Who are the Byrds?
The Byrds were a pop music group that started in Los Angeles. They were: Jim McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke.

What were their musical backgrounds?
McGuinn had been an accompanist for the Limeliters, the Chad Mitchell Trio, Bobby Darin (recorded as the City Surfers with Darin) and musical director for Judy Collins' third album before forming the Byrds with Clark and Crosby.
Gene Clark had been a member of the New Christy Minstrels. David Crosby had been a member of Les Baxtre's Balladeers. Chris Hillman had been a member of the Hillmen. Michael Clarke had been a conga player in San Francisco.

How and when did they get together?
The Byrds formed in 1964. Jim McGuinn was doing a solo act at the Troubadour folk club in L.A.
Gene Clark, who had just left a folk group called the New Christy Minstrels, was in the audience and liked the combination of folk and rock that McGuinn was playing. After the show they discussed writing some songs together.
The next day they finished some songs and were playing them in the front room of the Troubadour.
They liked the sound they were creating but when David Crosby walked in and began singing a wonderful high
harmony part, it was magical.
McGuinn had met Crosby before and wasn't sure he wanted to work with him but when David said he had a
friend who had a recording studio they could use free of charge, McGuinn had no objections.
Crosby's friend was Jim Dickson, a producer at World Pacific Studios on Third Street. Dickson would let the trio
record late every night on some old tape that wasn't good enough to use for a record but was fine for rehearsal.

Dickson promptly became their manager. They called themselves the Jet Set but when Elektra Records signed them, their name was changed to the Beefeaters. The Elektra single "Please Let Me Love You" wasn't a hit, so Dickson suggested that they get a bass player and a drummer.
Dickson invited Chris Hillman, a bluegrass mandolin player, to the studio to audition as bass player. Chris was such a good musician that he was able to learn the bass quickly.
Crosby and McGuinn were standing in front of the Troubadour when they spotted a man coming toward them who looked like a combination of two of the members of the Rolling Stones. Michael Clarke was hired on the spot for just looking the part. Clarke didn't know how to play the drums but that didn't matter.

How did the Byrds get their name?
The band was having Thanksgiving dinner at Ed Tickner's house. Ed was Jim Dickson's partner in management. They all tried coming up with new names for the band. Gene Clark offered "The Birdsies."

Nobody liked that name and Ed said, "How about the Birds?
"Birds" was slang in England for girls at the time and the band didn't want to be called "the Girls."

Tickner asked, "What if you changed the spelling? how about B-U-R-D-S?"
Everyone hated that one.

Then McGuinn came up with B-Y-R-D-S.
Dickson loved it because it had the magic "B" sound as in Beatles and Bobby. He thought little girls liked the "B" names because they felt less threatened by them. So the group was called "the Byrds" .

What instruments did they play?
The Byrds were a folk based band. McGuinn, Crosby and Clark all played 12-string acoustic guitars. Hillman was learning on a cheap Japanese bass. Michael didn't have a drum kit, so he learned on a set of cardboard boxes with a tambourine taped to the top. He did have real drum sticks.
The first practice recordings they made sounded very primitive. Dickson decided to get a loan so that the band could get some real instruments.
They all went to see the Beatles' movie "A Hard Day's Night," and studied the instruments the Beatles were using. With a borrowed $5000.00 and with the trade-in of McGuinn's banjo and guitar they bought a Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar, a Gretsch 6-string guitar, a Gibson bass, a set of Ludwig drums and three small Epiphone amplifiers.
They also got some black suits with velvet collars just like their heroes the Beatles.

Did Gene Clark actually play any guitar in the Byrds?
Before Hillman arrived, Gene was to have been the rhythm guitar player and Crosby was to have played bass. But David found that playing bass and singing at the same time was rather like rubbing your head in one direction and your stomach in another.
Crosby convinced Gene Clark to give up his guitar and play the tambourine. From that point on Gene didn't play much guitar in the Byrds.

What record company did they record for?
Thanks to intervention by Jazz man, Miles Davis, the Byrds signed a contract with Columbia Records to record one single. If the single was not a success, they would be back on the street.

