Grievous Angel
March 7, 2008 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Gram Parsons fans take note - there's a recent new biography and a release of 90 minutes of vintage Flying Burrito Brothers. Some rare footage has also recently surfaced online: performing with FBB and duets with Emmylou Harris 1, 2, 3. Other items of note: Emmylou talks about Gram in 2000; British biographical sketch; Keith Richards on Gram in Rolling Stone; an interview with Manuel, the designer of the famous Nudie suit.

Prior mefi post by transient with much biographical info.
Obit post by keswick for Sneaky Pete Kleinow - Flying Burrito Brothers steel guitarist extraordinaire who died last year
Trailer for Fallen Angel, documentary about Gram's life.
Emmylou's career after Gram's death
1962 Gram singing Rip It Up with the Legends - sound and photo only
Free Parsons downloads offered by Amoeba
NYT review of the new Gram biography
Prior mefi post on Manolo by IndigoJones - the man who tailored Gram's famous suit
Hickory Wind - 1975, performed by Emmylou Harris
Hickory Wind - performed by Keith Richards at the Gram Parsons Tribute Concert
posted by madamjujujive (38 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, madamjujujive, you're awesome. Thanks for this. It's a nice way to start the work day.
posted by sleepy pete at 7:59 AM on March 7, 2008

Oh, my.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:07 AM on March 7, 2008

Thanks for the post. I have never really clarified my feelings about Gram Parsons. I often think I love him, and then will think that I don't like him for a while, and then will change my mind again. I will always love Hickory Wind though, because there are just not that many songs about South Carolina. All those songs with "Carolina" in them? All about North Carolina. How can you get excited enough about North Carolina to write a song about it? South Carolina, love it or hate it, at least we have something to care about. North Carolina is just one big blah. I think that most people sing about it because it is the most southern state that yankees can still understand. You want the pure unadulterated stuff, you come to South Carolina. But if you can't handle that, then check out North Carolina and get a watered down version of true southerness. It is like if you just can't get into the Beatles cause they are too out there, but you love the Monkees. North Carolina.
posted by ND¢ at 8:23 AM on March 7, 2008 [6 favorites]

Some of the performance clips are very poor quality, but I was delighted with them nevertheless given how rare they are - I thought other GP junkies might like them, too.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:24 AM on March 7, 2008

Aw, come on... Moby Grape from y2karl, now Gram/Burrito Bros here?

I'm going to get exactly nothing done today, dammit.
posted by peacecorn at 8:35 AM on March 7, 2008

madamejujujive, you rock my world. and yet I never fall asleep....
posted by Rumple at 8:48 AM on March 7, 2008

British biographical sketch

That Hank Wangford fronted documentary was the thing that really turned me on to Country Music. Until that point, I'd always seen it as the crap my parents generation listened to, but the Crooning Gynacologist put paid to that for me by hooking me up with the good stuff.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:57 AM on March 7, 2008

Peacecorn, I had a similar thought! Anyhow, no post about Gram Parsons would be complete without mention of Grand Theft Parsons. While the film got mixed reviews, fans of his music would probably enjoy it.
posted by TedW at 9:02 AM on March 7, 2008

Can't find complete pic at the moment its clipped off here. It looks like he is giving a peace sign but in the full pic he is sticking his fingers up behind Nudie Cohn's (his suit maker) head, always makes me smile. From the inside of the great tribute album.
posted by therubettes at 9:27 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Burritos were the cool version of the Eagles. (But the Eagles are great too) fact.
I love the Sweetheart of the Rodeo recordings (Byrds) -the unreleased ones with the Gram vocals. .!!!. I love me my Burritos Bros. Hey anyone know who this model is posing with Graham? See link . No one can seem to agee. Thanks for the post
posted by celerystick at 9:28 AM on March 7, 2008

Manuel ≠ Manolo.
posted by astruc at 9:32 AM on March 7, 2008

Hank Wangford and Billy Bragg cover Sin City.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:35 AM on March 7, 2008

The Skeletons from Missouri, worlds best American Pub rock band next to the old NRBQ, do a fun cover of "Older Guys" with a searing bouncy rubberbandy solo by their guitar guy. Just saying. I always thought it was an origginal till I saw the YouTube of the Burritos doing it. Burritos are also featured for like 10 seconds in Gimme Shelter, the famous documentary of the Stones Concert that got , err , out of hand.
posted by celerystick at 9:45 AM on March 7, 2008

a thousand awesomes! Thanks.

