Musical palate cleanser, 50 years to redemption edition

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.



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18 responses to “Musical palate cleanser, 50 years to redemption edition

  1. And the Marty Stuart shrine!


  2. truck

    Roger played a “solo” show at the Uptown Lounge in the 80s. Imagine my surprise when I saw that, not only did he have a backing band, but it was R.E.M. (minus Stipe.) One of my favorite musical memories.


    • Dawg Vegas

      Yep, I was there too. Amazing night. Roger came by 90.5 FM that afternoon and was interviewed on the air. He wanted to tell the aud that the REM boys were his backing band, and we had to beg him not to (per request from the club) to avoid the show being over run. He didn’t get it – ‘don’t we want people to come?’ As if a) he wasn’t enough of a draw and b) announcing REM wouldn’t bring in hundreds of too many people for that small club


      • truck

        They did a great job keeping the secret. At that time I was regular at the Uptown, drinking there during happy hour and attending many shows. The owner, Kyle, knew that I avoided “trendy” shows and hated when the place got over-crowded for the likes of REM. He saw the look on my face when I saw amps and a drum kit, and came over and told me, “You can’t leave.” I asked who the band was and he repeated, “I’m not going to let you leave, but it’s REM.” I went against my judgement and stayed, and was rewarded with an incredible show. I would have loved to have met Roger or heard that radio interview.


        • Silver Creek Dawg

          Sounds like my experience in the early 90s. My roommate’s sister was REM’s secretary and we got to know the guys fairly well. We were in World Bar one afternoon and Stipe walks in, sees us and sits down for a beer. He grabs a flyer for the 40 Watt showing the “Chattahoochee Coochie Band” playing that night (it was a Tuesday). He muses out loud, “think I’ll have to catch that show.” So, we go, and it’s REM playing Automatic for the People in its entirety prior to its worldwide release. Pretty damn cool if I say so.


  3. Dawg Vegas

    Wish they would have brought the tour through ATL. I mean, the hit Nashville, Durham, Ponte Vedra (!). I had no idea I could have heard The Christian Life and other amazing songs live.


  4. Mary Kate Danaher

    One of my favorite albums. Thanks, Senator. I think a trip to the Ryman is in my future.


  5. DSLDawg

    Pulled the trigger on a pair of tix last week (after getting the Boss’s approval of course).

    Do any of you recall Roger playing at Memorial Hall Ballroom in support of the Thunderbyrds album 1977. I still have my promo copy from WUOG days


  6. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    I enjoy your MPCs a lot, and mainly because your taste is so broad. If it is good music, it’s worth a post, regardless of genre.


  7. Saw the Byrds twice and loved their show. Went to see the Eagles on their first tour and had not paid much attention to who the opening act was. Out came this band and first song was Eight Miles High. Roger McGuinn and friends. One hell of a show and some great songs. Did a long extended version of Chestnut Mare.


  8. rampantdawg82

    I had the privilege of seeing my guitar god, Richard Thompson, and Emmylou Harris (with Rodney Crowell in band) at the Savannah Music Festival a few years ago. Emmylou seemed very cognizant of the significance of playing Hickory Wind in South Georgia, and introduced the song with obvious emotion in her voice. As a longtime Gram Parsons fanatic, I was unable to count the goosebumps as I watched this woman, whose love for Gram has not faded in almost 45 years (argue about type of love, if you must), battle her emotions to sing this song in front of a Georgia crowd. It was one of the greatest musical moments I’ve ever experienced. Say what you want about Gram’s time (or behaviors) with the Byrds, but the Sweetheart lp is “Pure Parsons” and had a significant impact on the course of American music. Glad to see the Byrd’s memorializing this lp and bringing Georgia’s “Cosmic Cowboy” to a new generation of fans!


  9. newjim

    Hey Senator, thanks for the heads up. My daughter is 25 and loves this album. When I saw they were coming to Sandy Springs, I got some tickets. It is going to be a great event.