For anyone growing up in the 60’s it was a fantastic time musically, it was hard to keep up with the new bands, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Doors, The Who, The Stones, etc, etc. I was a guitar player for the “Common Ground”, a band who opened for some of those bands who left their mark on the industry: The Yardbirds, Dave Clark Five, Kingsman……………
I became friends with Barry McGuire and to this day we remain best of friends. I was telling him a couple of weeks ago, that I was getting too old for this business, he laughed and asked me how old I thought he was. I answered and said I am not sure, but you still have the energy and heart of the guy I knew back in the sixties, which he replied I am 80 this year and still booking dates around the globe ☺
Recently the magazine “Life After 50″ caught up with McGuire:
It was a beautiful day in February of 1967. The sun was shining on Los Angeles as brightly as the spotlight of success was on the career of a 32-year-old singer named Barry McGuire, who was piloting his Fiat roadster down Sunset Boulevard. “As I was driving I saw Roger McGuinn of The Byrds pass me on the other side,” McGuire recalls. “I waved him down, turned around, and we pulled up alongside one another. We were just talking and listening to the radio and all of a sudden – I’ll never forget it – we were leaning on the left front fender of his Cadillac and on comes ‘Creeque Alley’ by The Mamas and The Papas.”
McGuire breaks into song: “ ‘McGuinn and McGuire just a’catchin’ fire in L.A. you know where that’s at.’ Roger and I were shocked. We looked at one another. It was just incredible! That moment was riding the sweet spot of the wave.”
McGuire had in fact caught fire. First as a member of The New Christy Minstrels where he co-wrote and sang lead on the folk group’s first and biggest hit single, “Green, Green,” and then, as a solo artist with the mid-1960s’ powerful protest song “Eve of Destruction,” which sold over one million copies and hit the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 200 chart.
Born in 1935 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, McGuire joined the U.S. Navy when he was only 16. Ten months later, when it was learned he had lied about his age, he was discharged and went on to work as a commercial fisherman and journeyman pipe fitter. Always attracted to music, McGuire was 25 when he was offered a job singing in a bar. From there, he formed a folk duo with Barry Kane called Barry & Barry and made the rounds of Southern California clubs and coffee houses. In 1962, after performing at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, both Barrys were invited to join The New Christy Minstrels, where McGuire stayed until he launched his solo career in 1965.
Along with his music, McGuire also tried his hand as a thespian appearing in the 1967 movie, “The President’s Analyst,” in 1971’s “Werewolves on Wheels,” and in a one-year run in the Broadway musical “Hair.” While appearing in “Hair,” McGuire became a born-again Christian and soon after released “Seeds,” an album of Christian songs. Constantly touring throughout the 1970s, McGuire also recorded seven more albums including “Cosmic Cowboy,” and a highly successful children’s album, “Bullfrogs and Butterflies.”
During the 1980s, McGuire met and married his wife, Mari, semi-retired and moved to New Zealand. The following decade, due to health issues, he returned to the U.S., teamed up with Terry Talbot and recorded four more albums. He also co-wrote a novel, “In the Midst of Wolves,” (Kingsway Publications, 1991), that tells the story of bikers who come to know God.
In 2008, McGuire and John York of The Byrds began touring with a show called “Trippin’ the ‘60s.” Embraced by audiences, the tour continues today throughout the U.S. and Europe, bringing audiences the songs and stories of the 1960s.
As the Mayans and New Agers predict we are at the end of time, and when the U.S. and the world are teetering on what many feel is the eve of destruction, “Life After 50″ caught up with McGuire to ask him about his legendary song, and if he thinks this whole crazy world is even more frustratin’ than when he recorded it – 47 years ago.
“When I was with The New Christy Minstrels, I began listening to Bob Dylan and I really got into the deep stuff he was doing,” McGuire explains. “That was what made me decide I didn’t want to sing ‘Green Green’ anymore. I wanted to do stuff like ‘Chimes of Freedom.’”
Saying that people are surprised to learn he didn’t write “Eve of Destruction,” he quickly adds that he was the fortunate man who fate chose to record it. “That song came to me at Ciro’s on the Sunset Sirip,” says McGuire. “The Byrds were doing an opening night performance and I was enjoying the show and all of a sudden I heard someone call my name.”
The call came from record producer Lou Adler who was sitting with songwriter Phil Sloan. “Lou introduced me to Phil,” says McGuire. “Phil had a notebook full of new songs and when I read them, I really liked his stuff. It was like he was speaking from my own heart. Lou asked me if I would like to record them and two weeks later, we were in the studio recording.”
McGuire laughs when he recalls the recording of what would become his signature song. “We did it in one take,” he reveals. “We had a four-hour session and the second song wasn’t working out, so we decided to move on and I had the lyrics to ‘Eve of Destruction’ in my back pocket – the actual handwritten words all crinkled up on a page from Phil’s notebook. I took it out and said I wanted to do it. Lou wasn’t too hot about the song, but he agreed to it.”
With only 20 minutes left in the studio and another band waiting in the hall to get in, there was no time to waste. “The song only has four chords, so the band looked it over and said they were ready,” says McGuire. “With only 10 minutes left, they pushed the red button. It’s a four-minute song. We recorded it and then listened back to it, which ate up eight minutes. I wanted to redo the vocal because about two minutes in, I lost my place and your hear me go: ‘Ahhhh..I can’t trust the truth.’ The reason I went ‘Ahhh’ was because I lost my place for a moment. Lou said we’d come back the following week and redo the vocal. That was on a Thursday. The following Monday I got a call from Jay Lasker, who was an executive at Lou’s company, and he said: ‘Hey McGuire! Hurry up and turn on KFWB,’ which was the big rock station in L.A. at the time. I did and there was ‘Eve of Destruction’ being played. So I never got to go back in and ruin the song by doing a perfect vocal,” he laughs.
