, with “So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star” which peaked at no. 29. “My Back Pages”, another Bob Dylan cover, was released later the same year and was to be their last top 40 hit. In 1969, McGuinn's solo version of the "Ballad of Easy Rider" appeared in the film Easy Rider, while a full band version was the title track for the album released later that year. McGuinn also performed a cover of Bob Dylan's "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" for the Easy Rider soundtrack. 1970's Untitled album featured a 16-minute version of the Byrds' 1966 hit "Eight Miles High", with all four members taking extended solos representative of the "jam-band" style of playing during that period.[9]

In 1968, McGuinn helped create the groundbreaking album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, to which many attribute the rise in popularity of country rock. McGuinn originally conceived the album as a blend of rock, jazz, folk and other styles; but Gram Parsons's and Chris Hillman's bluegrass-western-country influences came to the forefront.


Roger McGuinn (1976)

After the break-up of the Byrds, McGuinn released several solo albums throughout the 1970s.[3] In 1973 he collaborated with Bob Dylan on songs for the sound track of the Sam Peckinpah movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid including "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". He toured with Bob Dylan in 1975 and 1976 as part of Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue, cancelling a planned tour of his own in order to participate.[2] In late 1975, he played guitar on the track titled "Ride the Water" on Bo Diddley's The 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll all-star album. In 1976, he released the album Cardiff Rose where he worked with Mick Ronson.[2]

In 1977, he released an LP titled Thunderbyrd, which was also the name of his contemporaneous band. Other members included future John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and Fleetwood Mac guitarist Rick Vito, future Poco bassist Charlie Harrison and drummer Greg Thomas.

In 1977, McGuinn joined fellow ex-Byrds Gene Clark and Chris Hillman to form McGuinn, Clark & Hillman. The trio recorded an album with Capitol Records in 1979. They performed on many TV rock shows, including repeated performances on The Midnight Special, where they played both new material and Byrds hits. McGuinn's "Don't You Write Her Off" reached No. 33 in April 1979. While some believe that the slick production and disco rhythms didn't flatter the group, it sold well enough to generate a follow up. McGuinn, Clark and Hillman's second release was to have been a full group effort entitled "City", but Clark's unreliability and drug problems resulted in the billing change on their next LP City to "Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, featuring Gene Clark".

Since 1981, McGuinn has regularly toured (primarily playing clubs and small theaters) as a solo singer-guitarist.[10] In 2018 he embarked on a tour with Chris Hillman, a fellow original Byrd, backed by Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo album,[11] after which McGuinn returned to touring solo.[12]

In 1987 Roger McGuinn was the opening act for Dylan and Tom Petty and he performed at Farm Aid.[2]

After a decade without a recording contract, he released his comeback solo album, Back from Rio in 1991.[2] It included the hit single "King of the Hill", written together with, and featuring, Petty. He returned with a live band featuring John Jorgenson, George Hawkins and Stan Lynch.[2] In 1993 McGuinn performed at the 30th Anniversary Concert for Bob Dylan with George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Tom Petty, G.E.Smith, and others. On July 11, 2000, McGuinn testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that downloading music from the Internet causes artists to not always receive the royalties that (non-Internet based) record companies state in contracts and that, to date, the Byrds had not received any royalties for their greatest successes, "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn, Turn, Turn"; they only received advances, which were split five ways and were just "a few thousand dollars" per band member. He also stated that he was receiving 50 percent royalties from[13]

He was also part of an author/musician band, Rock Bottom Remainders, a group of published writers doubling as musicians to raise proceeds for literacy charities. In July 2013, McGuinn co-authored an interactive ebook, Hard Listening, with the rest of the group.[14]

Folk Den[edit]

Roger McGuinn has used the Internet to continue the folk music tradition since November 1995 by recording a different folk song each month on his Folk Den site. The songs are made available from his Web site, and a selection (with guest vocalists) was released on CD as Treasures from the Folk Den, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2002 for Best Traditional Folk Album. In November 2005, McGuinn released a four-CD box set containing one hundred of his favorite songs from the Folk Den.[15]

Personal life[edit]

