Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sept. 15: Singer, songwriter Gram Parsons died on this date in 1973...

… he was only 26 years old when he passed away.

Gram Parsons is best known for his work within the country genre; he also mixed blues, folk, and rock to create what he called "Cosmic American Music." Besides recording as a solo artist, he also worked in several notable bands, including the International Submarine Band, The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.

His career, though short, is described by Allmusic as "enormously influential" for both country and rock, "blending the two genres to the point that they became indistinguishable from each other."

Parsons was born Ingram Cecil Connor III in Winter Haven, Florida, grandson of citrus fruit magnate John A. Snively. Gram attended the prestigious Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida.

Parsons developed strong musical interests, particularly after seeing Elvis Presley perform in concert in 1957. While barely in his teens, Gram played in rock and roll cover bands such as the Pacers and the Legends, headlining in clubs owned by his stepfather in the Winter Haven/Polk County area.

By the age of 16 he graduated to folk music, and in 1963 he teamed with his first professional outfit, the Shilos. Heavily influenced by the Kingston Trio and the Journeymen, the band played hootenannies, coffee houses and high school auditoriums. Forays into New York City's Greenwich Village included appearances at The Bitter End.

Despite an affluent but scared childhood, Parsons was accepted into Harvard University where he studied theology but dropped out after one semester. Despite being from the South, he did not become seriously interested in country music until his time at Harvard, where he heard Merle Haggard for the first time. He founded the International Submarine Band in 1966, but by the time their debut, Safe at Home, was released in 1968, the group had disbanded.

Parsons joined The Byrds in early 1968, and played a pivotal role in the making of the seminal Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. After leaving the group in late 1968, Parsons and fellow Byrd Chris Hillman formed The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1969, releasing their debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin, the same year. The album was well received but did not sell well.

After a star-crossed cross-country tour, they hastily recorded Burrito Deluxe. Parsons was fired from the band before its release in early 1970. He soon signed with A&M Records, but after several unproductive sessions he canceled his intended solo debut in early 1971.

(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)

(Press album cover for direct link to the entire Amazon Website):

Sacred Hearts & Fallen Angels: Anthology

-----Parsons moved to France, where he lived for a short period at Villa Nellcôte with his friend Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones.

Returning to America, Parsons befriended Emmylou Harris, who assisted him on vocals for his first solo record, GP, released in 1973. Although it received enthusiastic reviews, the release failed to chart; his next album, Grievous Angel (released posthumously in 1974) met with a similar reception, and peaked at number 195 on Billboard. Parsons died of a drug overdose on September 19, 1973 in a hotel room in Joshua Tree, California, at the age of 26.

Since his death, Parsons has been recognized as an extremely influential artist, credited with helping to found both country rock and alt-country. His posthumous honors include the Americana Music Association "President's Award" for 2003, and a ranking at #87 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Most Influential Artists of All Time.


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