Man, I had been sitting on a Nudie's FPP idea. Astro Zombie beat me too it, but good.
posted by Miko at 9:45 AM on March 7, 2008

How can you get excited enough about North Carolina to write a song about it? South Carolina, love it or hate it, at least we have something to care about.

Once again, we remain a valley of humility between two mountains of arrogance.

On topic, this is a great post.
posted by Rangeboy at 9:57 AM on March 7, 2008

astruc, omg - you are so right, I totally goofed on that one! Don't know why I merged them in my mind, but that was sloppy. I removed the tag, thanks.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:58 AM on March 7, 2008

wonderful stuff. thank you!
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:47 AM on March 7, 2008

I went to a GP pilgrimage to Joshua Tree and I totally fell in love with the place, too. I was careful not to do any opiates, though.

great post, mjjj, but you knew that already didn't you
posted by matteo at 10:47 AM on March 7, 2008

Once again, we remain a valley of humility between two mountains of arrogance.

They decided to change that saying to "A valley of crap between awesomeness statesonified and Virginia" for future reference.
posted by ND¢ at 10:55 AM on March 7, 2008

Not to tarnish Gram, but it turns out he was PLAGIARIST. Yes, I, too, am shocked to learn that Gram didn't write Hickory Wind and the record company paid off the real songwriter many years ago. Read all about it:
posted by wsg at 12:02 PM on March 7, 2008

oops. Forgot to hot link it. Please feel free to fix that, admin. Thanks.
posted by wsg at 12:03 PM on March 7, 2008

Love it. Thanks.
posted by padraigin at 12:49 PM on March 7, 2008

Billy Bragg and Wilco. Great versions of Woody Gutherie...Ingrid Bergman
posted by ghostdog at 12:56 PM on March 7, 2008

There will soon be a new installment in the 33 1/3 series of music books, on the Flying Burrito Bros. It's written by my friend, groovy guy and all-around mensch Bob Proehl, and every self-respecting Burrito Bros fan should have a copy (I assume. I haven't read it, but I trust Bob to the end of the earth).
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:18 PM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Those 33.3 books are fun reads, for the most part. Based on a sample of two.
posted by Rumple at 2:36 PM on March 7, 2008

Dumb question but hey I'm just a dog. How do you hotlink?
posted by ghostdog at 2:38 PM on March 7, 2008

Madame, your post needs some editing, as well. Manolo the shoe blogger, who also is not Manolo Blahnik, has nothing to do with Nudie suits. As far as I can tell, Manolo the blogger has nothing to do with anything except his own blog.
posted by astruc at 2:55 PM on March 7, 2008

They decided to change that saying to "A valley of crap between awesomeness statesonified and Virginia" for future reference.

Stay classy, South Carolina. Stay classy.
posted by Rangeboy at 3:15 PM on March 7, 2008

