Today would have been Gram Parson’s 75th birthday. Generally accepted as the father of country rock, the singer songwriter pioneered the concept of a rock band playing country music with his work in a series of bands, from the International Submarine Band, the Byrds and then the Flying Burrito Brothers before finishing his tragically short career with a pair of solo records.
Parsons began playing piano as a nine year old. After his father committed suicide three years later, his new stepfather adopted him, and that’s when he received the parsons name. By fourteen he was playing in a local rock band with two bandmates who would go on to form the folk rock group Lobo.
Parsons was enrolled at Harvard for one semester before dropping out to focus on music. Parsons met Chris Hillman who recruited him to restock the Byrds and he was heavily involved on the Sweetheart of the Rodeo album, only to have most of his work removed due to contractual issues.
Parson’s discomfort with the Byrds’ plan to tour South Africa led to him quitting while the band was in the UK. Parsons then spent time with the Rolling Stones before his return to the US, introducing the band to country music.
Returning to the States, Parsons sought out Chris Hillman and the pair formed the Flying Burrito Brothers. Dressed in psychedelic Nudie suits, the group toured the US by train and were met by curious but confused audiences. In retrospect Chris Hillman claims the band was the original outlaw country group – unable to find a home on rock or country radio.
Parsons solo career consisted of two albums recorded with his performing partner Emmylou Harris. His last record, Grievous Angel came out after his death from an overdose of morphine and alcohol.