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Famous Like Me > Composer > P > Gram Parsons

Profile of Gram Parsons on Famous Like Me

Name: Gram Parsons  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 5th November 1946
Place of Birth: Winter Haven, Florida, USA
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Gram Parsons, wearing his Nudie suit on the lot of A&M records

Gram Parsons (November 5, 1946 – September 19, 1973) was born Ingram Cecil Connor III in Winter Haven, Florida to a wealthy family of fruit growers with extensive properties both there and in Waycross, Georgia, where he was raised. A singer, songwriter, guitarist and pianist, he is best known for a series of recordings which anticipate the so-called country rock and alt-country movements of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Wary of labels, Parsons described his records as "Cosmic American Music." He died of a drug overdose at the age of 26.


Parsons grew up in a wealthy but dysfunctional family, and attended Harvard University without taking a degree. Having grown up listening to recordings of folk music (mostly popularized versions performed by folk revivalists), he started his career as a folk singer in Massachusetts coffeehouses. Despite being from the South, he first became serious about country music during his time in Boston. In 1966, he and others from the Boston folk scene formed the International Submarine Band. The band relocated to Los Angeles the following year, and in 1968 released the album Safe at Home, which contains one of his best-known songs, "Luxury Liner," as well as an early version of "Do You Know How It Feels", which would be reprised by Parsons on the first Flying Burrito Brothers album.

By 1968, Parsons had come to the attention of The Byrds who, depleted by the firing of David Crosby and the departure of Michael Clarke, were seeking new members. Originally conceived as a history of country music from the 1930s through the 1960s, Sweetheart of the Rodeo included Parsons songs such as "One Hundred Years from Now" and "Hickory Wind" along with compositions by Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard. However, due to contractual issues, most of Parsons's vocals were removed from the final product. Parsons left the band after refusing to play in apartheid-ridden South Africa, and during this period he became friendly with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

Returning to Los Angeles, Parsons and Byrds singer Chris Hillman formed the Flying Burrito Brothers with bassist Chris Ethridge and pedal steel player "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow. Their 1969 album The Gilded Palace Of Sin was a modernized version of the "Bakersfield" style of country music made popular by Buck Owens, and the band appeared on the album cover wearing Nudie suits emblazoned with marijuana leaves. Along with the Parsons-Hillman originals "Christine's Tune" and "Hot Burrito #2" were versions of the soul music classics "The Dark End of the Street" and "Do Right Woman-Do Right Man." Not a commercial success, Gilded was acclaimed by rock critic Robert Christgau as "an ominous, obsessive, tongue-in-cheek country-rock synthesis, absorbing rural and urban, traditional and contemporary, at point of impact."

By this time, Parsons's own use of drugs had increased to the extent that the recording of the followup, 1970's Burrito Deluxe, was slow and acrimonious, and it was no surprise that Parsons left the group. The album is considered less inspired than its predecessor, but it is notable for the Parsons-Hillman-Bernie Leadon song "Older Guys" and for its take on Jagger and Richards's "Wild Horses"--the first recording of this famous song.

The remainder of 1970 was largely wasted by Parsons, and his penchant for cocaine resulted in the abandoning of sessions for what was to have been a solo record for A&M, and Gram returned to hanging out with the Stones, first in London and later France, during the recording of Exile on Main Street.

Parsons returned to the US for a one-off concert with the Burritos, and at Hillman's instigation went to hear Emmylou Harris sing in a small club in Washington, D.C. They became friends and, within a year, he asked her to join him in Los Angeles for another attempt to record his first solo album. GP, 1973, utilized the guitar-playing of former Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson sideman James Burton, and featured Parsons songs such as "Big Mouth Blues" and "Kiss the Children," as well as a superb cover of Tompall Glaser's "Streets of Baltimore."

Parsons, by now featuring Harris as his duet partner, played dates across the United States as Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels. For his next and final album, 1974's Grievous Angel, he again used Harris and Burton. The record, which was released after his death, received even more enthusiastic reviews than had GP, and has since attained classic status. Among its most celebrated songs is "$1000 Wedding," which was covered by one of the many groups influenced by Parsons, the Mekons.

Parsons died September 19, 1973 in Joshua Tree, California at the age of 26 from a drug overdose. In a story that has taken on legendary stature, Parsons' body disappeared from the Los Angeles International Airport, where it was being readied to be shipped to Louisiana for burial. His former road manager, Phil Kaufman, claimed that Gram had remarked after Clarence White's funeral in July of that year that he (Gram) did not want to be buried when he died, but instead would rather be taken out to Joshua Tree and burned. Kaufman and a friend managed to steal Parson's body from the airport and, in a borrowed hearse, drove Parsons' body to Joshua Tree where they cremated it. They were arrested several days later and fined $700 for burning the coffin, since stealing a body was not a crime. The burned remains were eventually returned to Parsons' family and interred in New Orleans. A version of these events is depicted in the 2003 film Grand Theft Parsons; they are discussed at length by several people, including Kaufman, in the documentary Fallen Angel: Gram Parsons.


  • Safe at Home : International Submarine Band (1968)
  • Sweetheart of the Rodeo : The Byrds (1968)
  • The Gilded Palace of Sin : Flying Burrito Brothers (1969)
  • Burrito Deluxe : Flying Burrito Brothers (1970)
  • GP : Gram Parsons (1973)
  • Grievous Angel : Gram Parsons (1974)
  • Early Years (1963–1965) : Gram Parsons (1979)
  • Live 1973 : Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels (1982)
  • Sacred Hearts & Fallen Angels: The Gram Parsons Anthology : Gram Parsons/Various (2001)
  • The Complete Reprise Sessions : Gram Parsons (2005)


  • Download sample of "Miller’s Cave" from Gram Parsons International Submarine Band (Safe at Home)

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Gram Parsons