I was gushing to Jonathan about all this great music that Dave Bone was turning me on to that I'd never heard before: guys like Merle Haggard, Lefty Frizzell, Buck Owens and George Jones. My favorite, I said, was the Flying Burrito Brothers, a band led by this amazing writer named Gram Parsons. I was surprised when Jonathan said "yeah, he was great-you know I knew Gram. We hung out when I was in California". He went on to explain how they'd met through Phil Kaufmann, Jojo's road manager during his Beserkley Records period. Kaufmann, who had worked for the Rolling Stones, was handling just two clients at that time: Jonathan and Gram (after Parsons's death it was Kaufmann, aided by one of the Byrds roadies, who honored a pact by "kidnapping" his body and cremating it in the desert). Kauffman, according to Jonathan, "ran an Executive Nanny Service- that's what he called it...he'd worked for guys like the Stones 'cuz at the time he was the only guy who get Keith and Mick into the van...y'know, 'come on Keith, come on Mick, time to get in the van and go now', right?". When Jonathan talks about Phil, who now resides in Nashville, it is with undisguised admiration, and not a little friendly irony: "Phil has occassional health problems because he is the kind of larger-than-life rock personality...stuff like gout." When I reply "oh, yeah, those sort of weird obsolete illnesses you read about in Dickens, huh?", Jonathan adds "...right, see guys like that get biblical diseases- rivers of blood, frogs falling out of the sky- you can't go into the hospital for this stuff, what do you do to get treated for, like, Mt. Sinai falling on you, or a plague of raining frogs? He's been out there doing this rock and roll Pirate stuff for all these, there's also Pirate diseases, too, for these legendary rock guys... Long John Silver disease, Parrot-on-the-Shoulder disease...". Ouch! I've had a parrot removed and it's a very painful procedure, let me tell you!

Once Phil Kauffman had introduced the two future legends, Gram and Jojo had hit it off right away. Gram had seemed to be lonely in that way celebrities can often be- surrounded by new "friends, basking in the limelight, their success only places their personal isolation in more stark relief. Short term relief found in drugs, booze and the zipless fuck only make the long term crisis more acute.Parsons was being lionized at the time as one of the originators of country rock, a "new" genre being explored by acts such as the Band, the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt. Although Gram had attended Harvard and spent considerable time in the music industry he remained in many ways a simple, sincere country boy. The fast life of LA, with its' wild parties, free flowing booze and easy availability of drugs for an up-and-coming young star was taking its toll on Parsons- a toll reflected in songs like "Sin City". It's easy to see how Jonathan, drug free and without pretense or rock star artifice, would be attractive to Gram. If it seemed to Jonathan that Gram was drowning, it may have seemed to Gram that Jonathan was a piece of solid ground amidst the human flotsam and jetsam of the LA music industry. After expressing mutual admiration for one another's work, they discussed the possibility of Gram playing on Jonathan's upcoming record! The idea of what the first Modern Lovers album would sound like with John Felice playing on it is interesting; the idea of what it would have sounded like with Gram Parsons playing on it is beyond intriguing, a musical tease of parallel dimension proportion. In my own musical career I tried to create - and fell far short of - a sound that matches the one I hear in my head when I think about this "what if". Anything I could imagine is a far cry no doubt from what could have been had Gram lived. On their last meeting Jonathan and Gram played miniature golf together. On the impossibly green carpets of synthetic grass, amidst miniature cement windmills, they once again discussed Gram playing on the upcoming record. Jonathan was encouraged to see that Gram seemed to have turned a corner and gained the resolve to kick drugs and booze, to clean up his act and "live right". The next day- September 17, 1973, Gram was found unconscious in room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn by a traveling companion- a gal from Boston who'd known Gram from his International Submarine Band days at Harvard. He was taken to the hospital but never recovered.
From Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers by Joe Harvard
Although Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers were managed by Eddie Tickner and Phil Kaufman in the early '70s, their sound couldn't have been farther away from that of Gram Parsons, or anyone else in the Byrds/Burritos axis. The Modern Lovers took the noisy drone of the Velvet Underground and turbo-charged it with the churning organ of future Talking Heads keyboardist Jerry Harrison. To hear what they might have sounded like at the wake for Gram Parsons, check out the only official document of that era, the live Precise Modern Lovers Order From
Musicians associated with the Byrds - Ra-Ri

Jonathan Richman--who played minature golf with his friend on the day before the Parson's demise and whose band played at Parson's wake. Who might have recorded with Parsons had the latter lived. You couldn't make this stuff up.

Excellen post, Ms. MJJ. As usual. As always.
posted by y2karl at 7:24 PM on March 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Thanks, great post!

