Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Flip Sides of The Byrds' Singles: Pretty Boy Floyd, Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man

Pretty Boy Floyd
For the 14th single, Gram Parsons was now clearly exerting a massive influence in the band. But the man with the plan was Chris Hillman. Hillman was firmly ensconced as a primary songwriter in the band and it was he who began pushing the country sound and many critical personnel changes, including using Clarence White as a studio musician and bringing in Gram Parsons to replace David Crosby. Hillman gets songwriting credit for the A-Side, I Am A Pilgrim (Though we agree with the commenter below, it's a traditional song that predates the Byrds). For the Flip-Side Gram Parsons pushed the Woody Guthrie number, Pretty Boy Floyd. Because of contractual issues, Gram Parsons could not sing the lead, leaving Roger McGuinn to more than ably handle the duties. John Hartford plays banjo on the number. I'm unsure of who plays the fiddle and the mandolin. 
Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man
The only 45 from The Byrds to show Gram Parsons name as a composer didn't even feature Parsons. By the time Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man was recorded and released in January of 1969, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons had flown the coop and reunited with ex-Byrds, Michael Clarke to form the Flying Burrito Brothers. That left McGuinn to do the lead and the harmony singing. Guitar wizard Clarence White takes over lead guitar, John York was on drums and Gene Parsons picked up the pace at drums.


  1. I always understood I Am A Pilgrim to be a Merle Travis composition, or if not that then a traditional song.

    "The Byrds" starts getting really confusing towards the end. Props for McGuinn keeping the faith.

    1. I fixed the text to show the song as clearly a traditional composition, even though Hillman is credited. Yes, it got confusing in the late 60s with The Byrds transitions. By this time, McGuinn's trademark guitar is nowhere to be found. The famous harmonies are gone. That leaves one to ask, is it really The Byrds?