BYRDWATCHER: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles
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MUSICIANS ASSOCIATED WITH THE BYRDS

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Bobby Darin

Jesse Ed Davis

Brandon de Wilde

Jim Dickson

Doug Dillard



Bobby Darin

Bobby Darin began his career as a rock-oriented teen idol, scoring a huge hit with the rock novelty "Splish Splash" in 1958. With that song and numbers like "Queen of the Hop" ('58) and "Dream Lover" ('59) Darin became the first successful white act for Atlantic Records.
Later that year. Darin released his jazzy pop cover of "Mack the Knife" from Brecht & Weill's Threepenny Opera. The success of this song gave Darin a second career as a pop singer in the classic vein. He covered "Clementine" and "Bill Bailey," and began appearing in Vegas nightclubs in 1960.
Before long, Darin began to incorporate folk music into his live act, and he hired Jim McGuinn to accompany him on guitar for his folk set. McGuinn also worked as a songwriter in Darin's Brill Building publishing compant during the early '60s.
During the mid '60s Darin recorded more pop standards, won an Oscar nomination for his acting in Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), and began a third musical career as a folk singer when he hit the Top Ten with Tim Hardin's "If I Were A Carpenter" in 1966. After going through a protest rock phase, working for the Bobby Kennedy campaign, and retiring for a time after Kennedy's death, Darin returned on Motown in 1971 as a pop singer, with little success.
In 1973, Darin died at age 37 during an operation to repair a valve in his heart, which had been weakened by a childhood bout of rheumatic fever.


Jesse Ed Davis

Jesse Ed Davis was undoubtedly the greatest Native American blues guitarist ever. He first attracted notice when he accompanied Taj Mahal on his eponymous 1967 debut album. Davis played on the next couple Taj Mahal albums, Giant Step / De Ole Folks at Home (Columbia, 1969) and The Natch'l Blues (Columbia, 1969). He also fell in with the circle of session musicians orbiting Leon Russell.
In 1971, Davis produced and played on Gene Clark's second solo album, White Light (A&M, 1971). He also recorded a solo album, Jesse Davis (Atco, 1971), which featured backing vocals by Gram Parsons and appearances by Russell and Eric Clapton. Two more solo LPs followed, Ululu (Atco, 1972) and Keep On Coming (CBS, 1973). Davis also added guitar to Clark's No Other (Asylum, 1974).
As a result of his talent and connections, Davis eventually played on a raft of '70s albums, including LPs by John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Leonard Cohen, Keith Moon, Jackson Browne, and Van Dyke Parks.
By the '80s, Davis was touring with Native American poet/rocker John Trudell. He died of an overdose in a Venice, California laundromat in 1988.


Brandon de Wilde

Brandon de Wilde was one of the leading child actors of the '50s. He first appeared on Broadway in 1950 at age eight in the Carson McCullers play The Member of the Wedding. He recreated the role in the film version in '52, then starred with Alan Ladd in Shane (1953). Later he starred in Goodbye My Lady (1956) with Walter Brennan and Sidney Poitier; Missouri Traveler (1958) with Lee Marvin; Blue Denim (1959) with Carol Lynley; All Fall Down (1962) with Eva Marie Saint and Warren Beatty; Hud (1963) with Paul Newman; and In Harm's Way (1965) with John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda.
By 1965, de Wilde had fallen in with Hollywood's young Turks: Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern and Dennis Hopper -- many of the same crowd who were flocking to Ciro's to see the Byrds at that time. De Wilde got to know the band and became a close friend of David Crosby. De Wilde befriended Gram Parsons while he was in New York with the International Submarine Band. De Wilde urged Parsons to come to L.A., where de Wilde introduced him to his circle of movie star and musician friends.
De Wilde aspired to a music career, but it never took off. He died in an automobile accident in the summer of '72.