When he originally started with the Byrds, he used the name Jim, which he thought to be too plain. McGuinn became involved in the Subud spiritual association in 1965 and began to practice the latihan, an exercise in quieting the mind. He changed his name in 1967[16] upon advice from Subud's founder Bapak. Telling McGuinn that it would better "vibrate with the universe", Bapak sent the letter "R" to Jim and asked him to send back ten names starting with that letter. Owing to a fascination with airplanes, gadgets and science fiction, he sent names like "Rocket", "Retro", "Ramjet", and "Roger", the last a term used in signalling protocol over two-way radios, military and civil aviation.[2] Roger was the only "real" name in the bunch, and Bapak chose it. McGuinn officially changed his middle name from Joseph to Roger and has used the name Roger professionally from that time on.

McGuinn married Susan Bedrick in 1963; however, the marriage was subsequently annulled. From December 1966 to November 1971, he was married to Dolores DeLeon. A fellow adherent of Subud, DeLeon changed her name to Ianthe in 1967 but reverted to her original name after the dissolution of their marriage. With DeLeon, McGuinn fathered two sons, filmmaker Patrick McGuinn and Henry McGuinn. Immediately following their divorce, McGuinn married a third time, to Linda Gilbert in November 1971; this marriage also ended in divorce in June 1975.[17]

McGuinn left Subud in 1977, the same year that he met his fourth and current wife and business manager, Camilla; they married in April 1978.[2] Since that time, the McGuinns have practiced evangelical Christianity.[18][19]

A registered member of the Republican Party, McGuinn donated $2,000 to the Ben Carson presidential campaign in 2015 and refused to endorse Donald Trump.[20][21][22] He also opposed Florida Amendment 1 (2016) (an initiative pertaining to the solar energy industry, of which McGuinn is a longtime advocate) and endorsed Florida Amendment 2 (2016) (a medical marijuana legalization initiative).[23]


With The Byrds[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details
Mr. Tambourine Man
  • Released: June 21, 1965
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: LP
Turn! Turn! Turn!
  • Released: December 6, 1965
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: LP
Fifth Dimension
  • Released: July 18, 1966
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: LP
Younger Than Yesterday
  • Released: February 6, 1967
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: LP
The Notorious Byrd Brothers
  • Released: January 15, 1968
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: LP, reel-to-reel
Sweetheart of the Rodeo
  • Released: August 30, 1968
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: LP, reel-to-reel
Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde
  • Released: March 5, 1969
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: LP, reel-to-reel, 8-track tape
Ballad of Easy Rider
  • Released: November 10, 1969
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: LP, reel-to-reel, 8-track tape
  • Released: September 14, 1970
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: LP, reel-to-reel, 8-track tape, cassette
  • Released: June 23, 1971
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: LP, reel-to-reel, 8-track tape, cassette
Farther Along
  • Released: November 17, 1971
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: LP, reel-to-reel, 8-track tape, cassette
  • Released: March 7, 1973
  • Label: Asylum
  • Format: LP, 8-track tape, cassette

Live albums[edit]

Title Album details
(Untitled) (sides 1 and 2 only)
  • Released: September 14, 1970
  • Label: Columbia
  • Format: LP, reel-to-reel, 8-track tape, cassette
Live at the Fillmore – February 1969
  • Released: February 22, 2000
  • Label: Columbia/Legacy
  • Format: CD
Live at Royal Albert Hall 1971
  • Released: June 17, 2008
  • Label: Sundazed
  • Format: CD, LP
The Lost Broadcasts
  • Released: June 28, 2011
  • Label: Gonzo
  • Format: CD, DVD

Extended plays[edit]

Title Released
The Times They Are a-Changin' February 1966
Eight Miles High October 1966
The Byrds 1971
The Byrds September 1983
Solid Gold May 1989
Four Dimensions December 1990


Title Date
"Please Let Me Love You" /

"Don't Be Long"

October 7, 1964
"Mr. Tambourine Man" /

"I Knew I'd Want You"

April 12, 1965
"All I Really Want to Do" /

"I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better"

June 14, 1965
"Turn! Turn! Turn!" /

"She Don't Care About Time"

October 1, 1965
"Set You Free This Time" January 10, 1966
"It Won't Be Wrong" (B-side)
"Eight Miles High" /


March 14, 1966
"5D (Fifth Dimension)" /

"Captain Soul"

June 13, 1966
"Mr. Spaceman" /

"What's Happening?!?!"

