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Bryan MacLean
Birth name Bryan MacLean
Born September 25, 1946
Los Angeles, California, USA
Died December 25, 1998 (aged 51)
Los Angeles, California, USA
Genres Psychedelic rock, folk rock, garage rock, proto-punk, Christian rock
Occupations Musician, songwriter, producer
Instruments vocals, guitar
Years active 1963 - 1998
Associated acts Love

Bryan MacLean (September 25, 1946 - December 25, 1998) was an American singer, guitarist and songwriter, most known for his work with the influential rock band Love. His famous compositions for Love include "Alone Again Or" and "Old Man". Bryan's father was an architect to the Hollywood stars and his mother an artist and a dancer. Neighbor Frederick Loewe, of the composers Lerner & Loewe, recognized him as a "melodic genius" at the age of three as he doodled on the piano. His early influences were Billie Holliday and George Gershwin, although he confessed to an obsession with Elvis Presley. During his childhood he wore out show music records from Guys and Dolls, Oklahoma, South Pacific and West Side Story. His first girlfriend was Liza Minnelli and they would sit at the piano together singing songs from The Wizard of Oz. He learned to swim in Elizabeth Taylor's pool and his father's good friend was actor Robert Stack.

At 17 Bryan heard The Beatles: "Before the Beatles I had been into folk music. I had wanted to be an artist in the bohemian tradition, where we would sit around with banjos and do folk music, but when I saw A Hard Day's Night everything changed. I let my hair grow out and I got kicked out of high school."


Early music career

Bryan started playing guitar professionally in 1963. He got a job at the Balladeer in West Hollywood playing folk and blues guitar. The following year, the club changed its name to the Troubadour. His regular set routine was a mixture between Appalachian folk songs and delta blues, and he also frequently covered Robert Johnson's "Crossroad Blues". It was there he met the founding musicians of the Byrds, Gene Clark and Jim McGuinn, when they were rehearsing as a duo. Bryan became good friends with Gene Clark. During that time Bryan also became friends with songwriter Sharon Sheeley, who fixed him up on his first date with singer Jackie De Shannon.

With MacLean as equipment manager, the Byrds went on the road to promote their first single “Mr. Tambourine Man”. By the time The Byrds left for their first UK tour, MacLean was exhausted and stayed behind.

After an unsuccessful audition for a place in the Monkees, Bryan got into a car on the Sunset Strip that Arthur Lee was driving. Lee’s band, The Grass Roots (not to be confused with the popular rock band of the same name), was the house band at a club called the Brave New World. Lee knew that the colorful dancers and the scene that had followed the Byrds would follow Bryan, if Bryan joined his band, so Lee took Bryan to sit in with them at The Brave New World.

The Grass Roots

The members of the Grass Roots were Arthur Lee (vocals, harmonica, guitar, keyboards, drums), Johnny Echols (lead guitar, vocals), Johnny Fleckenstein (bass), Don Conka (drums), and Bryan MacLean (rhythm guitar, vocals). Despite the success of Lee and the others at the Los Angeles club, a band from San Francisco was first to record under the name the Grass Roots, which spurred Lee and the band to change its name to Love.


Jac Holzman's Elektra Records signed Love, and they had a minor hit with their version of the Bacharach/David tune "My Little Red Book" and released their debut album Love to which Bryan contributed the melodic "Softly To Me" as well as co-writing two other songs. He also contributed The Byrds' arrangement of "Hey Joe", which he performed live.

In 1966, Love hit #33 on the US national chart with their pre-punk single "7 & 7 is", followed by their second album, in March 1967 Da Capo, featuring MacLean’s critically acclaimed "Orange Skies".

In November 1967, amidst the destruction of the band by an addiction to hard drugs, the main line up of Love held together long enough to come out with their third and final album, Forever Changes, which is considered by music critics one of the finest rock albums ever. MacLean’s "Alone Again Or" is the opening track and although Arthur Lee mixed MacLean’s lead vocal under his own harmony, MacLean’s song and the recording have become regarded as a classic.

Spiritual Conversion and Solo Music Career

Bryan was offered a solo contract with Elektra after the dissolution of Love, but his demo offerings were rejected by the label, and the contract lapsed. Subsequently, he wrote a film score that was not used. Thereafter he tried without success to record an album for Capitol records in New York. "I was alone in a hotel room in New York and I had lost practically everything,” Bryan was quoted as saying. “It occurred to me that I was in a tail-spin so I thought ‘'well, why don't I pray?' So I did, and nothing happened for about two or three weeks. At the end of that time, I was sitting in a drug store on 3rd Avenue having a drink, and suddenly the drink turned to sand in my mouth. I left the bar and when I reached the pavement and the daylight I knew something had changed. From that point on my life has been totally different.”

Bryan joined a Christian ministry called the Vineyard, that was the same church that later converted Bob Dylan. During Friday night Bible readings Bryan took the concert part of the session and was so amazed at the positive reaction he received, that he gradually assembled a catalogue of his Christian songs. His next move was to open a Christian nightclub in Beverley Hills called The Daisy. When it closed in 1976 Bryan considered going full-time into the ministry but decided once again to devote himself to music.

He played an unsuccessful reunion with Arthur Lee in 1978 on two dates but wasn't paid, so he turned down an offer for a UK tour which was to have been billed as the 'original' Love. Ironically the Bryan MacLean Band got a gig supporting Arthur Lee's Love at the Whisky in 1982. Bryan also worked with his half sister Maria McKee and wrote the song “Don't Toss Us Away” for the debut album of her band Lone Justice.

In about 1996, his Elektra Records demo tapes were discovered by his mother Elizabeth in the family garage, and after two years of persistent shopping around record companies, a deal was struck with Sundazed, who in 1997 released the CD Ifyoubelievein. The CD was critically well received. MacLean then completed a spiritual album of Christian music and was about to record another album when he died of a heart attack on Christmas Day, 1998.

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