Happy birthday to Gene Clark, one of the greatest musicians ever to come from Kansas City, born on Nov. 17, 1944.
Through his contributions as one of the Byrds’ lead vocalists and its main songwriter, Gene helped create folk-rock. He wrote most of Eight Miles High, which lead to psychedelia. In his post-Byrds career, Clark’s work was essential to the development of country-rock and the singer-songwriter movement. When Tom Petty covered a Byrds song, he chose Clark’s Feel a Whole Lot Better. The jangly pop bands of the 1980s and ’90s owe a lot to Gene Clark.
Clark was born in Tipton, Mo., about 110 miles east of Kansas City, but spent his childhood in Kansas City. Clark played in rock ‘n’ roll bands and became interested in folk music during its boom in the early 1960s. He played part-time in folk groups and worked as a golf course groundskeeper after he graduated from high school.
In August 1963, members of the New Christy Minstrels, then the country’s most popular folk group, were appearing in town when they heard Gene perform. He was invited to join the Christies and performed with them for about six months.
Clark landed in Los Angeles and soon met Roger McGuinn. Folkies who were smitten by the Beatles before the rest of the world was, they initially planned to perform as a duo. They then met David Crosby, which lead to the founding of the Byrds.
Gene Clark is buried in the town where he was born: Tipton, Mo., about 110 miles east of Kansas City. (Photo by Dan Torchia)
Clark’s commercial peak was with the Byrds, but his solo career produced a lot of important music. As a member of the Byrds, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is only one of two Kansas City residents to be honored. (Big Joe Turner is the other.) Clark is also an inductee of the Kansas Music Hall of Fame.
Gene died in May 1991 and is buried in Tipton. His headstone simply reads “No Other.”
The Byrds: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Page
Gene Clark: Fan Page
David Crosby: Web Site
Roger McGuinn: Web Site