Roger McGuinn seems satisfied. And he should be: After setting musical standards in rock and roll music with fellow Byrds Gene Clark, David Crosby, Gram Parsons and Clarence White, McGuinn -- who got his start working with such folk luminaries as the Limeliters and Chad Mitchell Trio -- has quietly come full circle.
When he performs Thursday night at the Auraria campus as part of a teaching visit sponsored by CU-Denver's College of Arts and Media, he'll primarily be singing folk songs. On a personal mission to keep alive the traditional music -- what he feels is the wellspring of storytelling in song -- he's recorded sixty or more songs for Internet release on MP3.com over the last few years and is now putting the finishing touches on a soon-to-be-released CD that includes sea chanteys, ballads, chain-gang songs and the like, recorded informally with Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Judy Collins and other folk legends. "I started to worry about who's going to be doing folk music," McGuinn notes. "Folk music is not played on radio, and the old guard are all in their eighties. Who will carry on the tradition?" Apparently, Roger McGuinn is going to do it.
McGuinn demurs at the suggestion that he's some kind of folk-rock godhead. And, truthfully, that designation doesn't fit his low-key style one bit. Never mind all the once-young guitarists who picked up the instrument in the '60s, bewitched by the ringing tones of McGuinn's now-legendary Rickenbacker twelve-string -- he'd still rather spend time in the studio, making and mixing music, than hold court as a member of the rock-music pantheon. That's for someone else.
"I'm pretty much a folksinger now," McGuinn says, though he admits he still mixes the old Byrds classics his fans clamor for with the traditional tunes he now prefers to preserve and perform. "I'm not really generating much new material. I just don't exactly feel comfortable about being a rocker these days."