The Byrds’ Turn It Up With A Classic Horse Tune

100 Sound Logo Final

Songs that lend a voice to the equestrian world in a way only music can.

A Tails Behind The Tunes Installment

As part of this week’s 100% Sound playlist, Top Ten Dynamite Dressage Musical Freestyle Songs, we learned that The Byrds’ classic “Turn! Turn! Turn!” makes one great song to pirouette to. But did you know that the same person that sang that song also almost brought you a country rock musical named “Gene Tryp” in the early 1970s?


It’s true! Though Byrds front man Roger McGuinn began his career on the coattails of Beatlemania, by the end of the ‘60s he was headed in a decidedly country direction. The band’s first foray into the country scene was an appearance at the Grand Ole Opry on March 15, 1968. The conservative Opry audience heckled, booed, and mocked the longhaired, hippie-looking band, but the desire to move toward an Americana sound persisted for McGuinn.

His next endeavor with the Byrds was the album “Sweetheart of the Rodeo,” also released in 1968. Recorded with significant contributions from country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” was the first album widely labeled as country-rock to be released by an internationally successful rock act. And it has proved to be a landmark work, igniting the country-rock movement in the 1970s, as well as enduring as a roadmap for many other musical movements, like outlaw country and alternative country.

The_Byrds_Chestnut_MarePerhaps it was because of these many moves toward the country-rock that Broadway impresario Jacques Levy tapped McGuinn to co-write songs for his country rock stage production of Henrik Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt” in 1969. The production was to loosely follow the storyline of Ibsen’s play, while giving it a mid-19th century, south-west America twist, and the intended title for the musical was “Gene Tryp,” an anagram of the title of Ibsen’s play. Alas, the work was never completed.

But McGuinn’s work for the ill-fated “Gene Tryp” was not without worth, and a number of the songs made their way on to The Byrd’s albums. One of those songs was none other than “Top Songs About Horses” regular “Chestnut Mare!” So next time you are immersing yourself in the horsiest songs of all time, remember that this classic was actually intended to be used during a scene in “Gene Tryp” in which the play’s eponymous hero attempts to catch and tame a wild horse.

Now that you know what a long, strange trip it was for McGuinn and his “Chestnut Mare,” take a listen to this horse classic from The Byrds again, and hear it in a whole new way!

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