Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Wed 4 May 05 08:52
As long as we're talking about Gene's up-and-down wealth, something that's always puzzled me a little about his financial situations is how much he got in terms of song royalties. The point has been made, in John's book and elsewhere, that Gene was making more money than the other Byrds in their first year or so of fame, because he had by far the most songwriting credits. It's been speculated that this is one reason that relations between him and the others became strained in the era shortly before his departure. Presumably, in the lean years when his records weren't selling or he wasn't making records at all, those royalties from the early Byrds records helped sustain him to some degree. John, I'm guessing you didn't have access to financial records that would let you know what the royalty flow was. But in your estimation, was it really that big a factor in causing resentment among the other Byrds, and one of several factors in his departure from the band? And were continuing royalties from those days one reason he was able to more or less keep afloat in later years?
John Einarson (johneinarson) Wed 4 May 05 10:57
Gene's song catalogue is still earning his estate, of which his sons are the sole benefactors, a high 5-figure return each year. And thats almost exclusively from his Byrds songs. He did not control his publishing (which takes 50% of the money a song earns) but his estate still receives his writer royalties from 4 sources: performance income including radio, television, film; synchronized licensing with film, television, or movies; print sheet music; and mechanicals record sales. Carlie Clark told me that during the latter 60s and early 70s, Gene was still pulling in a substantial sum annually from his songwriting even though his records at the time weren't selling that much. His Byrds income was still spinning plenty of dough to keep them living comfortably in Mendocino for the first few years. The Tom Petty cover of "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" brought in well over 6 figures for Gene in the early '90s because Petty's album sold something like 4 million copies. Obviously that album is still selling and earning royalties. Back in the mid 60s if you had a single that went gold (1 million copies) and you wrote either the A or B side (both earned the same sum from mechanicals - not performance and other rights), you could expect to pocket anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 depending, of course, on your contract (most singles only earned a couple of cents per sale). Gene wrote the flipsides of "Mr. Tambourine Man", "All I Really Want To Do" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!", two of which were gold singles and at the time (and still today) staple radio play fodder. Plus he wrote 5 tracks on their first album and 3 on their second, both albums selling over 100,000 copies easy (and still selling in reissued CD form). Add to that 1/3 share of the writer royalties on "Eight Miles High", 1/2 of "You Showed Me" plus small amounts for a few other covers of his songs as well as a percentage of record sales for the Byrds as a group off the singles and albums and you get the picture that his bank account was significantly fatter than the others. Did it cause resentment? Yes. Both Roger and David admit that. Not enough to force him out of the Byrds but fuel for an already burning fire. Consider the fact that even in their big year, 1965, the Byrds likely werent making more than $10,000 per gig, in fact, probably less given ticket prices at the time. So touring revenue was pretty insignificant for the five members. Thats one reason why Gene had no problems leaving the group; touring wasnt worth the hassle for him when he could sit at home and collect royalty cheques. Both Kelly and Kai Clark realize that the royalties will not go on forever and have invested the money and draw on the interest/investments. But its their legacy from their father.
Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Wed 4 May 05 11:06
So it sounds like he may not even been fianancially motivated after the Byrds to continue making music. He must of had a relentless muse over the decades and loved some aspect of music, or were other people/forces pushing him back into the game? Just curious.
John Einarson (johneinarson) Wed 4 May 05 11:15
Gene was driven by his muse, not other forces. He only went back out on the road for financial reasons in the latter 70s but his songwriting was always self-driven. It was the one constant in his life and he continued writing until the day before he died.
Dave Zimmer (waterbrother) Wed 4 May 05 13:26
John, about that wonderful poem about Gene by Pamela Richardson, Tipton's Vein of Silver, which can be found in your book ... where did you come across this moving verse? And who is Pamela Richardson?
John Einarson (johneinarson) Wed 4 May 05 14:50
Pamela Richardson is wonderfully talented Chicago-based singer/songwriter who has been influenced by Gene Clark/the Byrds among others. She wrote "Tipton's Veil of Silver" for a Gene Clark tribute CD and when I read the lyrics, courtesy of Buddy Woodward (of Buddy Woodward and the Nitro Express), I thought it would make a poignant closing to the book. Go to http://www.pamelarichardson.com/ to check out Pams recorded works. You won't be disappointed. She has a new CD out very soon.