September 6, 1966
"So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" /

"Everybody's Been Burned"

January 9, 1967
"My Back Pages" /

"Renaissance Fair"

March 13, 1967
"Have You Seen Her Face" /

"Don't Make Waves"

May 22, 1967
"Lady Friend" /

"Old John Robertson"

July 13, 1967
"Goin' Back" /

"Change Is Now"

October 20, 1967
"You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" /

"Artificial Energy"

April 2, 1968
"I Am a Pilgrim" /

"Pretty Boy Floyd"

September 2, 1968
"Bad Night at the Whiskey" /

"Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man"

January 7, 1969
"Lay Lady Lay" /

"Old Blue"

May 2, 1969
"Wasn't Born to Follow" /

"Child of the Universe"

September 26, 1969
"Ballad of Easy Rider" /

"Oil in My Lamp"

October 1, 1969
"Jesus Is Just Alright" /

"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"

December 15, 1969
"Chestnut Mare" /

"Just a Season"

October 23, 1970
"I Trust (Everything Is Gonna Work Out Alright)" /

"(Is This) My Destiny"

May 7, 1971
"Glory, Glory" /

"Citizen Kane"

August 20, 1971
"America's Great National Pastime" /

"Farther Along"

November 29, 1971
"Full Circle" /

"Long Live the King"

April 11, 1973
"Things Will Be Better" /

"For Free"

April 24, 1973
"Cowgirl in the Sand" /

"Long Live the King"

June 1973


Studio albums[edit]

With Folk Den Project[edit]

  • McGuinn's Folk Den, Volume 1 ( download and CD) (1999)
  • McGuinn's Folk Den, Volume 2 ( download and CD) (1999)
  • McGuinn's Folk Den, Volume 3 ( download and CD) (1999)
  • McGuinn's Folk Den, Volume 4 ( download and CD) (2000)
  • Treasures from the Folk Den (2001)
  • In the Spirit of Love ( download and CD) (2002)
  • The Sea: Songs by Roger McGuinn ( download and CD) (2003)
  • The Folk Den Project, 1995 - 2005 (4-CD set, 2005)
  • 22 Timeless Tracks from the Folk Den Project (2008)
  • The Folk Den Project: Twentieth Anniversary Edition (4-CD set, 2016)

Live albums and compilations[edit]

  • Born to Rock and Roll (1991)
  • From The Rock'N Roll Palace Live (McGuinn and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) (1994)
  • Live from Mars (1996)
  • 3 Byrds Land in London (with Gene Clark and Chris Hillman, recorded 1977) (1997)
  • Live at the XM Studios May 27, 2004 (download only) (2004)
  • Live from Spain (2007)
  • Stories, Songs, & Friends (2014)
  • Live at the Boarding House (with Clark, Hillman, and David Crosby, recorded 1978) (2014)
  • Live in New York: Eight Miles High (recorded 1974) (2015)
  • Turn Turn Turn (with Hillman, recorded 1980) (2015)
  • Bottom Line Archive Series: In Their Own Words (McGuinn and Pete Seeger, recorded 1994) (2015)
  • The Living Room Concert '76 (with Thunderbyrd, recorded 1976) (2015)
  • Electric Ladyland 1991 (recorded 1991) (2016)
  • Backstage Pass (with Clark and Hillman, recorded 1978) (2016)
  • Armadillo World Headquarters (with Clark and Hillman, recorded 1979) (2016)


  • McGuinn, Clark & Hillman (1979) (with Gene Clark and Chris Hillman)
  • City (1980) (with Chris Hillman, featuring Gene Clark)
  • McGuinn – Hillman (1981) (with Chris Hillman)

