“He…had this unique thing that I’ve never seen any other guys do: he could make the bitches cry. Even hardened waitresses at the Palomino bar who heard it all” – Keith Richards talking about Gram Parsons.
Gram Parsons was a pioneer. He’s credited as being the godfather of “country rock”, but Parsons hated the term. He preferred to call his style “Cosmic American music”: a seamless blending of country, blues, and rock.
If you’re a big Rolling Stones fan, you’ve heard the name, and maybe even already be a fan of Gram’s. He basically got the Stones rolling into the area of country music after Mick and Keith went to see The Byrds one night. But instead of seeing “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Turn, Turn, Turn”, “Eight Miles High”, they were greeted with the unexpected. A complete line up change…and COUNTRY MUSIC.
Gram Parsons was with The Byrds for one album. Sweetheart of the Radio. A game changer. Keith was hooked. He and Gram Parsons became instant friends, and Gram’s influence can clearly be heard on “Dead Flowers”, “Honky Tonk Women” and “Wild Horses”. (The latter two songs would be covered by Gram with his group The Flying Burrito Brothers with former Byrd, Chris Hillman).
Gram was often in attendance during the Stones recording sessions for Exile on Main St. and is credited in the liner notes as singing backing vocals on “Sweet Virgina”. It is said that he may have slipped uncredited onto other Stones songs, but he wasn’t looking for any sort of credit; just as long as he could hang out and be associated with the band.
He was only around for a short while, dying just a couple months shy of joining the ranks of Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin, et al in the infamous “27 Club”.
He has a small cannon of work to choose from, but they are all worth your time. 2 essential solo albums, 2 great albums with the Flying Burrito Brothers, 1 essential Byrds album, and the album that started off his career, Safe At Home with the Internaitonal Submarine Band. Give him a shot.
Keith Richards covering his friend, Gram Parsons’ “Hickory Wind” at a 2004 tribute to Gram.