“John Carbo [on banjo] was a film editor at one of the TV stations, and Lou MacDonald [congas] was a postman on the South Side. We got together and formed a group called the Frets. In the folk community, [people] were colorblind. It was kind of a rainbow thing. We’d play Weavers-inspired [songs] like ‘Michael, Row the Boat Ashore’ that we’d learned at the Old Town School. What intrigued me about folk music was that even though it was made by simple and anonymous people, it was complex. The lyrics had more meaning. There were cowboy songs, the blues, work songs, songs about social justice, Negro spirituals. It was much more than ‘Baby, I love you.’ It was a portal to history.”

–ROGER McGUINN (with guitar, right), who, before he helped pioneer 1960s folk rock as the leader of the Byrds, honed his guitar skills as a teenager at the Old Town School of Folk Music. The Chicago native plays a homecoming concert in May.

GO: Roger McGuinn. May 15 at 8. Sold out; call 773-728-6000 for availability. Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N Lincoln. oldtownschool.org


Photograph: Courtesy of the Old Town School of Folk Music