Birthday salute this weekend for Byrds founding member Gene Clark

Salute to Byrds founding member Gene Clark @HotelCafe on Nov. 16 for what would have been his 70th birthday

Much of the attention to the Byrds historically has gone to lead guitarist Roger McGuinn for his key role in the group’s distinctive sound. After McGuinn, the spotlight often landed on fellow members David Crosby and Chris Hillman for their considerable contributions to the Byrds and a string of influential bands thereafter.

That’s often left singer, songwriter and guitarist Gene Clark overlooked for his major part in the Byrds’ legacy.

On Sunday, however, the spotlight will be fully on Clark in conjunction with what would have been his 70th birthday (he was born Nov. 17, 1944) with a tribute show at the Hotel Café in Hollywood featuring his former collaborator Carla Olson, Byrds-influenced bands including Beachwood Sparks and Mother Hips, Clark’s son Kai and several others.

Beyond saluting his role in the Byrds — Clark wrote some of the group’s most important songs, including “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” and “Eight Miles High” — Sunday's event also will highlight the recent reissue of Clark’s excellent 1977 solo album “Two Sides to Every Story."

Like so many rock musicians who came to Los Angeles in the 1960s, Clark got caught up in the folk-bluegrass-country-rock stew that was simmering at the time.

A Missouri native, Clark embraced all those strains in songs on his solo album, including the bluegrass-steeped “In the Pines,” the sprightly “Home Run King,” the straight-country ballad “Lonely Saturday” and one stunning, epic ballad of farewell to love and life, “Give My Love to Marie.”

Clark, who died in 1991 at age 49, got stellar support on the album from banjo master Doug Dillard, steel guitarist Al Perkins, fiddler Byron Berline and singer Emmylou Harris — all of whom were also headquartered in L.A. at the time. But the album came and went almost without a trace of public recognition, and never so much as grabbed a lower rung of the Billboard 200 albums chart.

That may be in part because it was released on RSO Records, the label formed in the early ‘70s by Australian entertainment mogul Robert Stigwood that had been scoring huge successes on the charts at the time. Mostly, however, that success was tied to the Bee Gees disco hits and the related success of the film soundtrack for “Saturday Night Fever” rather than the American roots music Clark was exploring.

High Moon Records has reissued “Two Sides to Every Story” in a deluxe package with a detailed essay written by Clark biographer John Einarson, additional photos from the time the album was recorded and released and other replicated memorabilia.

It’s an album that deserves a spot in the collection of any genuine Americana music fan.

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