I was moved by Keith's rendition of Hickory Wind. I am a long time fan of Gram Parsons but never really got that song until a few years ago when Elvis Costello toured with EmmyLou and they did that song together. Very touching.

But even more so to hear Keith singing it. Somewhere around here is a book with an interview with Keith where he talks about his friendship with Gram, and how he could see that Gram was not really tough enough to lead the life he was attempting to lead, but was not together enough himself to do anything about it, and has some regrets (but he claimed, no guilt).

A lot of us can say the same, I know I can, about people we've known over the years that we weren't there for, maybe while circling around the same drain....
posted by readery at 8:42 PM on March 7, 2008

I have found heaven on the internet. Someone else who likes Jonathan Richman!! I still have his LPs with the Modern Lovers and "Back in Your Life" still reminds me of the girl I almost married in MA.
Almost wet myself when he showed up in "Something about Mary".
posted by ghostdog at 9:02 PM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Say, has anyone ever seen Mjj and y2karl in the same place at the same time?
posted by Dave Faris at 6:21 AM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Attention young people: You may hear a lot about this Gram Parsons guy, and you'll think he must be some really great musician, songwriter, singer. Then you'll listen to his stuff, and think, "Gee, this blows. But all these intellegent boomers seem to love the guy. I must be missing something." But you're not missing anything. One good song. One good album. That's it. The guy wrote (or took credit for) "Hickory Wind". He inspired the Byrds to record Sweetheart of the Rodeo (especially having the courage to get them to record the great Louvin Brothers' "Christian Life"). But everything thereafter ess eyu ucked. And the Burritos were not the cool version of the Eagles. They were the inept, tripping over their own dicks, no-songwriting-ability version of the Eagles. They were the palest, most whitebread, bland, sub-muzak soulless musical agglomeration ever to be out-souled by the Carpenters. Hippies listened to the Burrito Brothers instead commercial country artists like George Jones, Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard, who were at that time recording some of their greatest works. I mean, compare George Jones and Gram Parsons. Sheesh. Tammy Wynette had more balls than Parsons.
posted by Faze at 6:57 AM on March 8, 2008

Your record as my favorite poster is unbroken, madamjujujive. This is splendid.

I love Keith Richards' terrible but touching version of Hickory Wind. Thank you especially for that.
posted by climalene at 11:32 AM on March 8, 2008

Thanks so much for this. I'm a big GP fan so I look forward to checking all this out.
posted by ob at 11:42 AM on March 8, 2008

celerystick, I think she was a model hired for the photo shoot of the cover - she is in this Sin City clip with footage of the photo shoot. and a few commenters said the women were models. Also, based on your Gimme Shelter comment, I went looking and found this clip of FBB performing Six Days on the Road there - things are already getting ugly with the crowd near the end of this song.

Also, found another FBB clip with Gram - filmed on a yacht, rather wacky: Older Guys.

And in some peripheral surfing, came up with a few other vintage gold clips of the era:
--Times They Are A Changin by the Byrds in 1965 - note the hilarious Hullaballoo set
--All I Really Want to Do - mid 60s Byrds
--Buffalo Springfield, 1967 - an awesome clip!

Miko, I had a curses-foiled-again moment over Astro Zombie's Nudie post, too.

No opiates in Joshua Tree, matteo? Well then you really didn't see Joshua Tree! I kid, I kid - that is an awesome must-see place of incredible beauty.

y2karl, great stuff, thanks - Jonathon Richman is like 2 degrees of separation away from every musician, apparently. I had no idea there was any connection here.

thank you, climalene!
posted by madamjujujive at 7:16 PM on March 8, 2008

When we shopped hotels in Joshua Tree I stood in room 8 at the Joshua Tree Inn, but we stayed up the street. I thought I got a feeling in there, but who knows. There is a small shrine to Gram with photos and records in the lobby and a guitar in the corner. It's an old style strip motel that has the feel of being pretty much unchanged since the 50s. I just noticed, it's for sale.

If you know where to look you can find the spot in Joshua Tree National Park where Gram was cremated.
posted by wsg at 8:47 PM on March 8, 2008

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