You may remember “Eve of Destruction” but it’s possible you may not remember Barry McGuire. And yet, Barry was involved with a lot of things in the early Sixties. Barry McGuire was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1935 and had several other jobs before signing on to sing in a bar. This got him interested in music and in 1961, he recorded his first single, which was not a hit.
He joined The New Christy Minstrels when they were organized by Randy Sparks in 1962 and sang lead vocal on several of their songs. (Remember “Green Green”? That is Barry singing the lead.) He also wrote “Greenback Dollar” for the Kingston Trio.
He left The New Christy Minstrels in 1963, but because of his familiarity with the folk music world, he was responsible a few years later with bringing Peter, Paul and Mary to the attention of Dunhill Records where he was recording. He signed onto Dunhill after going solo and the writers at the record company started writing songs for him to sing. A fellow named P.L. Sloan wrote “Eve of Destruction” and Barry went into the studio to record it. The song was recorded in one take. Members of what would become The Grass Roots were backup singers on the recording. When they were done (one take), they just had a rough mix of the song, so they took that to the vice president of Dunhill, Jay Lasker, who liked it just the way it was.
Lasker “leaked” the record to a local disc jockey who started playing it. It was an instant hit. The writer, P.L. Sloan complained that the song wasn’t finished yet. No one cared. They had a hit on their hands.
“Eve of Destruction” was, obviously, a protest song, protesting the Vietnam War. But, listen to the words carefully, they could have almost been written today. The song has a timeless quality about it, even though it was written over fifty years ago. The song was banned by some radio stations because of its anti-war message, but that didn’t matter, it still went to number one.
Barry McGuire was a true one-hit wonder. After “Eve of Destruction,” he never hit the Top 40 again. He continued to record and when nothing happened, he switched to gospel music and became a Christian singer in the Seventies. Other people have recorded “Eve of Destruction,” The Turtles, and Jan and Dean to name just two. The song has been featured in many television shows and other records. The Temptations refer to the song by name in the words of their hit “Ball of Confusion” in 1970.
“Eve of Destruction” entered the pop charts on August 28, 1965 and spent just one week at number one, but it enough for Barry McGuire to have his place in the record books.