Being thrown back into the limelight after 10 years of th virtual anonymity of driving America and playing small clubs, Roger McGuinn is just trying to make the best of it.
The king of The Byrds and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said the transition from solo traveling acoustic guitar player to MTV celebrity has come very suddenly and, in his mind, very strangely.
"A few record companies had been interested in having me do an album but they were kind of small and couldn't distribute it very well," McGuinn said from his home in Clearwater, Fla., last week before his national tour began. "I didn't want to do an album just for the sake of doing an album. I really didn't want to mess with it."
But last year, when The Byrds' nostalgia craze began to fully bloom and McGuinn appeared at a Roy Orbison tribute and the band was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Arista and several other major labels approached McGuinn and he agreed to give (( stardom and some fresh music another shot.
"I just didn't want to be a novelty," McGuinn said. "I wanted something more viable."
So with a strong radio hit on a collaboration with Tom Petty called "King of the Hill," McGuinn is taking a five-piece band across America supporting his first Arista album, "Back From Rio." He will appear at Tawes Center at the University of Maryland at College Park Saturday night.
McGuinn said his longstanding relationship with Florida neighbor and disciple Petty led to their writing of "King of the Hill" in 1987, when they were together on Bob Dylan's European tour.
"Actually the first time I heard of Tom was in 1976 when my manager played 'American Girl' and I joked with him and said 'When did I write that song?,'" McGuinn said. "We got to know each other and we both recorded it."
McGuinn said it was also thanks to Petty that he landed the spot on Dylan's tour.
"Tom's tour was playing near my home, and he and I were flying kites together and talking about what was happening," McGuinn said. "He told me he was going to Europe with Bob Dylan and I said that it sounded like a lot of fun. He called Bob and Bob said it was OK if I came along."
In addition to "Back From Rio," McGuinn's resurgence has also been boosted by a fantastic CD box set of The Byrds material that was released before Christmas.
"Everything has seemed to coincide well for this whole project," McGuinn said. "We never really planned it this way but I'm having fun so far."
* The concert calendar . . .
Guns N Roses comes to the Capital Centre June 19. Tickets, which are $27.50 with a $2.50 service charge, go on sale Saturday at 9 a.m. at all Ticketron outlets. Tickets can be charged by calling 481-6000. There is a strong possibility of a second show being added.
Max's On Broadway welcomes Tanita Tikarem (tonight), Henry Rollins (April 9), Lonesome Val (April 11), Wayne Toups and Zydecajun (April 14) and An Emotional Fish (May 8).
George Throrogood and Tommy Conwell perform at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va., tomorrow night.
Coming to Hammerjacks, The Ramones and Saigon Kick (Saturday), Todd Rundgren (April 13), Enuff Z Nuff and Child's Play (April 19), The Fixx (April 26) and The Alarm (May 3).
The Towson Center hosts two shows moved from Painters Mill: The Righteous Brothers (April 17) and The Oak Ridge Boys (April 28).
Merriweather Post Pavilion is expected to announce a host of summer dates early next week.