Ronson + McGuinn = Thunder + Byrd
by Peter Crescenti
Mick Ronson, former guitarist for David Bowie's Spiders From Mars and Mott the Hoople, has formed a band with the ex-leader of the Byrds, Roger McGuinn. The two guitarists are joined by a pair of Bob Dylan discoveries, bassist Rob Stoner and drummer Howie Wyeth, and pedal steel guitarist Dave Mansfield. The quintet is the same group that backed Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour.
Ronson, who has severed his ties with singer Ian Hunter (Back Pages CIRCUS 128), met McGuinn for the first time only last summer, when Dylan invited both musicians to join his tour. The Revue's electric folk and mellow country rock was difficult for Ronson at first, but he says the instruction of McGuinn and some of the other musicians intrigued him so much that he picked up his axe and practiced at home for the first time in years.
'It'll be more of a fun thing,' says Ronson, relaxing in his new SoHo apartment. 'At the moment, everybody's thinking pretty much alike. Some of it sounds really hot. It could be a knockout band, you know.'
The quintet, which will call itself Thunderbird, already has a workable repertoire of original material, mainly written by McGuinn and Ronson. Rob Stoner contributes an occasional song, and each member of the band will be singing.
'We won't be scraping the barrel of the past', promises the guitarist. 'We don't want to do anything like that. Roger's got some hot new tunes, and it would be good for him to just break away completely and let people know that the Byrds was then, and this is now.
'If he had to do those old numbers to get the audiences clapping, that's not really the right way for him to start a brand new career. And a big career.'
Ronson will remain under manager Tony DeFries' guidance at MainMan, but he's decided to temporarily abandon his solo career in favor of the new band.
Mick now views his two solo records as creative mistakes,.but he says the experience taught him that his strong suit is not directing back-up musicians in the studio, but working with musicians of equal ability and imagination.