Released some 50 years ago, The Byrds’ album “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” is universally regarded as the big bang of country-rock, the first album to truly fuse the two genres in a way that baffled and alienated both the group’s rock fans, and was met with suspicion by the country musicians these young long-hairs idolized. Along with founding Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman (the latter of whom came up as a bluegrass musician), it showcased the talents of Gram Parsons — who would go on to be a pioneer of the genre before his 1973 death from a heroin overdose — as well as guitarist Clarence White, who died in a car accident that same year.
Yet the album’s influence was vast and the genres soon began fusing on a much more mainstream level: Johnny Cash soon recorded with Bob Dylan and featured rock musicians on his variety show; and country-rock became one of the premiere sounds of FM radio during the early 1970s, particularly via the smash success of groups like the Eagles. In the years since, rock and country have continued to crossbreed to the extent where it’s often difficult to tell one from the other.
To celebrate the album’s 50th anniversary McGuinn and Hillman (pictured above in 1979) announced today that they will perform the album in its entirety and tell the stories behind it; they will also sing some other favorites from their long recording careers. The tour will stop in cities across the country including Los Angeles, Albany, and Akron (dates below, with more to be announced soon) and will kick off with a short performance of a few songs from “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” at Marty Stuart’s Late Night Jam on June 6th at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. McGuinn and Hillman will be joined on stage for the tour by Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives. Stuart himself plays the famous 1954 Fender Telecaster originally owned by White.
“On March 9, 1968, Roger McGuinn and I along with many fantastic musicians began recording the ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ album at Columbia Studios in Nashville,” Hillman said in a press release. ”It was truly a pivotal moment in our lives taking a turn toward the music we always felt a strong kinship with. We are honored that it has left a strong, long lasting impression on country and rock music. To celebrate this special time with Roger, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives is such a blessing on this, the 50th anniversary of Sweetheart of the Rodeo.”
McGuinn added: “Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Sweetheart of the Rodeo with a group of my favorite musicians is an honor. I can’t wait to be on stage with Chris Hillman, Marty Stuart and those Fabulous Superlatives! We’re all looking forward to taking the fans through the back pages of the recording. The concert will include songs that led up to that ground breaking trip to Nashville and all the songs from the album.”
Stuart said: “The Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo recording stands as a milestone in American music. I bought my first copy of the record in 1972. Upon my first listen, I was mesmerized at the effect of the combined power Country music, Rock & Roll, Bluegrass, Gospel and Folk music had on me. From that day forward, I considered Sweetheart of the Rodeo a blueprint as to how I should live my musical life. It is truly an honor for me and the Superlatives to get to go out and play music from Sweetheart with Roger and Chris. We love and greatly admire both of them and I have to believe this is a show not to be missed.”
Sweetheart Of The Rodeo Tour Dates
July 24 /// Los Angeles, CA ///Ace Hotel
July 29 /// Saratoga, CA /// Mountain Winery
Sep 18 /// Albany, NY /// Hart Theater @ The Egg
Sep 20 /// Hopewell, VA /// Beacon Theatre
Oct 3 /// Akron, OH /// Akron Civic