At the beginning of 1968, with the fantastic Notorious Byrd Brothers just released, the only remaining members of The Byrds were Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman. The band was reformed with drummer Kevin Kelley and the remarkable Gram Parsons (originally hired by McGuinn as a keyboard player). Parsons quickly took over and persuaded the band to go in the direction of country, something which Hillman was more than willing to help with (his pre-Byrds musical background being in bluegrass - see The Hillmen). Eventually McGuinn agreed, and the result was Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, extraordinary in how it was so different from the previous album(s). A fusion of country, folk and rock music, it is today considered one of the first albums in the then-emerging genre of Country Rock, of which Gram Parsons is now looked back on as something of a leader and innovator. Recorded in Nashville with various session musicians, including guitarist Clarence White (whose playing is even more prominent here than on the previous two records), pianist Earl Ball, bluegrass pioneer John Hartford, and pedal steel men Lloyd Green and Jaydee Maness, it leaned much more in the direction of country than rock and roll. The songs consisted mostly of covers, with two Gram Parsons originals, and of course a couple of Dylan compositions. The vocals are shared around by McGuinn, Hillman and Parsons (though many of Parson’s original vocals were wiped due to legal problems and re-recorded by McGuinn). Gone was the jangling 12-string guitar that had defined their early records, and in its place was acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo, and pedal steel. Nowadays considered a classic of the genre, Sweetheart Of The Rodeo is nevertheless a truly strange chapter in the history of The Byrds, as shortly after joining and dictating the creative direction of the band, Gram Parsons had left. He was shortly followed by Kevin Kelley, and then Chris Hillman, with whom he continued his country-rock experiment by forming The Flying Burrito Brothers. After a whirlwind few months, Roger McGuinn was left as the last remaining Byrd, and needed to reform the band from scratch before recording the next album.
The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968) <|> Dr Byrds & Mr Hyde (1969)
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