Michael Clarke

TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. — Michael (Mike) Clarke, the original drummer for influential rock band the Byrds, died Sunday from liver failure at his condominium here.

He was 49.

Clarke was scheduled to perform on New Year’s Eve at a resort in Treasure Island with his band, Michael Clarke’s Byrds. The concert will now be a tribute to the drummer, said show organizer Billy Moore.

Clarke was 19 and a jazz drummer when he met David Crosby while hitchhiking in California. Clarke eventually joined Crosby, lead guitarist Roger McGuinn, bassist Chris Hillman and vocalist Gene Clark in a collaboration that became the Byrds in 1964.

The group created the British-influenced sound that became known as folk rock and later influenced such modern bands as R.E.M. and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

Clarke performed with the Byrds until 1968. The group broke up in 1972 after producing 11 albums and some of the 1960s’ best-known songs, including “Mr. Tambourine Man,””Eight Miles High” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

In 1985, Clarke began to perform under the Byrds’ name, which led to infighting among the original members. A lawsuit filed in 1989 by Crosby, McGuinn and Hillman claimed that Clarke was using the Byrds’ name illegally. McGuinn, Crosby and Hillman performed a few concerts together as the Byrds in an apparent attempt to bolster the claims in their lawsuit.

For the past 3 1/2 years, Clarke had lived in Treasure Island with his wife.

Information regarding services and other survivors was unavailable.

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