The release of The Byrds’ debut single for Columbia Records, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” resulted in two milestones for the 1960s folk-rock movement – one for the Los Angeles band, which formed in 1964, and one for the song’s writer: Bob Dylan. The track entered the Billboard Hot 100 dated May 15, 1965 and rose to No. 1 six weeks later, on the June 26 list.
In addition to the band topping the chart on its first outing, the group’s cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man” became, and remains, Dylan’s only No. 1 single, albeit as a songwriter. (As a performer, he has hit No. 2 twice, with “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” in 1965 and 1966, respectively.)
The song’s success made The Byrds one of the most influential bands in folk rock, thanks largely to then-22-year-old frontman Roger McGuinn’s jangly 12-string Rickenbacker guitar virtuosity, which inspired Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Mumford & Sons, among other contemporary acts. The Byrds broke up in 1973, although McGuinn and longtime members David Crosby (also of Crosby, Stills & Nash) and Chris Hillman reunited from 1989 to 1990. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. On Aug. 8, 2000, the trio performed at a Los Angeles benefit under the billing of The Byrds for the last time.
McGuinn, 72, still tours solo. On July 15, he’ll appear at the launch gala for astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation. It’s not yet confirmed if he’ll perform another Byrds classic apt for the occasion, 1966’s “Mr. Spaceman.”