Best I've Ever Seen

Talking with artists about concerts and albums they'll never forget

Gary Stoller is an award-winning editor, author, and journalist. He's written for USA TODAY and loves Bob Dylan and Blue Rodeo.

Best I've Ever Seen

Talking with artists about concerts and albums they'll never forget

Gary Stoller is an award-winning editor, author, and journalist. He's written for USA TODAY and loves Bob Dylan and Blue Rodeo.

The Sometimes Forgotten Byrd to Be Honored on Both Coasts

Great article. Also see my interview with son Kai Clark re: this release.

Great article! Thanks so much for featuring the #GeneClark50 shows and for the interview with Kai!

Well written article that in my opinion perfectly portrays the landscape with regard to current perceptions of the Byrds legacy. As eloquently stated, McGuinn was/is (and rightfully so) acknowledged as their leader, while contributions of other higher profile members (like David Crosby and Gram Parsons) are often overstated and in fact over-shadow the contributions of other key members. Too often, other arguably more integral members of the band (like Chris Hillman and Gene Clark) are over-shadowed in great part because they lack the higher profiles as the aforementioned. I believe even McGuinn has stated that early on, Gene's contributions to the band were on par with his own. His contributions to the first 2 albums added another dimension of personality to the band. His personality continued growing after he stepped away from band and went out on his own. While his absence certainly left a hole in the band, there was so much growth potential with other members (including Chris Hillman), that while Clark was missed, the void was nicely filled by new members. To McGuinn's credit, he had the innate ability to surround himself with great talent that more often than not, allowed the Byrds to continue growing as an ever-changing unit. Chris Hillman's growth as an artist was almost the opposite of Clark. Where Gene was a bright and shining star who's light slowly faded, Hillman was a rising talent who continued to step up, truly finding his 'voice' midway through his career. Due to his low key nature, his contributions (to the Byrds, The Flying Burrito Bros., and Manassas) were often overshadowed by the stronger personality of his partners (particularly Gram and Stills). A 'greatest hits' compilation of songs either written or co-written by either Gene Clark or Chris Hillman would quickly demonstrate the strengths of both of these artists and would make a strong argument for them to be elevated among the elite performers in this genre.

I've always said that Chris was/is a great rock n' roll soldier, now over 50 years, but I do not believe his songwriting catalog, especially solo, comes anywhere near the artistic level of a Gene Clark or Gram Parsons.   


Agreed. Nor would I agree with McGuinn that Gene's songwriting was "on par" with his. It surpassed McGuinn's by light years.

Couldn't agree more Neon_Brambles.

I also disagree that Gene's light "slowly faded". Gene may have not had the commericial success he had with The Byrds in his solo years, but he was always true to his muse and continued to write stellar material up until the end of his life. That part of him never faltered.

As much as I'd like to, I just can't put the later era Gene Clark on par with earlier. I've tried. I want to. I just in earnest can't do so. Putting Hillman's co-writes in perspective, he had a hand in more than one classic SIGNATURE song from each The Byrds (including So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star), TFBB (Christine's Tune, Sin City) and Manassas (It Doesn't Matter). Point being his contributions to each of these seminal bands is severely understated. And he kept The Byrds and TFBB's going after departure of key members. Somehow his legacy though is a mere blip. Certainly he is not an extrovert, nor did he fall prey to the excesses of the rock and roll lifestyle. He does not have a legacy of dying young with his body burned in a desert. Nor has he had numerous media-filled feuds with his band mates. He hasn't been arrested for guns and drugs on multiple occasions.  Not his style. 

Not disputing Chris' talent and that he deserves more recognition too. But Gene did write some great tunes later in his life such as Past Addresses, Silent Crusade, Gypsy Rider, Del Gato, Pledge To You, Your Fire Burning to name a few, so I think there are many who would disagree with you on that point. 

There is a certain benefit however to living a long life and having a lengthy career. I believe the benefits of dying young are greatly overrated. 

Well done Will...that made me laugh out loud...I just saw Chris Hillman with Herb Pedersen about a year ago...Chris is still in fine form both vocally and musically and it was a great show...some Byrds tunes in there of course...Desert Rose Band too...

Gene Clark and Gram Parsons were visionary songwriters...I personally don't see Hillman as being quite that level, and I think Gene's later catalog is underestimated but regardless, I did really enjoy this article and the commentary from his son...


I too got a chuckle out of your comment Will which is certainly true for the individual. But it must be admitted an early death does add to an artist's mystique. One wonders how Jim Morrison would now be perceived if he hadn't checked-out so early and mysteriously. (Please no Doors bashing as I know there are plenty who feel they are overrated.)

As far as Gene Clark goes I've only recently started exploring and admiring his solo work starting with "The Other" which I found quite amazing. I see it's his son's favorite of his father's releases. But I've read the producer went way over budget and pissed off the record company which may have hurt Gene's career.

Like Jim, I too recently saw Hillman and Peterson in concert and it was very enjoyable. Mary Gauthier opened for them and when she came out she said that back stage they were singing Louvin Brothers tunes and she had a hard time leaving to come out and perform.

FYI - If you care to find out more about Gene Clark, there is an excellent documentary film about Gene that came out in 2014 called The Byrd Who Flew Alone: The Triumphs and Tragedy of Gene Clark from Four Suns Productions that has extensive new interviews with Chris, David and Roger and Gene's family and friends. If you're going to either of the Gene Clark shows in CA or NYC next week, there will be a 12 minute preview of the film screened before the shows.

The Other is amazing...I bought it when it came out and wasn't quite sure what to make of it at first but about the 3rd time through it got me...

As for the Louvin Brothers, a friend of mine had a band that opened for them at a concert nearby many many years ago...said Charlie and Ira were not only good guys, but they passed a pint whiskey bottle around, sharing it with my friend's band as well, before they went on...brought them up onstage as well...there are some classics there..."The Great Atomic Power" that's some fire and brimstone there...

I realize No Other (not The Other, right?) is considered his best solo and I do like it, but my favorite is White Light, great songs and outstanding players. I have a buddy who thinks it's quite boring so to each his own I guess. I met Charlie Louvin; he sure likes to talk, which was great. Glad to meet and talk before he died. I have heard that Ira was anything but a "good guy" though. 

Yes, Will , you're right it is "No Other" and some might say it's over-produced. I have "White Light" too and think it's very good with a much simpler production from great guitarist Jesse Ed Davis. Still, a favorite of mine, which I've had since its release, is the collaboration with Doug Dillard, "The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark." I've read some things about the Louvin Brothers, and especially Ira I suppose, that make them dubious spokemen for Christianity but then there are certainly a lot of those.

Let's just say that Ira was an SOB and a Christian, or considered himself the latter. He was undoubtedly, unlike Hillman imo, a GREAT writer. (Seems so many great writers aren't perfect human beings.) I love White Light and its production; I agree, and surprised often that others don't, on the production of No Other, and that affecting its ascendency to the top spot so to speak. I also have and enjoy The Fantastic Expeditions.  


I have all of the records mentioned here, and I love them all, and you are right Will, "No Other"...another former Byrd, Gene Parsons, had a couple of great records on Sierra..."Kindling Collection" and "Melodies"...lots of talent in that band...Gene Clark was the equal of any of them..."White Light" is a different production, but the same quality songwriting...