Today, all these years later, McGuire, who turned 80 this year, continues to keep up a hectic touring schedule. “I enjoy doing the shows and I love to make people laugh with all the old stories,” he says. “In ‘Trippin’ the ‘60s’ I tell all my stories about the songs and people and adventures I’ve had. Meeting The Beatles and working with The Mamas and The Papas and John Sebastian and Hoyt Axton and Stephen Stills. All the people I hung with. I sing their songs and tell their stories – it’s a great night of memories.”
Of course, the song that gets the most reaction is “Eve of Destruction.” A song with emotionally disturbing lyrics that are as profound today as they were back in the turbulent 1960s. It’s a song that asks questions, but offers no answers. Asked if in 2016, any answers exist, McGuire says they do.
“Sure there’s an answer! It’s just that nobody wants to hear it and abide by it,” he snaps. “The answer is to live by the rules, and here they are: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s the answer, but no one wants to abide by the rules. Today you see even much of the Christian community refusing to abide by what they preach. The answer is to obey the rules. Not because you have to – but because you have a true desire to – to really love one another. Christ preached that we are to share with our neighbors and look out for their welfare because we love them and have compassion for them. Jesus told us to care for widows and orphans, the poor, the mentally ill and the downtrodden – anyone in need. But we’re not doing that. You don’t see our government or even our churches doing that.”Saying he doesn’t feel there is a bit of difference between the two major political parties, McGuire believes today’s politics is just about the politicians. “And sadly, we now see the same thing with most churches,” he adds. “Too many religious leaders are all about keeping their religious empires and industries going. Politicians and most religious leaders are concerned with one thing – taking care of themselves.”
And so the question is directly posed to McGuire: As we enter 2016, are we in fact on the eve of destruction?
He throws his head back and laughs. “Oh we’ve passed the eve of destruction and were at the dawn of the day of destruction,” he says emphatically. “I’m a very optimistic person and yet I’m pessimistic about our country’s future and this world coming out of these bad times intact. It has taken them 100 years, but the banks have finally taken the world to the verge of bankruptcy. That is the only way you can bring nations like the U.S. and China to their knees – bankrupt them financially. No country would ever just give up its sovereignty and agree to a one-world government or world currency. But if the dollar has no worth and the world bank steps in to save everyone with the global dollar and is willing to forgive all debts and stabilize their economies, well who won’t ultimately go for that – especially if there’s no alternative other than total financial collapse?”
So just how can McGuire claim to be an optimist while making such a dire prognostication?
“I’m a very optimistic and happy person because I’ve had a spiritual awakening that has taught me not to worry or care about the future,” he explains. “You ask are we on the eve of destruction? Sure, we’re all on our own personal eve of destruction. We’re all born to die. The future is a fantasy into which we project our thoughts or beliefs as to what may happen. The truth is none of us have a clue what will happen tomorrow. Yesterday is done and there is no way we can change one thing about the past. The past and the future are both out of our reach, so what does that leave us with? The present. It’s in the power of the present that we can look within ourselves and find optimism and happiness by following the rules and embracing the spirit of God that dwells within us. It is only the life force from within that can make you happy. It will provide for you what you need; and when it’s time to die, it will provide you with death. It’s all a gift. Birth is a gift. Death is a gift. Whatever happens to you in between is a gift. The real destruction is the war within, the destruction we cause ourselves by not abiding by the rules and accepting the gifts of God’s spirit. Every moment we are alive and breathing is just another moment in which we can choose to follow the rules and accept the inner peace and happiness of God’s spirit. Once you understand that, everything becomes okay.”
The aging rock star cliché isn’t real. It’s a sad stigma created by people who are old themselves. Because you don’t get old by aging. You get old by quitting.
Chuck Berry 10/18/26 89
Little Richard 12/5/32 83
Willie Nelson 4/29/33 82
Barry McGuire 10/15/35 80
Trini Lopez 5/15/37 78
Frankie Valli 5/3/37 78
Gordon Lightfoot 11/17/38 77
Grace Slick 10/30/39 76
Neil Diamond 1/24/41 75
Bobby Goldsboro 1/18/41 75
Tom Jones 6/7/40 75
Bill Medley 9/19/40 75
Johnny Nash 8/19/40 75
Cliff Richard 10/14/40 75
Nancy Sinatra 6/8/40 75
Dionne Warwick 12/12/40 75
Ringo Starr 7/5/40 75
David Clayton-Thomas 9/13/41 74
Bob Dylan 5/24/41 74
Art Garfunkel 11/5/41 74
Steven Stills 8/14/41 74
David Crosby 8/14/41 74
Eric Burden 5/11/41 74
Carole King 2/9/42 74
Helen Reddy 10/25/41 74
Martha Reeves 7/18/41 74
Paul Simon 10/13/41 74
Lou Christie 2/19/43 73
Dave Clark 12/15/42 73
Daryl Dragon 8/27/42 73
Bob Gaudio 11/17/42 73
Bobby Rydell 4/26/42 73
Barbra Streisand 4/24/42 73
Paul McCartney 6/18/42 73
Barry Manilow 6/17/43 72
Marilyn McCoo 9/30/43 72
Steve Miller 10/5/43 72
Johnny Rivers 11/7/43 72
John Sebastian 3/17/44 72
Bobby Sherman 7/22/43 72
Ronnie Spector 8/10/43 72
Toni Tennille 5/8/43 72
Roger Daltery 3/1/44 72
Mick Jagger 7/26/43 72
Keith Richards 12/18/43 72
Peter Cetera 9/13/44 71
Eric Clapton 3/30/45 71
Tony Orlando 4/3/44 71
Rod Stewart 1/10/45 71