McGuinn appears on Willie Nile's 1991 Places I Have Never Been album. McGuinn also appears on the 1994 Arthur Alexander tribute album Adios Amigo: A Tribute to Arthur Alexander, performing a cover version of "Anna (Go to Him)". He contributed two tracks, "Banjo Cantata" and "Ramblin' On", to a compilation of banjo pieces released by Davon as Banjo Greats (Volumes 1 & 2), re-issued on CD by Tradition in 1996 as Banjo Jamboree. He has also performed the songs "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" and "Ballad of Easy Rider" which were included on the soundtrack of the film Easy Rider. Another soundtrack that features McGuinn is the 1977 film Ransom. McGuinn performed "Shoot 'Em" which appears on the anthology album Byrd Parts 2, released on Australia's Raven Records label in 2003. McGuinn also appears with Bruce Springsteen on the live download "Magic Tour Highlights (Live)" singing "Turn! Turn! Turn!" He also did guitar work in The Beach Boys' version of "California Dreaming" video. McGuinn contributed 12 string electric and harmonies to Will Dailey's track "Peace of Mind" from Torrent, Volume 1: Fashion of Distraction.


Year Single Chart positions Album
US MSR US Country CAN Country
1989 "You Ain't Going Nowhere"
(w/ Chris Hillman)
6 11 Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Volume Two
(Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album)
1991 "King of the Hill" 2 Back from Rio
"Someone to Love" 12


  1. ^ "Roger McGuinn". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved September 21, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hibbert, Tom (March 5, 1991). "The Jingle Jangle Man". Q Magazine. 55: 42–46.
  3. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 821/2. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  4. ^ Who's Who of American Women, Marquis Who's Who, 1973, p. 547
  5. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries, third series, Library of Congress Copyright Office, 1947, p. 94
  6. ^ a b "Roger McGuinn". Retrieved March 18, 2011.
  7. ^ Bob Mehr (February 14, 2009). "Byrds' Roger McGuinn gets to root of his music passion at folk conference". Space Times News. cripps Interactive Newspapers Group. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
  8. ^ "Roger McGuinn – Rickenbacker 360/12". Iconic Guitar. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
  9. ^ "The Byrds Biography". The Inductess: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. 2010. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
  10. ^ "Roger McGuinn tour dates, 1981-present". Retrieved March 28, 2017.
  11. ^ Blackstock, Peter (November 18, 2018). "A 'Sweetheart' of a Tour". The Austin-American Statesman. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  12. ^ Arnold, Thomas (April 23, 2022). "Roger McGuinn Solo Concert Review: Still Soaring at 79". Best Classic Bands. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  13. ^ "Transcript – Lars Ulrich, Roger McGuinn Testify Before Senate Judiciary Committee on Downloading Music on the Internet – July 11, 2000". Cable News Network. Retrieved September 21, 2008.
  14. ^ "Hard Listening - Coming June 18th 2013". June 18, 2013. Retrieved March 28, 2017.
  15. ^ Swift, Glenn R. (December 2008). "On Stage: Roger McGuinn" (PDF). PBG Lifestyle Magazine. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 17, 2011. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
  16. ^ Fricke, David (August 23, 1990). "Roger McGuinn". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  17. ^ "Roger McGuinn : Biography". Retrieved March 28, 2017.
  18. ^ Moring, Mark (January 6, 2004). "No Ordinary Folk". Christianity Today. Christianity Today International. Retrieved November 26, 2011.
  19. ^ "A Different Calling". blue cloud abbey. Retrieved September 8, 2019.
  20. ^ "Roger McGuinn on Twitter: "I don't like Trump."". Twitter. September 20, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2017.
  21. ^ "J ROGER MCGUINN - DOB: 1942/07/13 - Orlando, FL - Florida Resident Database". Archived from the original on December 21, 2016. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  22. ^ "FEC Individual Contribution Search Results". Archived from the original on December 20, 2016. Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  23. ^ "Roger McGuinn on Twitter: "Vote yes on Prop. 2 and No on Prop 1 "". Twitter. October 18, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2017.
  24. ^ Merry Christmas by Roger McGuinn, retrieved May 16, 2021

External links[edit]