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Died On This Date (September 19, 1973) Gram Parsons / Country Rock Pioneer

Posted by themusicsover on September 19, 2009

Gram Parsons (Born Cecil Connor)
November 5, 1946 – September 19, 1973

Gram Parsons was a highly influential singer-songwriter who helped launch what would later be called country rock and then alt-country or Americana.  Parsons began playing the guitar as a teenager to escape a less than ideal home life.  The first group he played with, the Shilohs, were a folk band in the tradition of the Kingston Trio.  When the band broke up, he and other Boston area folk musicians formed the International Submarine Band with whom he began to develop a sound the borrowed the best from country, folk and rock.  They enjoyed moderate success, primarily getting airplay on the up-and-coming progressive radio stations.   In 1968, Parsons was asked to join the Byrds as a replacement for David Crosby and Michael Clarke.  He started on keyboards but soon switched to guitar, helping guide the group down a more country rock path.  Parsons left the Byrds in the summer of 1968.  He joined back up with the Byrds’ Chris Hillman soon after to form the Flying Burrito Brothers whose debut,  The Gilded Palace of Sin would be a direct influence on the likes of the Eagles, Dwight Yoakam and later, Wilco and Ryan Adams.  By the early ’70s, Parsons was working as a solo artist while recording and performing with good friend, Emmylou Harris.  It was during this period that Parsons’ inner demons were taking control in the form of substance abuse.  He was also spending more and more time in an area he had become fond of, Joshua Tree National Monument in the desert outside of Los Angeles.  He liked to go there and take LSD while searching for UFOs.  It was during one of these trips that Gram Parsons apparently overdosed on morphine and alcohol and died at the age of 26.

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