The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs: #22: “Lover of the Bayou”

“Lover of the Bayou” (3:39)
Written by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy
Produced by Jim Dickson
From “Untitled,” Columbia, September 14, 1970

The Byrds started out by creating the “folk-rock” genre, a hybrid of Bob Dylan folk and Beatles rock ‘n’ roll. They quickly explored other musical styles, pioneering jazz-rock, raga-rock, psychedelic rock, and finally settling into country-rock. But the latter-day Byrds lineup could also straight-up rock ‘n’ roll as they did with song #22 in our Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown, “Lover of the Bayou.”

Whereas the original incarnation of the Byrds (1965-1968) was well-known for its indifference to rehearsing and the resulting poor quality of its live performances, the latter-day lineup of Roger McGuinn (guitar), Clarence White (guitar), Skip Battin (bass), and Gene Parsons (drums) earned a reputation as a hard working, audience pleasing, quality touring band.

McGuinn had co-written a number of songs with Broadway impresario, Jaques Levy, that were intended for a musical that never materialized. With the fresh material, the Byrds decided to release a double-album comprised of a studio disc and a live disc to show off the band’s in-concert chops.

The opener to the live disc, “Lover of the Bayou,” was one of the McGuinn-Levy tunes. It’s a pretty good rocker with Clarence putting his Telecaster through the paces, augmented by Battin’s bass lines, Parsons’ awkward overfills, and McGuinn providing inconspicuous rhythm on his twelve-string Rick. Some wondered if McGuinn had been listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival before writing this “gumbo rock” tune with its nonsensical lyrics. McGuinn later stated his inspiration was Malcolm “Dr. John” Rebennack. “Lover of the Bayou” was recorded at the Felt Forum in New York City on March 1st, 1970 and the hard-drivin’ rocker served as the opener to many a Byrds concert.

The “Untitled” album was easily the best of the five post-Sweetheart, McGuinn-White Byrds LPs and we’ll be visiting the album once more in our Top 25 countdown.

19 thoughts on “The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs: #22: “Lover of the Bayou”

  1. Good write-up, Tom. I liked the song quite a bit. And there’s still 21 you regard as better? Looking forward to the next entry.

    Regarding the lyrics (which I looked up), strange to us, but I imagine those on the Bayou understand it. Regarding, “I cooked the bat in the gumbo pan, Drank the blood from a rusty can, Turned me into the hunger man …” Um, yeah, good luck with that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, David! The Byrds were definitely not known for being a straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll band, but they demonstrated they were capable with this tune. This was a good, rousing concert opener and crowd pleaser.

      According to one of my Byrds books, “Byrds: Requiem for the Timeless,” “Lover of the Bayou” was one of the tunes intended for the “Gene Tryp” musical, which was set during the Civil War. Gene travels all over the South trying to smuggle guns to the Confederacy. In the “Lover of the Bayou” scene, Gene meets Big Cat, a bayou witch doctor who attempts to frighten the protagonist by describing his alleged supernatural powers.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. RE: lyrics

      I find these lyrics websites sometimes get semi-indecipherable lyrics wrong and it gets repeated by other sites. I always thought it was “Turned me into the horror man…” which would make more sense.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Whoops! One more reply! Ranking the #25 thru #11 songs is like throwing darts at a dartboard. “Lover of the Bayou” could have been #11 if I had done my ranking on a different day. But my top ten are pretty solid.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lisa Beth! Oh, yes! We have some very good ones coming, including 5 of the band’s 7 Top 40 hits and some mellow deep cuts.

      Doing good, thanks, and I hope all is well with you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Responding to your comment: Sounds like a busy day with getting rid of the old paint and things! Was homeschooling and now going to do more homeschooling and then trying to finish a book for a discipleship my wife and I are in engaged in this afternoon in 2 hours from now…then later going to call a pastor that’s been wanting to improve his preaching of God’s Word. So busy day today!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always forget you’re originally from Louisiana!
      Thanks for listening! The Byrds were generally known for their easy-listening folk-rock/country-rock sound but they turned up the volume for this one.

      Like

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