For their first and only appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, they performed their two number one hits. On that Sunday night, December 12th 1965, The Byrds performed “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)”. This breakthrough song was composed by the legendary Pete Seeger, who drew the song’s lyrics from the bible. Dressed in turtlenecks and jeans, with long hair, they performed in front of a simple set. After their break, they returned to the stage and performed Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” in front of a psychedelic spinning background to screaming fans. At the end of the show, the group reprised “Mr. Tambourine Man” as the credits rolled.
If the screams from the audience were an indicator, as they were for many Ed Sullivan Show artists, it seemed that the group would surely be asked back. But The Byrds were never to return. In an interview for the 10 part series, TheHistory of Rock N’ Roll, bass guitarist Chris Hillman revealed that “We had a problem. David [Crosby], that devil, got into an argument with the director and we were never asked back.” David Crosby recalls the importance of The Ed Sullivan Show and regretfully stated that “It was like you could go there and kind of feel that you were part of the crowd, but you had been watching Sullivan since you were a kid and it had tremendous authority. I don’t know how I got so mad at him and almost blew it, ‘cause I should’ve been very respectful.”
Following their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Byrds continued to have a few Top 40 hits, including “Eight Miles High”, “Mr. Spaceman,” “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘N’ Roll Star,” and “My Back Pages.” After “Eight Miles High” was recorded, Gene Clark left the group. Soon after, Crosby left to form Crosby, Stills, & Nash, leaving McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman to form their own group. Mike Clarke eventually joined the group Firefall, and he later died of liver failure in 1993. Bassist Chris Hillman formed The Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons and the group became immensely popular. In 1991, The Byrds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the induction ceremony, all five original band mates reunited to perform one last time. Later that same year, Gene Clark suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 46 and Michael Clarke died of liver failure in 1993.