The Billboard Roll Call: Gene Clark

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The Billboard Roll Call is a listing of regional artists who charted a song on the Billboard Top 40 from 1955-2009. The introduction has additional information.

Gene Clark is an artist whose true legacy isn’t reflected in a pop chart.

He was instrumental in helping develop three genres in rock ‘n’ roll. As a founding member of the Byrds, he pioneered folk-rock. With the duo Dillard and Clark in the late 1960s, he laid the foundation for country rock. His solo work in the late 1960s and early 1970s anticipated the singer-songwriter movement.

Clark was born in Tipton, Mo., about 110 miles east of Kansas City, but grew up in the Kansas City area. He played in rock ‘n’ roll bands growing up, but moved to folk music in the early 1960s.

In August 1963, when he was just 18, he was discovered in a club in midtown Kansas City and joined the New Christy Minstrels, the most popular folk group at the time. He  stayed about six months, moved to Los Angeles and met Roger McGuinn. Along with David Crosby, they formed the Byrds. Within two years, they were the second biggest band in the world, next to the Beatles.

Clark charted six songs on the Billboard Top 40 as a member of three different groups.

Saturday Night by the New Christy Minstrels was his first professional recording, which peaked at #29 in November 1963.

With the Byrds he charted four songs, two of which were #1s: Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn! Clark’s masterpiece, Eight Miles High, was banned in some markets due to alleged references to drugs, and only reached #14 in March 1966.

In 1978, as part of McGuinn, Clark & Hillman (Chris Hillman, the Byrds’ bassist), he charted one song in April 1979, Don’t You Write Her Off (#33).

In the clip below, the Byrds are making their second-ever TV appearance on Hullabaloo, a music variety show on NBC. )This clip of Mr. Tambourine Man is interesting, as the band is singing live to the studio tracks. Although he played guitar, Clark usually banged a tambourine. In this clip, he’s playing an electric 12-string.)

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One response to “The Billboard Roll Call: Gene Clark

  1. funginix
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