The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs: #19, “Bugler”

“Bugler” (3:06)
Written by Larry Murray
Produced by The Byrds
From “Farther Along,” Columbia Records, November 17, 1971

The Byrds’ tenth album, “Byrdmaniax,” had been an artistic disaster to put it mildly. Producer Terry Melcher’s heavy-handed orchestral and choral overdubs were intended to salvage the weak material, but only added to the misery. In an attempt to right the floundering ship, Roger McGuinn and his hired hands, Clarence White, Skip Battin, and Gene Parsons entered CBS’s London studio while on tour, just one month after the release of “Byrdmaniax,” to record and self-produce their next album, “Farther Along.” However, the McGuinn-White Byrds had very little left in the creative tank at that point and “Farther Along,” the band’s last album, turned out to be a disappointment as well.

Nevertheless, there was one gem in the mix and that was song #19 on our Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown, “Bugler,” written by Larry Murray. Murray had been a member of the Scottsville Squirrel Barkers bluegrass band along with future Byrd and Flying Burrito, Chris Hillman, and future Flying Burrito and Eagle, Bernie Leadon. Clarence White brought Murray’s poignant tune to the Byrds.

White recorded his lead vocal track at the initial London recording sessions, but realized he had a great song on his hands and re-recorded his vocals and added the mandolin a month later at a follow-up session at Columbia’s Hollywood studios. That’s multi-instrumentalist, Gene Parsons, contributing the emotive pedal steel guitar licks.

Buglar is a sadly sweet song about a boy and his dog. The hound dies after being hit by a vehicle on the highway and the boy’s mom consoles her son, telling him Jesus took Bugler to Heaven. Sketchy theology aside, this tune is guaranteed to leave a lump in your throat. Sadly, Clarence White himself was struck down by a drunk driver in July 1973, while loading his music gear into his car after a gig, two years after “Bugler” was recorded.

Postscript: I’ve listened to Clarence sing about Bugler the Bluetick Hound for forty-eight years, but didn’t know that the Bluetick Coonhound (see photo above) was an actual dog breed until I researched this post.

20 thoughts on “The Byrds’ Top 25 Songs: #19, “Bugler”

    1. Thanks, Lisa Beth! “Bugler” never got any radio play so only Byrds geeks are aware of it.

      Next week we’re going all the way back to the bands’ first album and their popular folk-rock phase so get ready for some jingle-jangle.

      Thanks! and have a good week, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. A good song, indeed, Tom. True, not solid theology, but it’s certainly what would be told to a child. Of course, very sad hearing about the death of Clarence White. I certainly hope he knew Jesus before meeting his sad and untimely end.

    Thank you for another great write-up. I’m enjoying these … kind of wish you ran them 2 a week, but I’ll be patient!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, David! I appreciate the encouragement and support! My wife insists dogs are going to Heaven, but I always ask her what about rats, snakes, and mosquitoes?

      Clarence was born into a French-Canadian, very Catholic family, but he sang and/or played a lot of country gospel tunes so perhaps…

      Already have the next two Byrds posts in the can, the next one from the jingle-jangle folk-rock debut album, followed by a deep cut from the psychedelia period.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, from what I can see, pets don’t go to Heaven. I think it’s an emotional argument mostly, but wouldn’t be disappointed if somehow beloved pets were up there with us. (But I doubt it.)

        Looking forward to the jingle-jangle!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t believe pets will be in Heaven either, but I don’t argue the point “too much” with my wife.

        RE: jingle jangle
        The Byrds definitely had a very distinguishable trademark sound in their early years with McGuinn’s chiming twelve-string Rickenbacker. Very enjoyable.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Answering your question: My Wednesday is going good! Was on Social media a lot today but now I’m trying to get some reading before I go see Dr. Lisle teaching tonight in LA area! That would be a treat for my family and I!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: Byrd knowledge
      Most people pulled an LP out of the sleeve, put it on the record player, and just enjoyed the music, but weirdo me had to turn it into rocket science.

      RE: The Flying Burrito Brothers!
      Yup, such a great name. The FBBs introduced me to bluegrass music in 1973, which I’ve enjoyed all these years. Strange that a Rust Belt suburbian would like bluegrass.

      Glad you enjoyed the song, although it is a sad one.

      Liked by 1 person

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