Old John Robertson

Album: The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1967)

Songfacts®:

  • Written by band members Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn, this was based on the retired silent film actor and director John S. Robertson, who lived in the small town near San Diego where Hillman grew up. Robertson's best known work was probably his 1920 screen adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring John Barrymore.
  • The song was originally released as the B-side to The Byrds' "Lady Friend" single on July 13, 1967 in the United States and Europe. It was included the following year on their The Notorious Byrd Brothers album.
  • Chris Hillman recorded an updated version titled "New Old John Robertson" for his 2017 Bidin My Time album. He told Uncut magazine:

    "All I did was just enhance it a little and build on the story. He was a real guy, a silent film director from Hollywood, I just added a new bridge to the song hopefully with Roger's blessing. I was never quite happy with the song. Sometimes you think, 'Gosh, I wish I'd done this or that on a song.' And then maybe 30 or 40 years later, you finally get the opportunity."

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