This band, which featured three former founding members of the Byrds, was not so much a reunion but an extension of what the original band had accomplished. Many felt since it was the end of the '70s and the height of the Southern California rock era, the band was more in tune with the music of the Eagles than the Byrds.
The project came when McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman attempted a triple bill tour with their respective solo bands in Europe in 1977. That lead to Hillman and Clark touring as an acoustic duo and finally in 1979, McGuinn, Clark & Hillman. The album had a minor hit ("Don't You Write Her Off") and led to a successful tour. By 1980 Clark's health failed (brought on by years of excessive drinking) and he only participated in portions of a second M-C-H album. On the third outing, it was simply McGuinn & Hillman.
Gene Clark was the second eldest of 13 children raised in a close family in Tipton, Missouri. He learned guitar at age 9, and soon was teaching himself songs by Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, and the Everly Brothers. After high school, he moved to Kansas where he sang in a local club act; he was asked to join the New Christy Minstrels in August of 1963.
Six months later, while living in Los Angeles, he and Jim (later renamed Roger) McGuinn (who had also been approached to join the New Christy Minstrels at one point) decided to form a band that would be the American equivalent of the Beatles. Whether their group, which would be named the Byrds (and also include singer/guitarist David Crosby, bassist Chris Hillman, and drummer Michael Clarke) ended up being the U.S. answer to the Fab Four is highly debated, but they did become one of the most popular and influential rock acts of the '60s and early '70s.
When worldwide fame descended on the band, problems developed between Clark and the others. Clark had a crippling fear of flying, which he tried to compensate with drug and alcohol use. In the end, that inability to continue touring would force him to leave the Byrds in 1967. McGuinn would then take control of the Byrds, and after the departure of David Crosby in 1968 to form CSN, also send the band in a more country-pop direction. He would keep the Byrds alive until 1972, and then after a sole studio LP reunion of all five original members in 1973, would retire the band name for a solo career.
Clark, after leaving the Byrds in 1967, would next form one of the earliest country rock bands (Dillard & Clark) and then go on to record and release nearly a half-dozen critically acclaimed—but commercially disappointing—solo albums between 1967 and 1977. His solo career would always suffer by his inability to fly and effectively tour. His drug and alcohol use would also increase dramatically, and in May of 1991, he died at age 46.