This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #266, on the subject of Minstrel Barry McGuire.
I met Barry McGuire thrice; I’ve mentioned that, and I’ll tell you about it, but his history goes back before mine.
Barry might be the first successful secular artist to become a leading contemporary Christian musician. He was a member of the successful folk group The New Christy Minstrels–not a founding member, but co-wrote their first hit, Green, Green, on which his characteristic voice can be identified on lead vocals. He went on to appear on stage in the Broadway hit musical Hair, but was best known for his single–which knocked The Beatles‘ Help! out of the number one spot–Eve of Destruction.
In 1973 he recorded his first Christian album, Seeds, on Myrrh Records. I was aware of the album, and am sure I heard it, but don’t recall any titles on the track list. His signature song Happy Road, recorded in several versions on several disks, was originally released on Lighten Up in 1974 (and the backup vocals might sound familiar, but we’ll get to them).
His most famous studio album was undoubtedly Cosmic Cowboy, whose title song rose on the Contemporary Christian music charts when it was released. I think most of us didn’t know what it was–Rap was brand new and at that time exclusively black, so a song in which the lead singer talked all the way through had more in common with Country/Western ballads, but the heavily-orchestrated disco-like background music was incongruous with that genre.
About the same time he got a lot of airplay of the title song of a children’s album, Bullfrogs & Butterflies.
I always found that Barry’s studio work did not do him justice. I met him at a concert somewhere near Boston in probably 1976 or 77, and he impressed me by taking time to talk with me about music ministry; that’s been recounted in web log post #163: So You Want to Be a Christian Musician, and it inspired me to write my song Mountain, Mountain (Barry is the mountain, not just because he is a large and imposing person and personality). In March, 1977, I opened for him at a Gordon College banquet we called the March Thaw, but was unable to play the song for him then, and then when I was at the radio station he stopped by one day when he was singing in the area and talked with me on the air, but I didn’t have a guitar (and silly me I should have sung it for him a capella, but I didn’t think of it and didn’t think I would never see him again).
He appeared on the Keith Green tribute album First Love, and reportedly retired but returned to tour with Terry Talbot. I find no report of him since 2016, but no obituary either.
We’ll have more of Barry after the next entry, because his music for a time was intertwined with another band who recorded with him numerous times but is much better known for its own career.
The series to this point has included:
- #232: Larry Norman, Visitor;
- #234: Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
- #236: Reign of the Imperials;
- #238: Love Song by Love Song.
- #240: Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
- #242: Disciple Andraé Crouch.
- #244: Missed The Archers.
- #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
- #248: The Hawkins Family.
- #250: Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
- #252: Petra Means Rock.
- #254: Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
- #256: Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
- #258: British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
- #260: Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
- #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
- #264: How About Danny Taylor?.