Record labelColumbia Records
Last updatedOctober 8th, 2017
AboutMr. Tambourine Man is the debut album by the American folk rock band The Byrds and was released in June 1965 on Columbia Records (see 1965 in music). The album, along with the single of the same name, established the band as an internationally successful rock act and was also influential in originating the musical style known as folk rock. The term "folk rock" was, in fact, first coined by the U.S. music press to describe the band's sound in mid-1965, at around the same time that the "Mr. Tambourine Man" single reached the top of the Billboard chart. The single and album also represented the first effective American challenge to the dominance of The Beatles and the British Invasion during the mid-1960s.
The album peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Top LPs chart and reached No. 7 in the United Kingdom. The Bob Dylan penned "Mr. Tambourine Man" single was released ahead of the album in April 1965, reaching No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart. A second single from the album, "All I Really Want to Do", also a Dylan cover, was moderately successful in the U.S. but fared better in the United Kingdom, where it reached the Top 10.
Prior to forming The Byrds, most of the members of the band had come from a folk and roots music background, rather than a rock and roll one. Lead guitarist Jim McGuinn had been a folk singer at various New York and Los Angeles folk clubs during the early 1960s and had also served as a sideman with the "collegiate folk" groups The Limeliters and the Chad Mitchell Trio. Additionally, he had spent time as a professional songwriter at the Brill Building under the tutelage of Bobby Darin. Gene Clark had also worked as a solo folk singer and as part of The New Christy Minstrels, while David Crosby had spent time in New York's Greenwich Village as a folk singer and had also been a member of Les Baxter's Balladeers. Chris Hillman's background was more oriented towards bluegrass music than folk, having been a member of the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, the Golden State Boys (who later renamed themselves The Hillmen), and concurrently with his recruitment into The Byrds, The Green Grass Group. Drummer Michael Clarke's musical pedigree was less auspicious, having played congas in a semi-professional capacity in and around San Francisco and L.A. since leaving his home in Spokane, Washington at the age of 16.
McGuinn and Clark initially met at The Troubadour club in Los Angeles and soon formed a Peter and Gordon style duo, playing Beatles' covers, Beatlesque renditions of traditional folk songs, and some self-penned material. The duo soon added Crosby to the line-up and named themselves The Jet Set in mid-1964. Crosby introduced McGuinn and Clark to his associate Jim Dickson who had access to World Pacific Studios. Dickson was impressed enough by the trio to take on management duties for the group, utilizing World Pacific as a rehearsal studio and recording the band as they honed their craft and perfected their blend of pop and folk. Over the coming months Hillman and Clarke were recruited to The Jet Set on bass guitar and drums respectively. During this period, Dickson managed to acquire an acetate disc of "Mr. Tambourine Man", a song written by Bob Dylan that had not been released at that time. The Byrds were initially unimpressed with the song but they eventually warmed to it and began to rehearse and record demos of it at World Pacific.
After seeing The Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night in August 1964, the band equipped themselves with similar instruments to The Beatles: a Rickenbacker 12-string for McGuinn, a Gretsch Tennessean for Clark (although Crosby commandeered it soon after) and Ludwig drums for Clarke. The band were signed to Columbia Records on November 10, 1964 and finally changed their name to The Byrds over Thanksgiving that year. The band, along with the group of L.A. session musicians later known as The Wrecking Crew, entered Columbia Recording Studios in Hollywood on January 20, 1965 to record the "Mr. Tambourine Man" single. The Byrds continued to record the Mr. Tambourine Man album without the help of session musicians from March 8 through to April 22, 1965.