How did I miss hearing about Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman touring to support the 50th anniversary of Sweetheart of the Rodeo?
There’s a great background story to that.
In June, with so little fanfare they weren’t even listed on the bill, Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman took the stage at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium to play a song from “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.”
They last did that on March 16, 1968, and it did not go well. They were the Byrds then, and the appearance at the Grand Ole Opry elicited boos, catcalls or indifference, depending on who’s telling the story. This time, backed by Marty Stuart and his band, the Fabulous Superlatives, the crowd cheered as McGuinn and Hillman kicked into “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” the Bob Dylan song that opens “Sweetheart.”
“I cried,” says Tyler Mahan Coe, a country music historian who hosts the popular “Cocaine & Rhinestones”podcast. “I never even imagined that it would hit me as hard as it did.”
It’s fitting that Coe was born 16 years after “Sweetheart’s” original release. Back then, the album stiffed, sparking the end of one of pop’s great partnerships. But over time, that sixth Byrds record has climbed from cutout bins onto most-important-ever lists. And now, at 50, “Sweetheart” is recognized for inspiring musicians from the Eagles and Elvis Costello to next- generation alt-country players such as Ryan Adams and Wilco.
Needless to say, you should read the whole thing. (Don’t miss the coolest detail, about Clarence White’s guitar.)
In the meantime, here are a couple of clips from the tour.
First, here’s Gram Parsons’ “Hickory Wind”, which the Byrds played at the Grand Ole Opry in ’68.
And here’s a gorgeous rendition of “You Don’t Miss Your Water”:
There’s plenty more at YouTube, if you’re interested.