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Flying Burrito Brothers, The

Flying Burrito Brothers, The

Flying Burrito Brothers, The, legendary folk-rock band led by the quixotic Gram Parsons. Member-ship: Gram Parsons (real name, Cecil Connor III), gtr., kybd., voc. (b. Winter Haven, Fla., Nov. 5, 1946; d. Joshua Tree, Calif., Sept. 19, 1973); Chris Hillman, gtr., mdln., voc. (b. Los Angeles, Dec. 4, 1942); “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow, pedal steel gtr. (b. South Bend, Ind., c. 1934); Chris Ethridge, bs., pno. Later members included Bernie Leadon, gtr., voc. (b. Minneapolis, July 19, 1947); Michael Clarke, drm. (b. N.Y., June 3, 1944; d. Treasure Island, Fla., Dec. 19, 1993); Al Perkins, pedal steel gtr. Gram Parsons left in 1970, to be replaced by Rick Roberts, gtr., voc. (b. Clearwater, Fla. Aug. 31, 1949).

Gram Parsons grew up in Waycross, Ga., where he learned to play piano and later took up guitar. After playing with several Ga. bands, he formed the folk-style quartet the Shilos, with whom he performed in the first half of the 1960s. After briefly studying theology at Harvard Univ., Parsons formed perhaps the first country-rock band, the International Submarine Band, in 1965 in the Cambridge area. The group recorded two obscure singles before relocating to L.A. in 1966 and realigning with a new bassist and drummer for Safe at Home, recorded for Lee Hazlewood’s LHI label. The album included four Parsons originals, including “Luxury Liner.”

In 1968, Parsons joined the Byrds for their celebrated Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. Hailed as the first country-rock record, the album included two Parsons songs, “Hickory Wind” and “One Hundred Years from Now.” Leaving the Byrds after only three months as the group was preparing for a tour of South Africa, Parsons was soon followed by Chris Hillman.

In late 1968, Parsons and Hillman formed the Flying Burrito Brothers with “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow and Chris Ethridge. Signed to A&M Records, their debut album, The Gilded Palace of Sin, pictured the members in elabo-rate country western-style Nudie suits (Parsons’s suit prominently featured marijuana leaves). The album contained some of Parsons’s finest songwriting efforts, including “Sin City” and “Juanita” (coauthored by Hillman) and “Hot Burrito #1” (coauthored by Ethridge), with lead vocals by Parsons. In September 1969, Ethridge exited for sessions work and was replaced by future Eagle Bernie Leadon, formerly with Dillard and Clark, with Hillman switching to bass. Ex-Byrd Michael Clarke became the group’s drummer that year. Burrito Deluxe featured a fine countrified version of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’s “Wild Horses,” as well as a number of songs written or cowritten by Parsons, including “High Fashion Queen” and “Lazy Days.”

Parsons left the Flying Burrito Brothers in April 1970, shortly before the release of Burrito Deluxe. He was replaced by Rick Roberts, who led the group through a variety of incarnations until 1972. The Flying Burrito Brothers included Roberts’s “Colorado” and Gene Clark’s “Tried So Hard,” but both Kleinow and Leadon departed in 1971. By October, the group was reconstituted with Roberts, Hillman, Clarke, pedal steel guitarist Al Perkins, and three members of Country Gazette. This grouping recorded the live Last of the Red Hot Burritos, but, before a late 1971 tour undertaken as the Hot Burrito Revue with Country Gazette, Hillman, Perkins, and Clarke dropped out. By June 1972, the Burritos had dissolved, although Roberts assembled a new group for a 1973 European tour.

Spending two years in Europe, often in the company of Keith Richards, Parsons eventually returned to recording in 1972. For his two solo albums, Parsons enlisted vocalist Emmylou Harris, fiddler Byron Berline, steel guitarist Al Perkins, bassist Rick Grech (a former member of Blind Faith), and guitarist extraordinaire James Burton. The debut album GP included Parsons’s “Kiss the Children,” cowritten with Grech, and “She,” cowritten with Chris Ethridge. In the spring of 1973, Parsons toured with the Fallen Angels (including Harris) and recordings from the tour eventually surfaced on Sierra Records in 1982. Harris stepped to the fore as harmony vocalist for Grievous Angel, as evidenced by “Love Hurts” and “Hearts on Fire.” The album also contained “In My Hour of Darkness,” cowritten by Parsons and Harris, another Parsons-Grech collaboration, “Las Vegas,” and the Parsons originals “Return of the Grievous Angel” and “Brass Buttons.” However, several months before the release of the album, Parsons died from apparent multiple drug use at the age of 26 on Sept. 19, 1973, at Joshua Tree, Calif. Parsons subsequently found life in the work of Harris, whose popularity, ironically, was primarily in the country field.

A burgeoning interest in Parsons soon developed and A&M Records scoured their vaults for additional recordings by the group. The 1974 album Close Up the Honky Tonks included five out-takes recorded by the Parsons edition of the Flying Burrito Brothers. The 1976 album Sleepless Nights contained out-takes recorded by Parsons in 1973, as well as Flying Burrito Brothers out-takes from 1970.

In 1975, the Flying Burrito Brothers re-formed with Kleinow, Ethridge, La. fiddler Floyd “Gib” Guilbeau, bassist Joel Scott Hill, and drummer Gene Parsons. After one album, Flying Again, Ethridge departed and Skip Battin came on board for the release of the 1976 album Airborne.

With guitarist Greg Harris, the group scored a minor country hit in 1980 with “White Line Fever.” As the Burrito Brothers, the group released two albums, Hearts on the Line and Sunset Sundown for Curb Records. After the release of Sunset Sundown in 1982, Pete Kleinov left the band to pursue other interests and Gib Guilbeau and John Beland carried on. This edition of the Flying Burrito Brothers disbanded in 1985, but mainstay Guilbeau assembled yet another group that endured until 1988, touring America and Europe. Since then, occasional reunions have resulted in tours and recordings, including 1999’s Sons of the Golden West.

Discography

The Gilded Palace of Sin (1969); Burrito Deluxe (1970); The Flying Burrito Brothers (1971); Last of the Red Hot Burritos (1972); Hot Burrito (1975); Close Up the Honky Tonks (1974); Flying Again (1975); Airborne (1976); Sin City (rec. 1976, rel. 1992); Live from Tokyo (1978); Cabin Fever (1985); Live from Amsterdam (1985); Live from Europe (1986); Farther Along: The Best of The Flying Burrito Brothers (1988); Encounters from the West (reissue of Live from Tokyo, 1991); Eye of a Hurricane (1994); Relix’s Best of the Flying Burrito Brothers (1995). The Shilos: Gram Parsons: The Early Years (1979). The International Submarine Band: Safe at Home (1968). Gram Parsons/The Flying Burrito Brothers: Sleepless Nights (1976). The Burrito Brothers (with Gib Guilbeau): Double Barrel (1995); Back to the Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1996). Swampwater and The Flying Burrito Brothers (with Gib Guilbeau and Sneaky Pete Kleinow): Live at the Cannary (1996). Gram Parsons: GP (1973); Grievous Angel (1974); Cosmic American Music: The Rehearsal Tapes 1972 (1995). Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels: Live 1973 (1973); Live 1973—Original Unedited Broadcast Recording (1997).

Bibliography

Ben Fong-Torres, Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons (N.Y., 1991).

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