The entertainment on-board the Viking Sun is first class and designed to appeal to a variety of tastes, and we promise to share more highlights about the shows and performers later in our voyage. But we just can’t wait to provide you with the most exciting entertainment we’ve seen anywhere on the high seas! For this first leg of our trip (Los Angeles to Auckland) we’ve been joined by a REAL ROCK STAR! When we first saw the notice in the Viking Daily, we thought it was some kind of “tribute band,” but we were delighted to learn that our first Celebrity Guest Lecturer was, indeed, Roger McGuinn himself! Roger and his lovely wife, Camilla, are guests on the Sun from Los Angeles to Auckland. He presented four lectures/concerts/Q&A sessions to enthusiastic, packed theaters, and we were front and center for all of them!
His first session took us on a musical journey from the folk scene of Chicago to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jim McGuinn, later known as Roger, was inspired to learn guitar by Elvis. He studied at the Old Town School of Folk Music in his home town of Chicago, and toured and performed folk music with the Limeliters, Chad Mitchell Trio, and Bobby Darin as a guitarist and banjo player. After touring with Bobby Darin, he moved to New York to work as a songwriter for Darin’s publishing company. In 1963 he and Frank Gari co-wrote the song “Beach Ball,” and performed it with Darin as the City Surfers. It was there that he heard the Beatles and began playing folk songs to a rock beat in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village, but the folk purists didn’t buy it. He moved to Los Angeles to work at the Troubadour, and it was after an opening set for Hoyt Axton that Gene Clark approached Roger with praise for his new musical blend. They started writing songs together in the folk den of the Troubadour, and it wasn’t long before David Crosby joined them, adding his unique approach to harmony. They recruited conga player Michael Clarke to join them because he looked like two of the Rolling Stones, and soon mandolin player Chris Hillman joined them to play bass guitar. During one Thanksgiving dinner the band was contemplating various names, and settled on the name “Byrds,” using what they thought was an English spelling. And in 1965 they recorded their first number one hit “Mr. Tambourine Man.” In 1968 McGuinn and Hillman hired Gram Parsons and headed to Nashville where they recorded the critically acclaimed “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” McGuinn disbanded the Byrds in 1973 to pursue his dream of a solo career. He re-joined Clark and Hillman in 1978 for three albums, and in 1981 he decided it was time to return to his folk roots and began touring solo acoustic. Arista records released “Back from Rio” in 1991, a rock album that included his friends Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Elvis Costello, Chris Hillman, David Crosby, Michael Penn, and John Jorgensen. And also in 1991, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Byrds. Since 1995, McGuinn returned to his folk music roots and began recording and uploading a series of traditional folk songs to his website, where they are available for free.
His presentation was engaging, fun, and sprinkled with video clips, images, and songs. His voice is still the same as we remember, and his musical talent is off the charts! And he graciously waited around after the session to autograph CDs for very enthusiastic fans.
His second lecture took a “deep dive” into the history of the Byrds, discussing their journey to stardom and the various artists and generes they influenced. He noted that during their first “live” appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, they lip synched and most viewers didn’t notice that the instruments weren’t plugged in and they didn’t have microphones. Throughout it all, he was very genuine and humble, always recognizing those who influenced him, as well as those they impacted. This presentation included video clips of many fellow Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees as well as songs that were featured in TV and film, ending with “Jesus is Just Alright” in The Ballad of Easy Rider.
The third presentation was very special. McGuinn took an hour of Q&A from the audience, patiently answering every question, some twice! A sample of questions follows:
Q: Who is the funniest person you ever performed with? A: Dave Barry
Q: Who were your biggest influencers: A: Elvis Presley (the reason I learned guitar) and Pete Seeger
Q: Were you friends with Bob Dylan? A: Yes, we used to shoot hoops at my house in Malibu
Q: What advice would you give to a young, aspiring musician? A: Take control of your own publishing
Q: Who were the nicest musicians? A: George Harrison, Tom Petty, Clarence White, Pete Seeger
Q: Did you ever meet Elvis? A: No, I came close once. I was visiting with the Beatles and they were going to go meet Elvis. I asked if I could come along, but they didn’t think it would be appropriate to bring a surprise guest
Q: Who was your best friend in the business? A: Clarence White
Q: What was the best time of your career? A: Now is the time I’m happiest. We’ve whittled it down to what we enjoy, and we enjoy doing this! (And he showed a video of the modest van they use to travel back roads throughout the USA)
He ended this session with a lovely tune he wrote one day when he was thinking about his friend, Tom Petty.
The fourth and final session was titled “Songs of the Sea – A Tribute to the Golden Age of Sail.” It was a lovely exploration of the history of 19th-century sailing songs with video, stories, and music. It was a fun way to end his lecture series, and the audience enthusiastically sang along.
So of course we’re saving the best for last! Whenever we would see Roger and Camilla on board or on shore, they were open, friendly, and totally approachable. So one afternoon (it happened to be Denise’s birthday) we saw them relaxing at the Living Room Bar. Denise told him it was her birthday, and he graciously agreed to a quick picture…adding a sincere “Happy Birthday!” Swoon!