In February 1990, a little over a year after Roy Orbison died from a sudden heart attack, an all-star tribute concert was held in his honor at the Universal Ampitheater in Los Angeles. Everyone from John Lee Hooker to B.B. King to Iggy Pop played the gig, but the most newsworthy performance was “Mr. Tambourine Man” by a reunited Byrds and surprise guest Bob Dylan.
The performance came at a very bizarre time in the Byrds’ history. Drummer Michael Clarke had been playing gigs as “the Byrds Featuring Michael Clarke.” If that wasn’t enough to infuriate his former bandmates, he was also trying to trademark “the Byrds.” Worried a judge might award it to him since the other members weren’t utilizing it, his former bandmates David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn went on tour as the Byrds.
Despite their efforts, a judge granted Michael Clarke the rights to “the Byrds.” The Roy Orbison tribute was held not long afterwards and McGuinn, Crosby and Hillman billed themselves as “the Original Byrds.”
The Byrds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year. Despite all the bad blood, all five members (including Gene Clark) stood together at the podium and played a few songs together. Gene Clark died from issues related to his chronic alcoholism just four months later, and Michael Clarke died of liver failure in December 1993.
Today, David Crosby and Chris Hillman remain interested in touring as the Byrds with Roger McGuinn, but the singer has absolutely no interest. “I’m happy with the Byrds as a good memory,” he told Rolling Stone last year. “David and I have talked about this at length, and to me, a reunion would just be for the money. We’d go out and play some sheds, maybe gross a couple of million dollars and split it four or five ways. I’m not attracted to expensive things. I don’t need a Ferrari or anything like that.”