Roger McGuinn Plays Seven String Guitar at the Mondavi


By Alan and Sally Gray, NewsBlaze

Roger Mcguinn
(c) Photograph by John Chiasson

Mr Tambourine Man – what a great way to start a Roger McGuinn concert. McGuinn, co-founder of the premier 1960’s rock band, The Byrds, and solo artist, has a strong voice that doesn’t seem to have aged the way that most of us in the audience have.

In a very conversational show, McGuinn took us through his musical history, apparently with no written musical set – which makes it a little difficult to write up because I don’t know everything he played!

Influenced by Elvis and Leadbelly, McGuinn said he just had to buy a 12 string guitar, and studied banjo and guitar at the Chicago Old Town School of Folk Music.

He showed us a special guitar he designed, that combines the best attributes of a 12-string and six-string guitar – the seven string HD-7 – and to show its versatility, played The James Alley Blues, originally recorded by Rabbit Brown, in New Orleans, 1927. The guitar has a beautiful sound and the Mondavi Center, with its wonderful acoustics and new sound system really contributed to a great performance.

The Martin HD-7 features a doubled G-string, with the second string tuned an octave higher, to capture the “jingle-jangle” 12-string sound, with the versatility to handle single-string runs, leads and string bends.

McGuinn told us that in 1969, Jacques Levy asked him to write the music for a country-rock version of Peer Gynt. The play never ran on Broadway but some songs from the show were used in Byrds’ albums, including The Chestnut Mare, which he played for us on the HD-7.

The story of “Ballad of Easy Rider” was interesting. Apparently, Peter Fonda flew to New York to meet Bob Dylan and ask him to contribute music, but instead, Dylan wrote the first verse of “Ballad of Easy Rider” on a paper napkin and told Fonda to “Give this to McGuinn, he’ll know what to do with it.” Fonda flew back to California and McGuinn completed the song.

Picking up the banjo, McGuinn said he likes banjo jokes, such as “A gentleman is a man who can play banjo, but doesn’t” – but he did and we loved it, especially the Appalachian love song with the interesting one clap, two clap beat the audience provided. (Those of us who could keep it going.)

Then it was back to the HD-7 for “Finnegan’s Wake” and “Beach Ball.” Beach Ball was a hit in Australia, reaching number six on the charts, recorded by Jimmy Hannan, with harmonies by the Bee Gees.

Next, was “The Bells Of Rhymney” and then on the electric guitar, came “Mr Spaceman,” followed on acoustic by what McGuinn called a Ravi Shankar expression and then, back on electric guitar, “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

McGuinn said he was so happy to be invited to the beautiful Mondavi Center – and the audience was really happy too.

It was a great concert, we’re glad you came back, Roger. Thanks for all the great memories and stories. I think we’ll be singing Tambourine man and Turn Turn Turn and thinking about the Chestnut Mare for a long time. Come back soon.

Alan Gray is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of NewsBlaze Daily News and other online newspapers. He prefers to edit, rather than write, but sometimes an issue rears it’s head and makes him start pounding the keyboard. Alan has a fascination with making video and video editing, so watch out if he points his Canon 7d in your direction.