“The Night I Met The Byrds & Burrito Bros. Band”
I seem to gravitate back to the 80’s a-lot for comfort because that was a great time for me. I was in a popular local band here in Portland, Oregon called The Surf Cowboys (USA) and I was only in my 20’s. I also had a great girlfriend named Jackie that it seemed everybody including me loved. For some of us, the 1980’s was an innocent time. It wasn’t all decadent and jaded as some make it out to be. Anyway, on to the story.
My girlfriend Jackie knew a big club owner in town where a group of some of my favorite musicians were coming to play together in a rare appearance. These guys were all legends and I was really excited to see the show. The show was to include: Gene Clark, Michael Clarke & Skip Battin of The Byrds. For The Flying Burrito Brothers there was: Rick Roberts, Sneeky Pete and Greg Harris. Also there that night was Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin and Band member Rick Danko. This was quite a lineup of guys and I was really thrilled to see these legends all perform together.
I think I was most excited that Gene Clark was there. Certainly an underdog in the music business since his heyday with the original Byrd lineup in 1965/66, he was still a legend in his own right. This was 1985 and Gene did not look well. However, he turned in a fantastic solo performance that everybody but Gene seemed to be aware of. When we met him backstage, he asked everbody including us, “was I any good?” We said, “you were great Gene!” he was crouched down in a corner of the room and trembling. His color was also off. He did not look well and I was worried about him. I off course did not know him personally, but, when you admire someone as much as I did him…you feel like you know them in a way. That’s the power of fame I guess? Who could forget Gene shaking the tamborine and singing harmonies next to Roger McGuinn during: “Mr. Tamborine Man?” Those were some heady days for Gene and the rest of The Byrds. People forget that during the mid 60’s, The Byrds were side by side with The Beatles and The Stones on and off the charts. But since they had so many personnel changes, their time at the very top was short lived. To this day, albums like: “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” are considered classics although that was from an experimental time from The Byrds. That of course was during the days when Gram Parsons was in the group and almost took over before quitting to hang out with Keith Richards in England. Needless to say Gene Clark was long gone by those days.
I have a fond memory of every guy I met that night. Skip Battin I later found out lived in Mt. Angel, Oregon. Years later I gave him a tape of some material I had recorded with Norman Petty in 1983 and he was very complimentary about it. Skip just seemed like a real mellow guy. Meeting Michael Clarke & Sneeky Pete was cool too. Clarke was of course one of the original Byrd drummers but was also in The Flying Burrito Brothers as well. Sneeky Pete was a legend on the steel guitar with his fuzz tone sound. Nobody else played like Sneeky Pete ever!
It seemed that night that being from a band starting with a “B” was in demand. There of course were: Byrds, Burrito Bros., a guy from The Beach Boys and a guy from The Band. It all seemed to fit perfectly that night. Rick Danko, the famous bass player from The Band was kinda low key for such a big star. I had seen him perform with Bob Dylan in 1974 on the Bob Dylan & The Band Tour. Sadly we didn’t get to talk a-lot. Blondie Chaplin was real friendly. (I forgot to ask him about Brian Wilson however)?
I probably spent the most time talking to Rick Roberts of The Burrito Bros. and Firefall. Rick was a very friendly and told me some great stories about the early days of The Burritos. I think he joined in 1971 right after Gram Parsons left and went solo. The Burrito Brothers went on to set some kinda record for most different band members in a band until they finally broke up for good in the early two thousands. I had only seen one lineup live at The Earth Tavern in Portland I think in the late 1970’s. (I snuck in under age if I remember correctly). Things were different in those days folks.
The highlight of the night backstage was when I took my Gram Parsons 8×10 photo out and had all the members sign it. Gene Clark wrote: “To my Brother up yonder.” Michael Clarke wrote: “See ya up there Pal.” Rick Roberts wrote: “Thanks for coming and being a fan.” Skip Battin, Blondie Chaplin and Rick Danko just signed there names. Most of these guys have now past on but I still have the cherished memory of that one night to remember. See yuh up there Guys…you were all the greatest! And that was the night I met The Byrds & Burrito Bros. Band. I couldn’t remember all the songs they played that night now…if I tried!