Friday Sept 11th at the Linsmore Tavern in Toronto, The Gram Parson International North will be held featuring many great local bands playing Gram and Gram inspired songs all night long. If you love Gram Parsons and his music swing by and raise a glass in his honour.
How Gram Parsons influenced my life and work as a musician
by GT Harris
Gram Parsons is a name synonymous with country-rock or as he liked to call it Cosmic American Music and also a dark end to a fast life in the glorious scene of rock n roll, in other words the things legends are made of. From his early days in New York City with his traditional country effort the International Submarine Band for Safe at Home, to his legendary west coast rock country music transmutation of the Byrds for Sweetheart of the Rodeo and his California country-rock writing with Chris Hillman with the Flying Burrito Brothers on Gilded Palace of Sin and Burrito Deluxe, to hanging out and influencing the Rolling Stones country fazes like Sweet Virginia and Dead Flowers and then finally his loving duets with Emmylou Harris on his first solo album GP and his posthumous release The Grievous Angel, Gram’s contributions to the music world have shaped the things we listen to today and what we call Americana.
Gram’s mix of Country, Bluegrass, Folk, Soul and Rhythm and Blues, as well as Rock n Roll set the stage for more successful crossover acts like the Eagles, Tom Petty, Steve Earle and a long line of others. Gram and the Burritos were the only ones with longhair, wearing nudie suits and playing classic country covers and their own brand of country rock so of course they were ostracized by both the longhair hippies in California and the straight laced country folks in Nashville. After quitting the Byrds and being kicked out of his own band the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram finally fell into his own when he was fortunate enough to enlist one Miss Emmylou Harris into his musical fold while recording his first solo album.
Together Gram and Emmylou would record a number of duets for GP and The Grievous Angel that are still as powerful and beautiful today as the day they were recorded. In 1973 at age 26 with only six studio albums to be remembered by he left behind an unmatched legacy of decadence and debauchery, good times and bad, the rhinestone suits, the pills and the booze before the fast life that he led came to an end at a motel in Joshua Tree, California.
Growing up in a musical family I heard a lot of country and bluegrass around the house as a child, Real country as it would become labelled later in life, and the occasional Beatles record (Thanks Mom). As a teenager of course rock n roll and punk and metal edged their way into my life. When I started to develop into a serious musician I had a hard time finding a niche that really accepted my broad spectrum of youthful learning and a genre to apply to what I was doing. Playing in metal and punk bands as a teenager, I couldn’t write these heavy riff based songs with screaming and yelling attached but what came easy to me was old traditional country, bluegrass, folk type songs that came welling up from my musical past. When I started writing my own songs something was missing; enter one Gram Parsons. Gram never had a genre, he embraced all kinds of music and was able to make it his own.
Finding out about Gram and his struggles with the Byrds, Flying Burrito Bros. and his own solo albums to make the music he wanted to, brought to light the fact that there isn’t any genre that can hold a song, Cosmic American Music enveloped many genres and as a songwriter this intrigued me and lit a path that to this day has kept me writing and playing to my hearts content. As a musician Gram’s music spoke to me in a way few others did. As did his rhinestone suits, love of cars, girls and his search for fame and fortune (which eluded him till his death). Gram’s rock ’n’ roll country style has stuck with me to this day and I do not see any end in sight.
GT Harris & The Gunslingers, Aimie Page Duo, Lucky Mike, Ayerhart Roofing Co., The Ole Fashion, Dick Rodan, Jacques & The Valdanes, Big Otter Creek are among the bands playing the Gram Parsons Tribute.