A deliberate step back in time takes place at Murphy’s Irish Pub on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 5:30 p.m. The Santa Rosa based folk-rock band known as The Bluebyrds rolls in to play those great songs from about 1965-69. It was a time of long hair, fringe jackets and acoustic and electric guitars playing a new, sometimes jangly sound.
The four-piece band is fronted by Tom Richardson, the rhythm guitar player and one of the vocalists in the band. He is joined by veteran Sonoma County musicians Linda Hutchinson on bass guitar, Rick Minervini on drums and Steven Nank on lead guitars and vocals.
Together they play songs not from a single artist or band but an entire music genre, that of folk rock. For many of us, these songs provided a good bit of the soundtrack of our lives, and perhaps even our children. You can expect to hear the Bluebyrds play the compositions of The Byrds, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bob Dylan, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Buffalo Springfield, The Beau Brummels and more.
Richardson phoned in the band’s story from his home in Santa Rosa. He indicated that the band has been together since 2017, although all members have been associated with other local and regional acts. A mutual love for the folk-rock genre cemented this particular foursome.
Guitars and gear are always something musicians carefully consider. Scratch that, think about constantly. Richardson plays a couple very cool guitars, something that always catches the eye of guitar players in the audience. Eschewing the big guitar brands, Richardson plays a Guild D25 and a Gretsch White Falcon.
“The Guild,” Richardson explained, “was given to me by an old band mate of his who bought it new at StanRoy Music in Santa Rosa in about 1976.” The guitar was bestowed upon him because Richardson lost his home, and all his instruments, in the Tubbs Fire. His old music buddy said, “Here, you’ll need this to keep you going for a while.”
The Gretsch had been a life-long dream guitar for Richardson. Back in the old days, Neil Young and Steve Stills both played White Falcons when they were both in Buffalo Springfield.
“I’ve always wanted to play a White Falcon through a Fender Twin Reverb (amplifier). And, finally, my dream has come true, that is exactly what I’m playing,” Richardson said, somewhat astoundedly.
Richardson said, “It has always been my favorite music. I still am a huge Springfield fan. Byrds, Spoonful…it’s really the folk-rock that I keep coming back to. It’s my go to music.”
“I tend to like more melodic music. With harmony. And that’s what folk rock is all about,” Richardson said.
He mentioned that the first song he learned was “House of the Rising Sun” (1964, the Animals). “My cousin Jim taught me that song, and that was it. After I learned that song, I drove my dad crazy because I would never do my homework. I’d just go upstairs and play my guitar,” Richardson said. Some would call that six-string destiny.
Folk rock emerged in the wake of what some people called the “folk music scare” of the early 1960’s. Upstarts like Dylan and the Byrds began playing well known folk songs with electric instruments and a new thing began. The Beatles, Stones and other bands from the British Invasion had a firm grasp of rock and roll, but some bands in the US began to embrace this folk-rock hybrid. When Dylan “went electric” on July 26, 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival, the horse sprinted from the barn with an amp on its back and never returned.
While sales of acoustic guitars soared during the early ‘60’s, electric guitars sales surpassed them in the late ‘60’s. The twelve-string guitar became an ever present sound. Harmony vocals became popular, a feature of folk and even bluegrass music, and became a foundational vocal sound in folk-rock.
The songwriters also began to become more introspective and current. “My baby does the hanky panky” gave way to “There’s something happen here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.”
Look for the Bluebyrds to play two solid sets of those superb songs at their show at Murphy’s. For what it’s worth, they start their show at 7:30 p.m.