The Byrds: 1964-1967

Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, David Crosby
The Byrds: 1964-1967
The Byrds with Hugh Masekela in 1967.

Like Dylan, the three founding members of the Byrds were ’60s acoustic folkies who, inspired by Beatlemania and the British Invasion, defined the amplified genre dubbed folk-rock.

This lavish, chronological account of McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman explores three pivotal years through a blend of posed and candid photos (most never seen) combined with new commentary from all three, most of it witty and wistful, occasionally sardonic and bitter.
Guitar insights abound. The Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night led McGuinn to his now-iconic blond Rick 12-string, Crosby to his Gretsch Country Gentleman. Hillman, who’d never played bass, felt Höfner’s 500/1 violin bass packed less punch and opted for a Fender Precision. Crosby discusses using a dropped-D tuning on “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Shots of their primitive mid-’60s stage setups might stun young musicians, but as Hillman notes, “We didn’t have monitors onstage for a long time.”

While the narrative covers Crosby’s acrimonious 1967 firing, things don’t conclude on a down note. Session photos from 1972 (for their ’73 reunion LP) and 1991 Rock Hall of Fame induction finish things off. While other authoritative Byrds histories have appeared over the decades, none are quite like this.

This article originally appeared in VG’s December 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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