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BARRY MCGUIRE: 1960s pop singer tells of music, faith experience
Barry McGuire told an audience of Ceres Rotary Club members Friday that John Lennon's assessment that his hit song, "Eve of Destruction" as a "negative" song was an accurate one. McGuire admits that his song was negative, he felt, because it "didn't have any answers." Later in life he said he stumbled upon the answer in Jesus Christ.

The former member of New Christy Minstrels and 1960s folk recording artist spoke about his musical career and Christian conversion before a gathering of the club at Jenny's Family Dining. McGuire came at the request of longtime friend Lonny Davis of Ceres. The now bald 74-year-old McGuire brought along his guitar to perform some of the familiar tunes as he gave his life story. Among them was "Green Green," a song he wrote for the Minstrels and which climbed to #14 on the charts. He said after singing it about 3,000 times he got tired of the song - and tired of the group - and left it in early 1965. Several months after his departure, McGuire's last song with the Minstrels was released, that being "Chim Chim Cheree," a popular song from the movie, Mary Poppins.

McGuire, who performed in front of President Lyndon Johnson at the White House, found himself financially broke. He told the Ceres Rotarians that he remembered walking down Hollywood Boulevard, feeling like a "nobody, a loser" but then hearing "Green, Green" playing inside a music store and "Chim Chim Cheree" in a car that pulled up.

"I thought, 'This is a scene from a movie, man! This is not happening!"

He later found work opening for the Byrds, then recorded "Eve of Destruction," written by P.F. Sloan and selling over a million copies.

"They called it a protest song but I never thought of it as a protest song. The media always has to label everything. I wasn't protesting. ... I considered it a societal diagnostic."

McGuire told of meeting Mama Cass Elliott and Michelle and John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas before they became big. After hearing them sing "California Dreamin'" McGuire got them into a recording studio to record it with him. McGuire was later pulled aside and told that they wanted the song to be released on their first album. McGuire said, "Sure, it's your song" and then said they could buy "the grass" - McGuire was a heavy pot user in those days - when the song made money.

About 20 years later, McGuire's son was listening to the song and only heard the left side of the track and noticed his father's voice on the first line, "All the leaves are brown..." It dawned on McGuire that "they sang karaoke to my track."

The song was a tremendous hit but McGuire got no credit and none of the money it generated.

Years later the Mamas and the Papas later recorded "Creeque Alley," in which they mention McGuire in the line, "And after every number they'd pass the hat McGuinn and McGuire's just a-getting higher in L.A., you know where that's at." He confessed to the Ceres crowd that he still has no clue where "at" was.

McGuire segued into how he became a Christian, spending a lot of time talking about his view of God, life and faith. Once while entering the Whisky a Go-Go club, McGuire passed by a man chained and padlocked to a large cross. The musician wanted to look away but their eyes locked. "Pure 'I love you' came out of his eyes," said McGuire. "That was the first time I saw Christ in another man."

All McGuire could say to the man was, "Whazz happenin'?" and the man replied, "Jesus."

He pondered the encounter and why people worldwide used the name of Jesus as a curse word. In 1971 he picked up a copy of "Good News for Modern Man" and felt he had been duped into picking it put for it was the New Testament of the Bible with a different cover. He threw it down. Later it resurfaced with the wind flapping the pages back and forth. McGuire began thinking about God since 16 of his close friends died early deaths because of drugs and sexually transmitted diseases. For the first time he stopped looking at Christianity as a religion and looked "at the man himself."

"This is the answer to the eve of destruction," he said.

Since then he's made a living with Christian music. In 1973, he joined the Myrrh label and released his album Seeds. In 1974, McGuire released his second Christian album Lighten Up, which included a remake of "Eve of Destruction."

After touring with 2nd Chapter of Acts, in 1978 McGuire released a top-selling children's album Bullfrogs and Butterflies (part of the Agapeland series) for the Birdwing label. The same year he played the apostle Pete in a musical "The Witness" in England, Scotland, and Wales.

McGuire did some movie work and appeared in the 1967 film, The President's Analyst with James Coburn as the character, "Old Wrangler," and in Werewolves on Wheels in 1971. He also starred for a year in the Broadway musical Hair.