BYRDWATCHER: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles
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ARTISTS COVERED BY THE BYRDS

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Zeke Manners

Joe Maphis

Bill Monroe

Buck Owens

Graham Parker

Bill Payne

Dan Penn

Elvis Presley

Ray Price



Zeke Manners

Zeke Manners was a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who became famous in the '30s with L.A. country act the Beverly Hill Billies. He later played with several other acts, and had a long-running folk music show in New York. Manners co-wrote "Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins," covered by the Byrds on Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde. Chris Hillman also covered "Don't Let Your Sweet Love Die" on Morning Sky (Sugar Hill, 1982).


Joe Maphis

Joe Maphis and his wife Rose Lee were performers, songwriters, and country music entrepeneurs. They played on many of the barn dance programs heard on radio in the 1950s, and came west to California from their Virginia home during that time. There they became mainstays of the West Coast's thriving country music scene. They released albums on Capitol and worked closely with Merle Travis, Tex Ritter and other stars of the time. In the '60s they left for Nashville, where they continued to release records into the '70s.
Maphis was an early mentor of Clarence White and booster of the Country Boys. He and Rose Lee recorded "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)" in 1953; Gram Parsons and the Burritos covered the song on Sleepless Nights (A&M, 1976).


Bill Monroe

Mandolinist Bill Monroe is the man who gave birth to bluegrass, and consequently influenced every musician that ever played in the genre. Born in 1911, Monroe began his musical career in the 1930s and played until his death in 1996. Almost every great non-mandolin-playing figure in bluegrass has been through his band, the Blue Grass Boys, at one time or another, from Flatt & Scruggs to Byron Berline to Roland White. During their bluegrass period, the Flying Burrito Brothers covered his classic "Orange Blossom Special."
Monroe began recording in 1945 on Columbia, with a band that included Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. The sessions they recorded with that label between '45 and '49 are compiled on The Essential Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys, 1945-1949 (Columbia/Legacy, 1992). Songs like "Kentucky Waltz" were major country hits during this phase.
In the '50s, Monroe moved to Decca, where he cut many fine records. His fortunes had declined somewhat with the departure of Flatt & Scruggs in 1948, but his biggest problem during the '50s was the success of Elvis Presley and rock 'n' roll. (Presley recorded Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky" as the flipside of his first single.) But by the late '50s, the folk boom that followed in the wake of the Kingston Trio had introduced Monroe to a new audience. Throughout the last three decades, Monroe kept on performing, earning accolades, and bringing bluegrass music to new fans. In 1970, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and he was recently the subject of a fine documentary film, High Lonesome (1993). Monroe died in 1996.
Cybergrass features a a profile of Bill Monroe.


Buck Owens

Unfortunately, Buck Owens is better known to most Americans for his role as the cornpone cohost of Hee Haw than for his pioneering country music work on Capitol in the late '50s and '60s -- as a solo act, in duets with Rose Maddox and others, and with his band the Buckaroos. From their base in Bakersfield, Buck Owens and the Buckaroos created a rocking alternative to the pop sounds emanating from Nashville. That style directly influenced Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, and many of the acts that fused country with rock, from Emmylou Harris to Dwight Yoakam to the Derailers.
Parsons released the Owens song "Truck Drivin' Man" as a single with the International Submarine Band. Later he, Hillman and the Burritos cut the Owens songs "Together Again" and "Close Up the Honky Tonks," which emerged on Sleepless Nights (A&M, 1976). Twelve years later, the Desert Rose Band had a hit with "Hello Trouble." (Tom Brumley, the steel guitarist in the Buckaroos, joined the DRB for its last album.) Hillman and Herb Pedersen later covered two Buck Owens songs on Bakersfield Bound (Sugar Hill, 1996): "Playboy" and "He Don't Deserve You Anymore." Hillman even emulates the distinctive vocal style of Owens on the former track.
Check out the The Buck Owens Collection (1959-1990) (Rhino, 1992), a comprehensive boxed set spanning his entire career. Sundazed has also mounted an ambitious reissue program of the '60s albums by Buck Owens and the Buckaroos.
There is a nice Buck Owens Homepage with more information about this seminal figure in country music.


Graham Parker

Graham Parker is an alumnus of the UK's pub rock scene, and the link from the white soul of his predecessor Van Morrison, to the old school rock and roll of his contemporary Bruce Springsteen, to the angry new wave of Elvis Costello. McGuinn/Hillman covered Parker's "Soul Shoes" on their album of the same name.
From Howlin' Wind (Mercury, 1976) to Squeezing Out Sparks (Arista, 1979), Parker wrote tough, smart songs and sang them with anger, passion, and tenderness. His backing band, the Rumour, was so tight that comparisons to the Band became commonplace.
Some weaker albums followed, but Parker's recorded output since 1988 has been generally strong. For a fine retrospective of his career to date, check out Passion Is No Ordinary Word: The Graham Parker Anthology (Rhino, 1993). See also Squeezing Out Sparks, a website devoted to Parker.


Bill Payne

Bill Payne was the classically-trained pianist of Little Feat. In later years he would assume a significant role as a songwriter, moving the band in the direction of jazz. Payne co-wrote "Truck Stop Girl," covered by the Byrds on (Untitled). You can read more about Payne on the Little Feat website.


Dan Penn, Chips Moman & Spooner Oldham

Penn, Moman and Oldham were all session musicians and songwriters who made significant contributions to Southern soul music at studios like Fame, Stax, and American in Muscle Shoals and Memphis. Like Parsons, they understood the connections between soul and country music. They backed a host of soul greats, including Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, and Aretha Franklin.
Penn and Moman co-wrote "Dark End of the Street" and "Do Right Woman," both of which appeared on The Gilded Palace of Sin (A&M, 1969) by the definitive version of the Flying Burrito Brothers. The song is mistakenly credited to Spooner Oldham and Penn on that and other Burritos releases. "Dark End" had been recorded by, among others, James Carr, Percy Sledge and Aretha Franklin. "Do Right" was of course a hit for Franklin.
Roger McGuinn covered "Stone" by Penn and Oldham on his first solo album. Penn also wrote a pair of songs on the debut album by the Columbia Burritos: "You Left the Water Running" and "Building Fires." Penn and Oldham are cited as inspirations on that album, Flying Again (Columbia, 1975), to which Oldham also contributed some piano.


Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley's music inspired Jim McGuinn, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons in their teens. McGuinn acknowledged this by covering "Heartbreak Hotel" on Live from Mars (Hollywood, 1996). Dillard & Clark covered "Don't Be Cruel," and Parsons covered "That's Alright Mama" and, with the Burritos, "Just Because." Parsons had a life-long fixation with Elvis, which led him to seek out and record with members of Presley's Vegas-era TCB Band, James Burton, Glen D. Hardin and Ronnie Tutt. Presley's death inspired McGuinn as well: he cites it as the event that led him to return to Christianity in the late '70s.
There are a multitude of Presley sites on the web, but the official organ of Elvis Presley Enterprises is Elvis Presley's Graceland.


Ray Price

Ray Price began his career as a stone honky-tonker and protege of Hank Williams. He enjoyed his first hits in the early '50s. In 1956, his version of the Chuck Seals/Ralph Mooney tune, "Crazy Arms," was at Number 1 for twenty weeks. The Burritos covered "Arms" on Sleepless Nights (A&M, 1976). Price continued to have hits more or less consistently until about 1982, though his style had shifted to the Countrypolitan mode by the mid-'60s.


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Related Musicians | Artists Covered | M - P

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