While Barry McGuire is known as a thoughtful contemporary Christian performer, he originally carved out his reputation as a 1960s folk musician. Between 1962 and 1965 he was a member of the New Christy Minstrels, where his distinctive lead vocals graced hits like "Green, Green." In 1965 as the folk revival morphed into folk rock, McGuire charted with the smash protest hit, "Eve of Destruction." Following this number-one record, he became a leading figure on the West Coast music scene, recording albums and helping discover the Mamas and the Papas. As the 1960s spilled into the 1970s, however, McGuire's increasingly hectic lifestyle and drug addiction led him to re-evaluate his life and seek the elusive answers he sought during the questioning 1960s.
McGuire was born on October 15, 1935, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and following his parent's divorce, moved to California with his mother. When she married a construction worker, the family moved after each building project was completed, forcing McGuire to change schools frequently. At 14 he worked his first job on a fishing boat in San Pedro, and at 16, he lied about his age to join the U.S. Navy. After returning late to his post after a date and being threatened with a stint in the brig (an on-ship prison), however, McGuire showed the U.S. Navy his birth certificate and received a discharge.
McGuire lived an itinerant lifestyle through the remainder of the 1950s, drifting from job to job. He got caught up in the "folk boom" of the late 1950s and by 1960 had bought a guitar. He played his first set of gigs at a Santa Monica bar, where he met the singer Peggy Lee. She promised to help him get started in the business and had her manager, Fred Briskin, book the neophyte folk singer at the Ye Little Club in Beverly Hills. McGuire's debut, a 45-rpm single called "The Tree," was released in 1961. Shortly thereafter McGuire formed a duo with Barry Kane, but before the new team could get a proper start, both received an offer they couldn't refuse: joining the New Christy Minstrels.
Randy Sparks formed the Christys in 1962, creating a wholesome choral group with commercial potential. Although critics were skeptical about the sweet harmonies of the all-American troupe, folk music listeners loved them. With McGuire often serving as the lead vocalist, the Christys recorded several chart-topping albums between 1962 and 1964. McGuire also wrote "Green, Green," the group's first and biggest hit. In 1964, however, the folk revival collapsed when the Beatles landed in the United States, making the Christys sound seemed old-fashioned. In January of 1965, following a buyout by two businessmen, McGuire left the group with no future prospects in mind.
Like many other young people in the mid 1960s, he began to look for deeper answers about life and social problems. "I left the Christys really in search of some answers," McGuire told Richie Unterberger in Turn! Turn! Turn! "If something is real for me, then I can do it. But I can't really pretend I can do it if it's not." For the next several months, he found himself out of work and broke, when a chance encounter with Lou Adler (who later managed the Mamas and the Papas) in April of 1965 led to another opportunity. Adler was looking for a singer to record new songs written by his in-house composer, P.F. Sloan.
In July of that year McGuire recorded a partial version of "Eve of Destruction" before running out of time. Adler said they could finish it later and no one involved thought any further about it. By accident, however, a promoter named Ernie Farrell picked up the 45-rpm demo from Adler's desk and by the following Monday, without anyone realizing what had happened, "Eve of Destruction" hit the radio. The song, released just as the Vietnam War was heating up, struck a raw nerve with listeners and became, according to Unterberger, "the most successful, and notorious, folk-rock-protest single of all time." Fellow musicians claimed it was too commercial; others said that the realistic lyrics would frighten children; political conservatives called it unpatriotic—and a group called the Spokemen recorded "The Dawn of Correction."
In August, amid a flurry of contention, Dunhill released the LP Eve of Destruction. Both the album and the single continued to climb the charts, and although "Eve of Destruction" eventually reached number one, a strong backlash muted McGuire's future opportunities. Insiders believed that radio deejays were resentful because the song sold briskly before receiving a great deal of radio play, meaning that the deejays had been bypassed. "[T]heir feeling was that I was like a loose cannon in the record industry," McGuire told Unterberger, "and they wanted to get me back in line. Rather than a career maker, 'Eve of Destruction' turned into a career-breaker."
McGuire continued nonetheless, recording a second album titled This Precious Time. During the sessions he also invited Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, and John and Michelle Phillips to the studio to meet Lou Adler. This musical quartet, soon to be known as the Mamas & the Papas, sang backup on McGuire's album, including the first version of "California Dreamin'," which McGuire had planned to as his next single. He deferred to the Mamas & the Papas, however, since Phillips had written the song. (The Mamas & the Papas hit gold with the single the following year.) McGuire's own singles, "Child of Our Times" and "This Precious Time," went nowhere. Following the release of The World's Last Private Citizen in 1967 the Dunhill label dropped him. Although his music career had hit a temporary snag, he found work as an actor, appearing in the film The President's Analyst and the musical Hair.
For the Record . . .
Born on October 15, 1935, in Oklahoma City, OK; children: Ever (daughter; with Patty Wilson).
Joined the New Christy Minstrels, 1962; wrote "Green, Green" with Randy Sparks, 1963; left New Christy Minstrels, released number-one hit, "Eve of Destruction," recorded This Precious Time, 1965; released World's Last Private Citizen, 1967, and McGuire and the Doctor, 1971; converted to Christianity and recorded a series of contemporary Christian albums, 1973–.
Addresses: Record company— Universal Records, 1755 Broadway, 7th Fl., New York, NY 10019, phone: (212) 373-0600, website: http://www.universalrecords.com. Website— Barry McGuire Official Website: http://www. barrymcguire.com.
In 1971 following years of drug abuse, McGuire became a Christian. "I was looking for the answer to the 'Eve of Destruction,'" he told Rory McClannahan in the Albuquerque Journal. "I didn't want to be a Christian, I didn't even like them." After reading about the life of Christ, however, he realized "that was the answer to the whole thing." McGuire's personal revelation also led to a musical change: in 1973 he released Seeds on the Myrrh label, the first in a series of contemporary Christian albums. "It's honest folk music," wrote Joe Viglione in All Music Guide, "and who would have thought that the gravelly voice which ruled the radio airwaves in 1965 would come back as an honest-toGod folksy Jesus freak?" In 2002 McGuire, after 50 years on the road, decided to quit touring. "I've been doing this a long time," he told McClannahan, "and I want to spend some time home for a while."
Barry Here and Now, Horizon, 1962.
The Barry McGuire Album, Horizon, 1963.
Eve of Destruction, Dunhill, 1965, reissued, MCA, 1985.
This Precious Time, Dunhill, 1965.
The World's Last Private Citizen, Dunhill, 1967.
McGuire and the Doctor, Ode, 1971.
Seeds, Myrrh, 1973.
Narnia, Myrrh, 1974.
Lighten Up, Myrrh, 1974.
Jubilation, Myrrh, 1975.
To the Bride, Myrrh, 1975.
C'mon Along, Sparrow, 1976.
Jubilation Too, Myrrh, 1976.
Have You Heard, Sparrow, 1977.
Cosmic Cowboy, Sparrow, 1979.
Pilgrim, Word, 1989.
Powell, Mark Allan, Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music, Hendrickson, 2002.
Unterberger, Richie, Turn! Turn! Turn!: The '60s Folk-Rock Revolution, Backbeat, 2002.
Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM), February 15, 2002, p. 13.
"Barry McGuire," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 15, 2003).
Barry McGuire Official Website, http://www.barrymcguire.com (November 26, 2003).
—Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.
"McGuire, Barry." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 21, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mcguire-barry
"McGuire, Barry." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved March 21, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mcguire-barry
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