What songs did the Byrds make popular?
Dickson had heard of a Bob Dylan song that Dylan wasn't going to use on his next record because someone was singing out of tune on the track. The song was a folk style tune in 2/4 time with four verses. It ran about five minutes long.
Dickson made the Byrds line up in front of the studio monitor and listen to "Mr. Tambourine Man."
Crosby said, "I don't like it man! It's too folksy with that 2/4 time and all those verses. Radio will never play a song like that!"
David was right. Radio wanted what sounded like Beatles' songs and had a strict time limit of two minutes and thirty seconds for a single record.
McGuinn had an idea for a new arrangement. He added a Bach-like intro on his Rickenbacker 12-string guitar and changed the time signature to 4/4 time like a Beatles' song. Then they all auditioned for the lead vocal part.
First Gene sang it, then David and finally McGuinn. Dickson liked the way McGuinn sounded on the lead and gave him
the part. McGuinn also suggested that they use only one verse to cut down he overall length of the song. They picked the verse with "Boot heels wandering." Because it reminded them of "Beat poet," Jack Kerouac.
They recorded "Mr. Tambourine Man" in the winter of '65 at Columbia's studio "A," in Hollywood. The record sounded good but Columbia wasn't sure when it should be released. The tape sat in the box for what seemed like an eternity. Then on June 5, 1965, "Mr. Tambourine Man" was released. By June 26, 1965 it had climbed to the number one spot on Billboard's top 40 charts. After that the Byrds were allowed to record more singles and albums. They had hits with "All I Really Want To Do," released August 21, 1965 and "Turn Turn Turn," released November 6, 1965. By December 4, 1965, Turn Turn Turn reached number one on the Billboard top 40 charts, where it remained for three weeks.
Then there were hits with, "Eight Miles High," released April 30, 1966, "Mr.Spaceman," released October 22, 1966 "So You Want To Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star," released February 18,1967 and "My Back Pages," released April 29,1967

Who were the session musicians on their first hit single?
The first session for "Mr. Tambourine Man" was too important to leave to the musical skills of this fledgling band. Terry Melcher the producer (Doris Day's son) hired the hit-making "Wrecking Crew" to play the band track for the song. Hal Blaine on drums, Larry Knechtel on Bass Jerry Cole, and Bill Pitman on electric guitar, Leon Russell on electric piano. Jim McGuinn was the only Byrd allowed to play on the session. He played his Rickenbacker electric 12-string.
After the first single, the Byrds played on all their own tracks.

Who took folk music electric first, the Byrds or Bob Dylan?
The Byrds were the first to combine the elements of folk, rock and electric instruments with Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." This, then unknown folksong was recorded by the Byrds in January of 1965, (see contract) and had reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts before Dylan shocked the folk community later that year by plugging in at the Newport Folk festival.

How did the Byrds get their sound?
The Byrds sound came about naturally. First there was the blend of folk and rock styles. Then there were the harmonies. Crosby was largely responsible for the innovative combination of fourth and fifth high harmony parts. Clark and McGuinn sang in unison.
The guitar sound was a blend of Gretsch 6-string and Rickenbacker 12-string parts with an occasional acoustic guitar in
the background.
At first the Rickenbacker didn't have the sound the Byrds were looking for. One of the engineers at Columbia came up with the idea of recording the guitar directly through the board and not through an amplifier, using tube type electronic compressors, in series, to sustain the guitar sound and give it an even quality.
That direct, compressed 12-string guitar sound combined with Crosby's unusual harmonies made the Byrds recordings sound distinctive and different.

Did the Byrds meet the Beatles, and who wore those funny little
glasses first?

The Byrds met the Beatles in England while on a tour in July of 1965. Derek Taylor had been the Beatles press secretary and was now working in that capacity for the Byrds. Derek arranged the meeting to take place after a show at "Blazes," a club in London. Only John, George and Ringo were there.
John was immediately, extremely interested in Jim McGuinn's little rectangular sun glasses. He liked them so much that he began wearing a round version, later, himself. Lennon had been nearsighted and these new glasses gave him a way to see the audience from the stage for the first time.
The Beatles also invited the Byrds to visit them at their house in Los Angeles in 1966 and they maintained an ongoing
correspondence, through Derek Taylor, for many years.

Did the Byrds ever work with Bob Dylan?
 No. The Byrds and Dylan never worked together. At one time there were plans to record an album together in New York but due to lack of communication, the Byrds flew back to Los Angeles and the project was never begun.
Dylan did get on stage and sang a few songs with the Byrds in 1965 at "Ciro's," a Los Angeles club. The picture of that event is on the back cover of the "Mr. Tambourine Man" album. Dylan also gave his approval to the Byrds doing his material.