Roger McGuinn and John Sebastian are playing back-to-back solo sets at the Michigan Theater on Friday, August 8. It’s the hottest double bill of the summer: this is Roger McGuinn of the Byrds — “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Eight Miles High,” “Turn! Turn! Turn!” — and John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful — “Daydream,” “Summer in the City,” “Do You Believe in Magic?”

McGuinn’s not sure what songs he’s going to play: “My wife and I always work out the set list at lunch the day of the show. It’ll be a mix: probably some tracks from the Byrds and some from my solo albums plus some traditional songs.” Sebastian won’t be sure until he gets onstage: “I know what I start with and I know what I end with, and other than that, I really don’t know — some oldies, some Spoonful, some folk, maybe some jug band — those’re always fun.”

Of course, McGuinn’ll be playing his trademark Rickenbacker twelve-string. “People want to see the Rickenbacker,” he says, “though I always bring a Martin twelve-string, a Martin seven-string, and a banjo along, too.” Sebastian says that in addition to some harmonica and a little autoharp, he’ll be playing “a beautiful Heritage guitar from Kalamazoo and a baritone guitar that looks like a Telecaster but with a longer neck and thicker strings to give some of the songs a little extra bounce.”

As always, McGuinn’s on the road with his wife, Camilla, who also serves as tour manager and roadie: “We do about fifty to seventy-five dates a year. We drive a high-top van, and we’ll go a great distance for a nice venue. She’s wonderful.” After a couple of gigs with McGuinn, Sebastian’ll be doing a tour with mandolin master David Grisman. “We’re going to be out there like a couple of teen boys,” he giggles. “It’s great!”

McGuinn and Sebastian have known each other for decades. “Roger and I have a friendship that goes all the way back to ’63-’64, when we were single musicians,” says Sebastian. “John and I used to play together in the Village,” McGuinn explains, “and we still work together a lot. We never know who’s going to open and who’s going to close — though John likes to open.” Sebastian laughs and concurs: “I do enjoy getting ’em fresh when I can.”

McGuinn came to the Lord long ago, but he didn’t give up rock ‘n’ roll: “Jesus says if you’re a fisherman, stay a fisherman. And I don’t preach from the stage. Some people feel led to do that, but I never got the memo.”

Asked how he wrote so many great songs in such a short time, Sebastian replies, “Part of it was the audience. Once you’re connected and you feel the tug, it’s incredibly energizing. Part of it was the era. It was such a beautifully competitive time. When you’ve had success and you knew [Motown hitmakers] Holland-Dozier-Holland were breathing down your neck, well, it really motivated you.”

[Review published August 2008]