Jim Dickson

Jim Dickson deserves a large share of the credit for the concept of fusing Dylan folk and Beatle energy. He entered the music industry when he recorded hipster comic Lord Buckley, and in the early '60s recorded folksinger Odetta and bluegrass masters the Dillards.
Crosby had done some solo sessions with Dickson during 1963 before joining McGuinn and Clark in the Jet Set. At the same time Dickson was recording Chris Hillman's bluegrass band, the Hillmen. With both the Dillards and the Hillmen, Dickson recorded Dylan songs, hinting at the folk/rock fusion the Byrds achieved in 1965.
In fact, it was Dickson who pushed for "Tambourine Man" to be the Byrds' first demo; no one in the band was enthusiastic about the number at first.
In June of 1967, the Byrds replaced Dickson as their manager, but in 1970 Dickson helped Terry Melcher produce (Untitled), working mainly on the live sides.
Dickson later produced Burrito Deluxe (A&M, 1970), The Flying Burrito Brothers (A&M, 1971), and Last of the Red Hot Burritos (A&M, 1972) by the Flying Burrito Brothers. Dickson reunited with Hillman a decade later, when he produced Morning Sky (Sugar Hill, 1982).


Doug Dillard and the Dillards

Doug Dillard, banjo player extraordinaire, and his younger brother, guitarist Rodney Dillard, grew up in a musical family in Salem, Missouri. In 1956 the brothers joined the Ozark Mountain Boys and performed on the Ozark Opry. In '58 the pair released its first single as the Dillard Brothers.
In 1960, they were joined by mandolin player Dean Webb and in 1962, by bassist Mitch Jayne. That year the foursome now known as the Dillards headed for LA.
They arrived in November of that year and immediately hit the Ash Grove, a hub of LA's folk scene, where they showed off their chops in a jam session with the Greenbriar Boys. Within a week they had a recording contract with Elektra.
In June they released their first album, Backporch Bluegrass (Elektra, 1963). Around the same time, the Dillards landed a semi-regular role on The Andy Griffith Show as the Darlin Family, a group of pickin' an' grinnin' hillbillies. Sheriff Taylor visited the Darlins several times over the course of the next three years.
Doug Dillard appeared on two more albums with the Dillards. The last, Pickin' and Fiddlin' (Elektra, 1965) featured fiddler Byron Berline. By that time, the Dillards had scandalized many bluegrass purists by dabbling with amplified instruments, and by adding a drummer -- Dewey Martin, who later joined Buffalo Springfield.
After that LP, Doug Dillard left the band. The Dillards carried on under Rod's leadership. Doug did session work, including playing banjo on Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers (Columbia, 1967). He also played with the Beach Boys, the Monkees, and Harry Nilsson, as well as playing on Glen Campbell's version of "Gentle On My Mind." Dillard began doing soundtrack work in 1967 when he scored the Arthur Penn film Bonnie and Clyde.
In 1968, after the recording of Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the Gram Parsons version of the Byrds hired Dillard to tour Europe. Not long after returning, Dillard hooked up with Gene Clark once more for the Dillard & Clark Expedition. When Clark left after a year and a half and two LPs, Dillard continued on with the remaining band members as the Doug Dillard Expedition.
When that group folded, Dillard released a solo album, then began devoting his energies to films. He contributed to the soundtracks of Vanishing Point (1971), Junior Bonner (1972), and Bound for Glory (1976).
Beginning in the late '70s, Dillard divided his attention between solo albums, LPs with his brother Rod and his old friend John Hartford, and acting work, including bit parts in The Rose (1979) and Popeye (1980).
Throughout his career, Dillard has alternated between rootsy traditionalism and eclectic experimentation. (His more catholic adventures paved the way for the genre-busting work of Dave Grisman, Bela Fleck, and others in the progressive wing of bluegrass.) The one constant in his career has been the instrumental prowess that has wowed audiences since the late '50s.
There is now a Dillards Web Page.


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Welcome | News | LPs | History | Members | Spinoffs | Related | Reference | Sanctuary | About | NEXT SECTION

Artists Covered | Other Influences | Associates | Musicians Influenced | Byrd/Not a Byrd | NEXT CHAPTER

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