John Einarson (johneinarson) Wed 4 May 05 15:58
Sorry. I'm all thumbs today. That's "Tipton's Vein of Silver".
Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Thu 5 May 05 00:46
Since so many Country Rock afficiandos seem be lurking here, I wanted to explore a couple of interelated questions. digaman and waterbrother mentioned above the Stills stardom syndrome that Gene seems to share somewhat. I was wondering if the L.A. scene fed they stardom-trappings ethic more than the S.F. scene? Also was curious with the cultural differences between L.A. and S.F. how Gene Clark was recieved and/or related to the S.F. scene if at all? **** I realise that GD members as well as Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, Clarence White, McQuinn, Gene Parsons, Gram Parsons all had solid country/country-folk credentials of one degree or another. In fact just about everybody who grew up in North America can claim without too much of a stretch some degree of C&W legacy. It seems a little wierd Hillman would be bugged or threatened by the Parsons cult. Still tho; Working Man's Dead and American Beauty seemed to almost have come out of nowhere, I was wondering if there were any complaints from those who had earlier plowed the Country Rock furrows to what could be interpreted as GD's jumping on the bandwagon?
John Einarson (johneinarson) Thu 5 May 05 05:28
Hi Darrell. It took me a few minutes to figure out what GD was in your post. In fact I don't think Workingman's Dead and American Beauty came out of nowhere. There was already a growing and influential folk/country/bluegrass/roots music community alive in southern California in the latter 60s and many of those players/bands crossed paths with the Dead. More to the point, Garcia was a die-hard bluegrass and country fan having played that music earlier in his career. Herb Pedersen, of the Dillards and later the Desert Rose Band with Chris Hillman, had been a member of the close-knit folk and bluegrass community in Berkeley during the early sixties that included David Grisman and Jerry Garcia. We had a bluegrass band, at the same time Garcia had another bluegrass band, recalled Herb. David Nelson, who was later with the New Riders of the Purple Sage was with us. Jerry grew up in the Bay, so we would see each other a lot. He was into the real traditional stuff, Ralph Stanley and all that, and played banjo. Herb also remembered attending Buck Owens concerts with Garcia in the early 60s. While the country rock community was based in and around LA it still filtered up to San Francisco where electric country music was appreciated. As Buckaroo Tom Brumley recounts, "We did the Fillmore in San Francisco in 1967, and that was an experience. There wasnt a chair or seat in the building. Everybody was on the floor smoking pot having a good time. We filled that place two nights in a row, and they loved it. It was absolutely amazing. So, in this context, I never regarded the Dead as jumping on any bandwagon. It just made sense after the excesses of psychedelic acid rock had run its course to return to a more natural, American roots music in the latter 60s. In addition, the Dead were being assisted by Stills and Crosby to develop their vocal sound and harmonies. Gene was more of an LA-based performer, or at least associated more with the LA music scene (even while residing in Mendocino) than a Frisco artist. He performed there and recorded there but was never a part of that scene. I don't think Chris Hillman is "bugged or threatened" by the Gram Parsons mystique. It's just that Parsons receives an inordinate amount of credit for "giving birth" to country rock when, in fact, Hillman was doing that earlier and became a collaborator with Parsons. Many of the original country rockers harbor some resentment that their contributions are ignored as younger players today rush to canonize Gram Parsons. The fact is Gram was not alone nor operating in a vacuum. There was plenty of country music in the air in California (and elsewhere) in the mid to latter 60s. It's just that Gram's life fits the romantic Tennessee Williams/Hank Williams image.
