Jim Guittard’s Place

“Good” Musical Genealogy

Posted in Rock and Roll History by guittard on April 24, 2008

Good music has its roots and can be tracked like a family tree. The long historical tree will show exactly where the influence of good music was handed down band to band, or artist to artist. It is naive and incorrect to think that any certain band just appeared and came up with “good music.” There is much tradition.

The Byrds are a great example of “good music.”

It has been written that the Byrds took traditional folk songs and put a Beatle beat.

With Bob Dylan’s philosophical mathematical poetry, the Byrds flew high. They pioneered the folk-rock, country-rock, and jazz-rock genres.

Bob Dylan 1964

But prior to the Byrds and Elvis, the pre-rock and roll genre started in the late 1940’s. Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry and others all waited in line for their open door. If it had not been for pre-Rock and Roll, then the Byrds, Beatles, or the Stones would not have been ready. It is all connected.

In my head, I have imagined all these famous guys all standing in a line waiting their turn. Elvis’ opportunity came when DJ Dewey Phillips played his “That’s Alright Mama” on his Memphis radio show. Callers just couldn’t believe that this guy was white.

Elvis needed to give much credit to the sounds he heard on Beale Street. He is linked to such black artists as: B.B. King, Arthur Crudup, and Rufus Thomas. These guys pre-dated the invention of Rock & Roll.

Now the big controversial question is: who copied who? “To some, Presley had undoubtedly “stolen” or at least “derived his style from the Negro rhythm-and-blues performers of the late 1940s.” Some black entertainers, notably Jackie Wilson, countered, “A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man’s music, when in fact, almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis.” Blank, Christopher (July 15, 2006). “Elvis & Racism – Elvis Presley Legacy is cloudy through lens of race”.

So whatever you believe, Elvis is generally the one known for opening the doors for artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard. I guess it is like the old adage “what came first: the chicken or the egg?” I tend to lean toward the opinion that Elvis really was not the original rock and roll pioneer. He was the one that got the most press and made it popular and in style.

So after Elvis, there stood the Beatles, and the Byrds waiting close behind. Here is the important shift. Elvis was a singer-entertainer but the Beatles and Byrds were songwriters and musicians. The bands of the 1960’s migrated towards songwriting.

Roger McGuinn, who was in the Byrds at that time, waited patiently behind Bob Dylan and the Beatles. As Dylan was making waves, the movie Hard Day’s Night soon came out. The door became wide open for the Byrds. McGuinn, Clark, and Crosby quickly formed their jangly poetry beat sound. It became classic and the door was wide open.

Others were to follow through the Byrds-Dylan door. The Turtles, Sonny and Cher all followed copying Dylan and the Byrds’ jangly sound. Arthur Lee with Love fits in there.

During this time the Beatles and the Byrds also got into a little egg/chicken situation. It has been written that George Harrison heard the Byrds’ “Bells of Rhymney” song and was influenced to write “If I Needed Someone.” It was through a mutual public relations man Derek Taylor that Roger received a pre-released copy of “If I Needed Someone”. The bands had a healthy relationship.

The Byrds - 1965

Both bands are linked to the 12-String Rickenbacker guitar and to Ravi Shankar. We know that John and George were already into Rickenbackers but the question is – who was the first band to turn on to Ravi? It has been argued that David Crosby introduced the Beatles to Ravi. But of course, the Beatles probably got more credit for this link after their Indian trip in 1968. It is much like Elvis getting the credit for being the original Rock and Roll pioneer.

So Ravi Shankar is standing in line next to the Beatles and the Byrds in this pretend line-up.

George and Ravi

Fast forward twenty plus years and the line after the Byrds and the Beatles includes bands such as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Beachwood Sparks, the Tyde, the Quarter After, and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Where do the Ragas fit in the line-up? Hmm?

The Ragas

All the best,
Jim

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