Last modified:
Sat, 14 Mar 2015 15:58:26 +1300

The Origins of Folk Rock

Folk-Rock appeared in 1963-1964, at a time when the world of music was enjoying what could be described as 'hybrid vigour'. From America had come Rock'n'Roll, the Blues and the earnest folk music of the protest song. This crossed to Britain, where a generation embraced the American music.

Lonnie Donegan, a Scottish jazz player, took the American folk, added a little rock'n'roll, and created 'skiffle'. Skiffle wasn't profound music, but it was fun, it was easy to play, it was cheap to play, and it inspired thousands of British kids to give it a go; including John Lennon and friends.

When Roger McGuinn heard the Beatles, he, like thousands of others, wanted to be just like them. He also heard the folk music elements (skiffle derived) in pop. With a couple of like-minded folk singers he formed the Byrds, and looked for the right song to launch them to stardom.

The Byrds found it in a Bob Dylan out-take. They changed the time signature, added session musicians from The Beach Boys and a Bach inspired intro, and "Mr Tambourine Man" announced the birth of folk-rock.

So where did it come from? From everywhere: from folk and jazz and gospel, from pop and the blues and tin-pan alley, from the melting pot that resulted from the 'British invasion' of the 1960's.

The smallest influence though was British folk music. Folk-rock was basically American folk and British pop. The influence of British/Celtic folk had yet to be heard.