As you likely already know, today (November 6th) was the release date of the anticipated Gram Parsons with the Flying Burrito Brothers' Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969 2CD set -- the first volume in the long lost sessions from the late great artist who created "Cosmic American Music," and the second release from the recently launched Amoeba Records. (The premiere release a couple of months back was Brandi Shearer's Close To Dark.) Coincidentally, there is also a new biography just out on the artist titled Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music written by David N. Meyer and published in hard copy by Villard Books.
Gram Parsons, who died of a drug overdose at the young age of 26 and who would have celebrated his 61st birthday yesterday, November 5th, is one of those great artists whose contributions to American music are realized increasingly more and more in every year since his 1973 tragic death. And as each year progresses the legions of fans and artists directly touched by this long deceased singer/songwriter/guitarist/pianist just seem to continue to grow.
"Parsons was born in 1946 into a rich but dysfunctional Southern family; his father committed suicide when Gram was 12, and his mother died of alcoholism the day Gram graduated from high school. Although he grew up in Georgia and Florida, Parsons wasn't turned on to country until he went north to Harvard (where, obsessed with music, he flunked out freshman year), but once he discovered Buck and Merle, he was smitten," wrote the New York Times in its lukewarm review of the new 559-page biography on Parsons. The book, and other reviewers agree, is by no means a perfect biography -- skipping some important details and over-emphasizing others -- but it is a good book to have, especially for diehard fans and Parsons completists. It is also by no means the the only book out there on the fascinating character that was Gram Parsons. Others include Grievous Angel: An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons by Jessica Hundley with Polly Parsons (Gram's daughter) that was published by Thunder's Mouth Press a couple of years ago and is available in both hard-cover and on paperback. There is also the recommended Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons by Ben Fong Torres that is well worth reading to further understand the artist. Other books in the long list under Gram Parsons' bibliography include Pamela Des Barres' I'm With the Band: Confessions of A Groupie which was published by Jove Books in 1988. DeBarres, who counts Gram Parsons among her closest past friends, also wrote the liner notes for the new Amoeba Records release.
The 27 track double-CD set Gram Parsons with the Flying Burrito Brothers Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969, which includes a 24 page color booklet with unseen photos, is culled from a lost performance by the Gram Parsons-fronted Flying Burrito Brothers when they opened for the Grateful Dead over three nights (April 4, 5, 6, 1969) at San Francisco's legendary Avalon Ballroom. Reportedly the April 4th show has never been heard in any form at all while the bonus disc is the April 6th show. And according to Amoeba Records: "For years these tapes were rumored to exist and were finally unearthed in the Grateful Dead vault. The shows were recorded by the legendary sound engineer Bear (Owsley Stanley), and are the highest quality Gram Parsons live material available."
Note that all 27 newly released tracks are also available digitally exclusively via Amoeba.com.
And if you happen to be in SoCal on Thursday, November 8th, do yourself a favor and attend the record release party at the Hollywood Amoeba Music -- it's gonna be a night to remember by all accounts. Starting at 7PM will be a performance of songs from the new CD set and artists scheduled to appear include The Mike Stinson Band, Quincy Coleman, Dave Gleason, plus Amoeba’s own recording artist, Brandi Shearer and other surprise guests including original Flying Burrito Brothers member Chris Ethridge. Also scheduled to be in the house are photographer Andee Nathanson, whose photos adorn the new CD cover and booklet, liner-note author Pamela Des Barres, and Gram’s daughter Polly Parsons. Note: If you buy the new CD you can receive a free special limited edition Flying Burrito Brothers poster while supplies last.
Meantime, check out the video clips below of Gram Parsons with the Flying Burrito Brothers doing "Christine's Tune" from the band's 1969 album The Gilded Palace of Sin and also the trailer from the documentary on the artist, Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel, which gives an indication of the impact this artist had on generations of artists to come, not to mention the tragedy that was Gram Parsons' short life.