BYRDWATCHER: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles
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BYRDS v. BYRDS:
A BYRDS CELEBRATION and
A "BYRDS CELEBRATION"
1991 - 1997

Roger McGuinn Discography

David Crosby Discography

Chris Hillman Discography

Michael Clarke Discography

Skip Battin Discography

Gene Parsons Discography


Roger McGuinn Bibliography

David Crosby Bibliography

Chris Hillman Bibliography

Michael Clarke Bibliography

Skip Battin Bibliography

Gene Parsons Bibliography




To read about the legal dispute between Michael Clarke's bogus Byrds and the McGuinn/Crosby/Hillman Byrds, see Byrds v. Byrds: 1989 - 1990. To read about other aspects of the concurrent solo career of Roger McGuinn, see Roger McGuinn: 1981 - 1991 and Roger McGuinn: 1991 - 1997. For Gene Clark, see Gene Clark: 1980 - 1991. Profiles of the other assorted Byrds on this Page are forthcoming.


A Time for Peace: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

In late 1990, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that the five original Byrds would be inducted at the ceremony in January, 1991. After months of discussions, nothing had been resolved among the five originals; McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman were arrayed against Michael Clarke and his manager, Steve Green, with Gene Clark in between the two camps. McGuinn, Crosby and Hillman had reunited as the Byrds at the Southern California shows in January '89, the Roy Orbison Tribute in February '90, and the Nashville sessions in August '90. In general, this development was applauded by fans and critics, but a dissenting faction of hardcore Clark fans felt he should not have been excluded.
Despite the state of relations among the group, Clark was optimistic: "This Hall of Fame thing is a very opportune time for us all to be together in a glorious situation.... Everybody can talk to each other and resolve all our differences.... There's still a little bit of healing to be done between me and McGuinn and some of the other guys."*
Clark's hope for an evening of togetherness was fulfilled: the original quintet set aside their differences long enough to run through "Turn! Turn! Turn!," "Mr. Tambourine Man," and "Feel A Whole Lot Better." Dave DiMartino described what happened as they sang: "McGuinn extended his arm and pulled Clark to him. Clark pulled Clarke along."* Said Hillman: "We all made peace in January. The Byrds sat down and enjoyed the evening."* Unfortunately, current events put a damper on the festivities at the Waldorf-Astoria that night. While the music industry luminaries watched worriedly on giant TV monitors, the US began the first airstrikes against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War.
The public show of togetherness did not result in a permanent rapprochement. Personal acrimony toward Clarke may not have been the only reason. Crosby remarked of the ceremony, "It was a seriously flawed evening. First the president declares war and then Mike Clarke was drunk on his ass. It was very awkward. I'm certainly not in any position to sneer at him. He just wasn't any fun to be around."*
"It was a bit like being honored with your ex-wife," Hillman joked. "Michael was soused, so it was uncomfortable. I mean David's a big AA guy now. At the end of the evening, I heard him say to Michael, 'If you want to stop drinking, I'll be glad to help you.' Of course, Michael had the standard comeback of 'I don't drink that much.'"*
It seemed that the Byrds had set aside their differences. McGuinn and company immediately put to rest the inevitable speculation about a more public five-man reunion. Sadly, even the theoretical possibility of a full-scale reunion was dashed only a few months later when Gene Clark died of "natural causes" on May 24, 1991.


The End of Clarke's Byrds

In the following months, McGuinn was touring heavily in support of his February release, Back From Rio (Arista, 1991). In Florida he even found himself playing in the same town at the same time as Clarke's ersatz Byrds. Appropriately enough, Clarke and company were booked into a club called the Philmore, which had been called the Fillmore South until Bill Graham found out about it. "Counterfeit club books counterfeit band!" McGuinn quipped to the press, before voicing his dismay at running across Clarke's outfit: "I never expected it to happen. Michael said he was going to quit using the name once he'd made a little more money. I wish it would just dry up."*
Michael Clarke's so-called Byrds continued to tour throughout 1991 and 1992. In mid-'92, Battin left, further diluting the group's claim to the name, but the band just kept on going. Around the end of the year, they even released an LP, Eight Miles High (1992). The group didn't dry up, and unfortunately, neither did Michael Clarke. Apparently the death of his friend Gene Clark wasn't enough to change Clarke's behavior, because on December 19, 1993, Clarke died from liver failure.
Although it had been clear for several weeks that Clarke's health had taken a serious turn for the worse, his Byrds had actually scheduled a gig for New Year's Eve. The gig became a tribute-cum-wake as his bandmates played. At last the bogus Byrds had ended, but for all the rancor between them, none of Clarke's original bandmates had wanted it to end under such tragic circumstances.


The Return of the Bogus Byrds: "Byrds Celebration"

Unfortunately, the ersatz Byrds seem to be the Freddie Kruger of rock and roll... just when it looks like they're gone for good, they're back again. By the summer of 1994, Skip Battin had reunited with Clarke's partner-in-crime, Terry Rogers. Rogers recruited a friend named Scott Nienhaus, who played 12-string. Battin somehow persuaded his old teammate Gene Parsons to drum. Under the name "Byrds Celebration," this quartet toured Europe in the summer of 1994. Parsons quickly thought better of the idea and went back to working with Meridian Green. His place was taken by an unknown drummer named Vinnie Barranco. This quartet's press kit notes with unintended irony that the group is "carrying on the legacy of Michael Clarke and The Byrds." This so-called Celebration was still underway as late as the summer of '96. Battin's equivocal name choice reflects an awareness that his own legal position was weaker than Clarke's had been, but it seems unlikely that McGuinn, Crosby and Hillman will take legal action, given the still-prohibitive cost of most litigation. Perhaps McGuinn, Crosby and Hillman should canvass their fan base to find some trademark attorneys who might be willing to take on the case pro bono. Unless and until they can secure control of the Byrds name, the parade of counterfeit Byrds may never end.


To read about other aspects of the concurrent solo career of Roger McGuinn, see Roger McGuinn: 1981 - 1991 and Roger McGuinn: 1991 - 1997. For Gene Clark, see Gene Clark: 1980 - 1991. Profiles of the other assorted Byrds on this Page are forthcoming.




Notes

"This Hall of Fame thing...." DiMartino, Spin at 86.

"McGuinn extended his arm...." DiMartino, Spin at 86.

"We all made peace...." Morris at 87.

"It was a seriously flawed evening...." Young at 46.

"Like being honored with your ex-wife...." Young at 46.

"I wish it would just dry up." Oakes at 3.


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Spinoffs | Byrds v. Byrds | 1991 - 1997

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