Gram Parsons (November 5, 1946 – September 19, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist and pianist. 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 as "enormously influential" for both country and rock, "blending the two genres to the point that they became indistinguishable from each other." Born in 1946, Parsons emerged from a wealthy but troubled childhood to attend Harvard University. He founded the International Submarine Band in 1966, Parsons then 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 failed commercially; after a cross-country tour, they hastily recorded Burrito Deluxe.
Gram Parsons and Keith Richards first met back in 1968. Gram was with the Byrds; touring Europe to promote their landmark Sweetheart of the Rodeo record. When Gram told Keith the band was headed to South Africa, Keith was like– “Man, we don’t go there.” The sanctions and the embargo were on. So Gram quit the Byrds, right there and then. Gram, with nowhere to stay, crashed with Keith in London and fed his friend a steady diet of classic Country music– which would seep its way into the Stones’ sound soon enough. Returning to America, Parsons befriended Emmylou Harris, who assisted him on vocals for his first solo record, GP, (with the backing of Elvis Presley’s band), released in 1973. Although it received enthusiastic reviews, the release failed to chart; his next album, Grievous Angel (released posthumously in 1974, which included tracks from the 1973 sessuions) met with a similar reception. Parsons died of a drug overdose on September 19, 1973 in hotel room 8 at the Joshua Tree Inn at 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.
Gram Parsons - RETURN OF THE GRIEVOUS ANGEL – (Parsons/Brown). First released on the album “Grievous Angel” in 1974. This version taken from that CD.
Gram Parsons - SHE – (Parsons/Etheridge). Released on Gram Parsons' debut solo album, “GP” in 1973.
Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels with Emmylou Harris – COUNTRY BAPTIZING (Jim Shumate) - This version was taken from a radio concert on Long Island, NY in 1973.
Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels with Emmylou Harris – STREETS OF BALTIMORE - "Streets of Baltimore" is a heavily covered country song written by Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard in 1966. Released on Gram’s “GP” album, 1973. This version was taken from a radio concert on Long Island, NY in 1973.
Nazareth - LOVE HURTS – (Bryant). First recorded by The Everly Brothers in July 1960, the song is also well known from a 1975 international hit version by the rock band Nazareth. It appeared on Gram’s album “Grievous Angel” in 1974. This version from the “Dazed and Confused” soundtrack, 1993.
BR5-49 - HICKORY WIND - (Parsons/ Buchanan). Despite Buchanan's input, "Hickory Wind" is generally considered to be Parsons' signature song. Parsons' decision to play "Hickory Wind" instead of the planned Merle Haggard cover "Life in Prison" during The Byrds' performance at the Grand Ole Opry on March 15, 1968 "pissed off the country music establishment", and stunned Opry regulars to such an extent that the song is now considered essential to Parsons' legend. First released on the on The Byrd’s “Sweethearts of the Rodeo’ album, while Gram was a member of the band. From the band’s self-titled debut album, 1996.
Jason and the Scorchers - DRUGSTORE TRUCK DRIVIN’ MAN – (Parsons/McGuinn). First released in 1969 on the Byrds’ album “DR. BYRDS & MR. HYDE”, the song details a moderately unpleasant on-air exchange between Emery and Roger McGuinn, the lead singer of The Byrds, concerning their 1968 appearance at The Grand Ole Opry. From the album “Clear Impetuous Morning”, 1996.
Elvis Costello and the Attractions – HOW MUCH I LIED - (Parsons/Rifkin). First released on Gram’s “GP” album, 1973. This version from Elvis’ “Almost Blue” CD, 1981.
Cowboy Junkies – OOH LAS VEGAS - (Parsons/Grech). First released on the album “Grievous Angel” in 1974. This version is from “Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons”, 1999.
Evan Dando & Juliana Hatfield – $ 1,000 WEDDING - (Parsons). First released on the album “Grievous Angel” in 1974. This version is from “Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons”, 1999.
Uncle Tupelo – SIN CITY – (Parsons, Hillman). First released on The Gilded Palace of Sin, by The Flying Burrito Brothers, released in 1969. Written about Los Angeles (not Las Vegas as most people think), much of the it’s meaning has been debated since the release of the song. Taken from their “No Depression” 2000 CD re-release.