Richie Unterberger (folkrocks) Thu 5 May 05 08:36
Gene Clark's most direct contribution to country-rock seemed to be as part of Dillard and Clark in the late '60s. I've always found it strange, though perhaps indicative of part of Gene's personality, that he was somehow eased out of a central position in that act. I think everyone involved in Dillard & Clark (as well as virtually all listeners) would agree that he was the most talented songwriter and singer associated with them. But by the time of their second album, it was almost as if he was a sideman in his own band. John, do you think Gene lacked the leadership skills and assertiveness necessary to be the focal point and creative engine of a band (not just Dillard & Clark, but any band he was involved with over his long career) on a long-term basis? I'm not using "assertiveness" as a negative adjective here. I think, to use examples from his most famous group, McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman all had or developed the confidence to put their ideas forth and steer them in a band situation, both within the Byrds and in their subsequent projects. But Gene Clark seemed riddled with a reticence that held him back in this regard.
John Einarson (johneinarson) Thu 5 May 05 08:54
You are correct in your assessment of Gene's reluctance as a band leader, Richie. Almost every band member he worked with throughout his career pointed to Gene's lack of assertiveness and inability to take the reins and be a leader. He was more passive aggressive. In every one of his band situations another more dominant personality would assert direction (McGuinn and Crosby, Doug Dillard, Laramy Smith, Tommy Kaye, Rick Danko) and Gene would follow until he had had enough, got frustrated and wanted to move on. Instead of taking the rudder and steering the boat in the direction he wanted to now go he would simply withdraw. His brother David pointed that out from early on in Gene's life. He certainly did that in Dillard & Clark and as a result of his withdrawing from any leadership role, their second album suffered under Dillard's direction moving the band into a more traditional/old time bluegrass outfit. If Gene had been more assertive, Dillard & Clark might have achieved far more than they did (although they became extremely influential after the fact). But that just wasn't in him and his entire career suffered. He could be stubborn, for sure, but he lacked the ability to direct his fellow players. In addition, he hated to be the one in the spotlight with all attention focused on him, and a leader needs to be able to deal with that.
Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Thu 5 May 05 09:03
It sounds like Gene Clark started ball dropping as early as New Christy Minstrels. He seems like quite a complicated case, the more John tells us about him the more complicated and puzzling Clark sounds. I'm going to have to get this book just to read about this personality of previously unimaginable personality complications. Whew what a piece of work! John did you have any clue what you were getting into when you started exploring this story? The thing that amazes me is that all the demons that plummeted his body and mind still had him lifting a few world-class tunes up for offering into at least the late 80s.
John Einarson (johneinarson) Thu 5 May 05 09:16
That Gene was able to create such a brilliant and timeless body of work despite the obstacles he had to deal with is quite remarkable. Did I know what I was getting into when I took on the project? No. Believe me, it's been quite a journey of exploration and revelation. From the feedback I've been receiving both from reviews and comments from readers, the book offers a hitherto unopened window into the often troubled psyche of a gifted musical giant. A lot of longstanding questions are answers and myths shattered. I hope you do pick up a copy of the book (and not for any commercial reasons on my part) because I think you'll find it a fascinating read.
John Einarson (johneinarson) Fri 6 May 05 06:16
Last day of my stint at the Inkwell and it's been a wonderful experience. Thanks to everyone at the Well - David, Cynthia and Hal - for getting me onboard, up and running, and to Steve Silberman who kept me on my toes with insightful questions and stimuli. It was a hoot. If you've got any questions or comments, please fire away today.
Dave Zimmer (waterbrother) Fri 6 May 05 06:52
John, your tenure on Inkwell.vue has featured wonderful thoughts and tons of information. Anyone with even a passing interest in Gene Clark should read your book -- speaking of which ... on the final pages you offer insights into the current lives of Gene Clark's sons, Kelly and Kai -- the latter trying his hand at music. Even though we're in an age where '60s musician's progeny (from Jakob Dylan to Chris Stills to Sean Ono Lennon to Rufus Wainwright) are achieving various levels of success (and lack of success), do you have any sense of whether or not Kai has what it takes to add much to the Clark musical legacy?
