.The Byrds Play ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’

In the 1960s, the Byrds pioneered folk rock. The chiming electric 12-string guitars on the 1965 singles “Turn! Turn! Turn” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” influenced a generation of musicians. Soon thereafter, the group moved in a more psychedelic and even jazz-influenced direction, exemplified by 1966’s “Eight Miles High.”

But thanks to personnel changes and creative restlessness, by 1968 the Byrds were making music that showcased yet another side of the band: country. The Nashville sessions for Sweetheart of the Rodeo took advantage of that city’s deep well of talent; several top players performed on pedal steel guitar, fiddle, banjo and upright bass. Considered a radical departure from the band’s earlier music, Sweetheart sold poorly on its initial release, reaching only No. 77 on the Billboard 200 chart, and failing to chart at all in England.

Arguably the first major country-rock release, Sweetheart of the Rodeo would take on a life of its own, going on to exert momentous influence on popular music. The country genre, which had previously been largely out of fashion, began to appeal to younger fans. Within a few years, bands like Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers would pursue the hybrid country-rock style, and in the 1970s the Eagles would craft a slick, highly commercialized version of the genre.

Both the popularity and influence of Sweetheart of the Rodeo endure today: In hindsight, the album can be viewed as a forerunner to current-day Americana. And in 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Sweetheart at No. 117 in its list of 500 Greatest Albums.

Country star Marty Stuart is one of the countless artists who has drawn inspiration from the Byrds’ 1968 LP. He’s on record praising its groundbreaking synthesis of country, gospel, bluegrass, folk and rock into something distinctive and special. And he’s the owner of a 1954 Fender Telecaster guitar that originally belonged to Clarence White, a featured performer on the ’68 album. So it’s fitting that Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives join founding Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman in a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

The July 29 date at Saratoga’s Mountain Winery is the third stop on a tour that brings the classic album to nearly a dozen cities across America (more dates will be added). Guitarists Hillman, McGuinn and Stuart promise that in addition to playing the album in its entirety, the band will dig into earlier songs from the Byrds catalog—as well as songs from the solo careers of all three musicians.

The show, Sweetheart of the Rodeo 50th Anniversary features Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives.

Sweetheart of the Rodeo at 50
Jul 29, 7:30pm $49.50+
Mountain Winery

 

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