Born July 13, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois, James Roger McGuinn, better known by his professional moniker Roger McGuinn, went on to become lead singer/guitarist for the critically acclaimed 60s band The Byrds and one of folk music’s most influential practitioners.
Growing up in Chicago, McGuinn credits Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and the Everly Brothers as some of his musical influences. After hearing Presley’s hit single “Heartbreak Hotel,” McGuinn asked his parents to buy him a guitar. The rest, as they say, is history.
In 1957 McGuinn enrolled in Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, adding the five-string banjo to his repertoire while continuing to refine his guitar skills. After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles where he met future members of The Byrds.
After another move to New York City, McGuinn worked as a session musician, recording background riffs for Simon and Garfunkel and Judy Collins. In 1964, McGuinn founded The Byrds with fellow west-coast musicians Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke.
McGuinn remained a constant presence as the band cycled through a variety of supporting members. The band’s 1965 cover versions of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There is a Season)” remain some of the group’s most recognizable hits. But The Byrd’s popularity was short lived, peaking in the mid-1960s until the group’s dissolution in 1973.
McGuinn went on to release several solo albums and even collaborated with Tom Petty on the successful album “Back from Rio” in 1991. He currently tours as a solo artist, maintaining regular performances on the road.
McGuinn has also shown he is willing to embrace new technology. In 1995 he was responsible for creating the website Folk Den, a music website devoted to recording and promoting folk music.
- John Milligan / 98.5 WNCX