John Einarson (johneinarson) Fri 6 May 05 07:02
Thanks Dave. I've appreciated your postings during my stint here. Kai Clark included one of his own compositions, In My Heart, on the Not Lame tribute CD Full Circle: A Tribute to Gene Clark released in 2000 and it's a good song inspired by is father. I've heard some of his demos and he definitely has talent and sounds a bit like Gene. I recently talked with Kai and while he is still pursuing his music career, he's also at college learning a profession. Kai has always approached the music business somewhat cautiously and not as aggressively, perhaps, as some young artists might. But I think he's got it in perspective and is level-headed about a music career. He's seen the pitfalls and is careful to avoid them. I think his attitude is that music is a part of who he is and it always will be but he doesn't want to make the sacrifices his father had to make or deal with.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 6 May 05 09:49
This is one of the most content-rich inkwells I've seen.
wish you the very beat (tinymonster) Fri 6 May 05 09:52
Peter Meuleners (pjm) Fri 6 May 05 10:11
John, what's your next project?
John Einarson (johneinarson) Fri 6 May 05 10:36
Thank you! I was worried that my responses were sometimes a bit too lengthy but I must admit the questions/issues everyone has been raising have really been thought-provoking. I've been approached to consider a couple of topics for my next projects but haven't settled on anything yet. In the last two years I wrote 2 full books, a TV documentary script (on Buffy Sainte-Marie) and contributed to a couple of other books/projects so it's been quite hectic. I'd like to take a bit of time before jumping into anything. I do have a couple of pet projects I would like to tackle. One is a biography of either Richard Manuel or Rick Danko, both of The Band. My only hesitation might be that having just done a book about a deceased recording artist who lived somewhat tragically in latter years, I don't know if I want to revisit that place again. I have always wanted to do a book on Zal Yanovsky because I feel he is a vastly under rated musician (just listen to the Buffalo Springfield and you can definitely hear Zal's guitar influence) but can't seem to convince publishers.
Gary Lambert (almanac) Fri 6 May 05 11:17
John, should it ever become reality, I will be the first person camped out at the bookstore to buy that Zal Yanovsky bio! He was one of my first guitar heroes, and criminally underrated, as you say. Those lovely left-hand hammer-ons (a guitar adaptation of what the great country pianist Floyd Cramer was doing with his right-hand) were unlike anything I'd heard in rock music up to that point, and were widely emulated by many of the countryfied rockers who came later. One player who has praised Zally is Peter Buck of R.E.M. Rolling Stone did a piece in which contemporary guitar heroes were asked to name their personal icons and influences, and Buck chose Yanovsky.
John Einarson (johneinarson) Fri 6 May 05 11:27
Zal was my first rock 'n' roll hero not simply for his zany antics, cool image and hot guitar licks but the fact that besides all that, he was a Canadian rock 'n' roller. Not many of those in the Beatle era. He became an inspiration to so many of us Canadian teenagers back in '65-'66. You are absolutely correct, that little triplet you hear in so many Springfield songs like "Go and Say Goodbye" and "Expecting To Fly" is from Zal attempting to cop Floyd Cramer's distinctive piano trills. Steve Boone from the Spoonful told me when I was writing my Desperados book, We loved Floyd Cramer. All of us were major fans of somebody or other in country music. I think the Lovin Spoonful were one of the front runners in bringing country influences into rock. And Jerry Yester, who replaced Zal stated, A lot of Zallys guitar playing was based on Floyd Cramer piano licks, that little raised third he used to play a lot. He was a big fan of George Jones as well. A lot of the folk musicians were influenced by country music because country music came from folk.
Low and popular (rik) Fri 6 May 05 11:44
That Floyd Cramer lick came into the folk lexicon by way of a bunch of us learning "Last Date". Do it on a Gretsch, give that Bigsby a little shake, et voila, Neil Young.
Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 6 May 05 12:23
This has, indeed, been a rich discussion, John, and we thank you for joining us for the past two weeks. You're more than welcome to continue as long as you like, the topic will remain open for comment indefinitely.
Hal Royaltey (hal) Fri 6 May 05 12:27
As John noted above, this is the last day of his formal interview here at the Inkwell. I'd like to thank both John and Steve for a lively, fascinating two weeks - weeks which passed all too quickly. Thanks so much to both of you! The discussion is by no means over, however. Well members are invitied to continue to discuss the book and Gene Clark in this space, and the hosts will continue to post comments from those off the Well who would like to participate.
Members: Enter the conference to participate