Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer Preaches to the Choir During
Recent Two-Hour Taped for Broadcast Benefit Concert!

A Archive Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

In 1987, Outpost in the Burbs formed a "nonprofit community outreach organization, dedicated to enriching individual and community life through programs which foster and celebrate creativity, spirituality, and social unity."

Roger McGuinn Onstage at the Outpost in the Burbs Concert in Montclair, New Jersey!

The Outpost in the Burbs is located at the First Congregational Church at 40 South Fullerton Avenue in Montclair, New Jersey. On Friday nights during Fall, Winter and Spring, The all-volunteer staff of the Outpost in the Burbs present high-quality professional concerts.

On February 3rd the Outpost hosted a sold-out performance by rock and folk legend Roger McGuinn. The show was a fund raiser for the Outpost and supported Roger's latest CD, which is a four disk collection entitled The Folk Den Project. The concert was also recorded for broadcast for Pete Fornatale's Mixed Bag Radio on WFUV as well as his satellite program on XM.

Pete Fornatale was warmly greeted by the capacity crowd and Pete briefed the capacity crowd on how this special concert was organized in just a short period of time. Roger has appeared on Mr. Fornatale's radio shows over the years, he explained, and during one recent interview, McGuinn mentioned that he was working on a CD project to preserve and promote classic folk music. Pete offered to help in any way he could and with the help of WFUV and Outpost in the Burbs Pete came through on his word by providing Roger a classy venue to present the new material.

The lights dimmed as Pete left the stage before the distinct chords of a Rickenbacker could be heard from stage right echoing off the high ceilings of the old stone church. Even before Roger took the stage fans recognized the opening notes to "My Back Pages" - a Bob Dylan song that The Byrds had great success with. McGuinn, who was clad in all black, quickly connected with the crowd who was singing along to the song's chorus.

"My Back Pages" set the tone for the rest of the evening as Roger would go on to share many stories about his life and music. Although the church sanctuary held close to a thousand fans it was still an intimate venue ideal for an acoustic show. McGuinn played a wide range of classics including songs from Leadbelly, Bob Dylan and of course, The Byrds.

Taking a seat by his two guitars and a banjo, Roger mentioned "a low budget biker film", Peter Fonda, Bob Dylan and the evolution of the 'Ballad of Easy Rider'. McGuinn tapped out the rhythm of the song with his feet as he played the multi-layered chord structure of the ballad. His boot beats were potent with the planted palm trees behind Roger gently rocking along. McGuinn's opening songs featured an impressive array of fancy finger work revealing that this rock 'n' roll hall of famer may be one of rock's most under-rated guitarist.

McGuinn mentioned that he was around fifteen years old when he got turned on to folk and other types of music. Roger shared that he was impressed and influenced by Leadbelly who played a twelve string guitar. McGuinn told the story of how he had purchased his first 12-string and then needed to learn how to play a Leadbelly tune before performing one of the blues icon's pieces. McGuinn's foot tapping kept pace with the up-tempo blues-based tune with dual chord structures.

Switching instruments, Roger mentioned that he worked for Bobby Daren who advised McGuinn to go out and play in front of people. McGuinn took his advice and performed at many coffee houses in New York's Greenwich Village. Back then a hat was passed around to collect money for the performers.

"Don't play after Richie Havens, because there's no money left," Roger quipped, when reflecting on his days as a street performer revealing how no one wanted to follow the energetic singer and strummer. He played a song about those memorable days in the city that was a rich and reflective piece of storytelling.

Expanding on his experiences with Bobby Daren, Roger recalled dabbling in surf music and later disco and how unbeknownst to him the Bee Gees ended up singing backing tracks on the Australian hit, "Beach Ball". He then performed the nearly forgotten "Don't You Write Her Off" which was a minor disco hit in the late seventies. The evening's rendition was a spirited mix of styles with a catchy hook. Switching to the banjo he played an Appalachian love ballad that was slow and sweet. The audience was quiet and attentive throughout the evening hanging on every note and word but applauding loudly after each well executed song.

McGuinn made a few comments about radio waves and space suites before playing an animated, acoustic version of "Mr. Spaceman" joking that it was the first country, rock, space song. On the subject of country music, Roger recalled going to Nashville to work on a country album which included a Woody Guthrie cover that Roger performed with multi-layered guitar parts and robust rhythms.

Roger pointed out that he was using a special seven string guitar, which he customized, believing that the double G strings are the best part on a twelve string anyway. Combining the two, the famous guitar makers Martin designed the signature Roger McGuinn HF-7. The double G is ideal for blues rifts and he demonstrated this by playing an old New Orleans blues tune.

Roger played a diverse mix of Byrds' songs, classic folk and traditional blues. He shared a number of interesting stories spanning his legendary career including the influence of Ravi Shankar. McGuinn executed a dynamic, sitar influenced, guitar solo of chord and scale structures before playing "Eight Miles High" with an extended guitar jam that was out of this world. McGuinn is still in good voice and clearly has a passion for the music. He closed the set with soaring versions of "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" and "So You Want To Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star".

Roger returned for the encore and Pete Fornatale grabbed a chair on stage and conducted a short but in-depth intimate interview with the star. Pete is a veteran, drawing out amusing anecdotes and fascinating facts. It was revealed in the course of their conversation that it was Roger who planted the seeds for the show that would become Fornatale's Mixed Bag. Toward the end of the conversation they talked about touring with Bob and Dylan and Tom Petty before Roger played a condensed version of "American Girl". Pete exited stage right and McGuinn played a few more songs before soaring out of The Outpost In The Burbs!

The concert at the church included just a sample of some of the 100 songs found on Roger's new 4-CD box set. The Folk Den Project was conceived in November of 1995, as Roger wanted to preserve and promote the music that he loves. Each month he recorded a song, printed out the lyrics and included a personal note about the song, which was posted on his web site. The track was available as a WAV file that could then be downloaded by fans. In honor of the ten year anniversary of this project, McGuinn put together The Folk Den Project a four disc set that features 100 of Rogers favorite songs along with his original notes from the past decade. The box set is available through his website or online at CDBaby.

Related Links: For more information on Roger McGuinn and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Roger McGuinn Website | "The Folk Den Project" CD | Mixed Bag Radio | Outpost in the Burbs

(Originally Published on February 05, 2006)




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