The Gram Parsons FAQ

* Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Gram Parsons?
Gram is often referred to as the worlds first Country/Rock Star. Gram has developed a considerable cult following due to his efforts to blur the line between Rock & Roll and Country music during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Gram’s influence was key in the development of such early 1970’s bands as The Byrds, The Eagles and The Rolling Stones, as well as such new 1990’s Gram inspired bands as Son Volt, The Jayhawks, The Lemonheads, Wilco and Dash Rip Rock.

Is it Gram or Graham?
Gram is short for Ingram, which should not be confused (but often is) with the name Graham (i.e.Graham Parker).

Is his name really Gram?
Gram was born Ingram Cecil Connor III, November 5, 1946 in Winter Haven Florida. Gram’s father died when Gram was very young and his mother remarried Bob Parsons, legally changing his name to Gram (short for Ingram) Parsons.

Did Gram invent Country-Rock?
Although Gram is often credited for inventing Country-Rock, Gram was simply the first Country musician to “act” like a Rock star (i.e. Flashy Nudie suites, excessive drink and drugs, etc.) and was often found in the company of the Rolling Stones. Gram was the inspiration of the Country-Rock movement which involved such bands as The Eagles, Pure Prairie League, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage and The Desert Rose Band to name a few.

What in the world is “Cosmic American Music?”
Throughout Gram’s career, people were (and still are) trying to find an appropriate label for the music that Gram played. Gram despised most of the labels that the various music publications were calling his music, such as “Progressive Country”, “Continental Country” and “Country Rock”, preferring instead to call his style “Cosmic American Music”. Despite Gram’s attempts to popularize the name “Cosmic American Music”, it was never taken seriously by the mainstream music industry and fell into obscurity. Today the title is rarely seen but is occasionally used between long time Gram fans and/or music historians.

Did Gram write Wild Horses for the Rolling Stones?
Gram did not write Wild Horses although he was the inspiration for the song. Wild Horses was actually written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger (it is widely held that the song was originally written for Gram to sing, an idea that was refused by the record label). The Rolling Stones did allow Gram to record the song before the Stones themselves had recorded it (a first for the Rolling Stones). Gram did however arrange the version of Honky Tonk Woman that the Stones later called Country Honk and was also the key inspiration for The Stones’ “Country-ish” movement following Exile On Main Street.

Where is Gram now?
Gram died September 19, 1973 in Joshua Tree, California, a part of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts, at the age of 26.

Was Gram’s body stolen after his death?
During the funeral ceremony for Gram’s close friend Clarence White, Gram was overheard stating that when he died, rather than being buried in the ground, he would like to be taken out to The Joshua Tree desert of southern California and burned. After Gram died in The Joshua Tree Inn, his body was taken to the Los Angeles International Airport in preparation for being flown to Louisiana for burial. Gram’s road manager Phil Kaufman and a friend, Michael Martin, got very intoxicated, borrowed a broken down hearse and drove to LAX to retrieve the body. When they arrived, they told the shipping clerk that Gram’s remains were to be sent out of another airport, flashed some bogus paperwork and falsely signed for the body. After crashing into a wall and almost being arrested, Phil, Michael and Gram drove back to The Joshua Tree Desert, stopping only to buy more beer and a container of gasoline. They took Gram’s remains into the desert, poured gasoline inside the coffin and set him ablaze. The two were arrested several days later and fined $700.00 for stealing and burning the COFFIN (it was is not against the law to steal a dead body). Gram’s partially burned remains were finally laid to rest in a modest cemetery near New Orleans, LA.

Did Gram discover Emmylou Harris?
Emmylou Harris was discovered in 1971 by Chris Hillman and Rick Roberts when Hillman brought Gram to hear her sing in a small club in the Washington D.C. area. In 1972, Emmylou answered the call from Gram to join him in Los Angeles to work on his first solo album, GP and later joined his band Gram Parsons and the Fallen Angels. After Gram’s death, Emmylou retained many of the members of the Fallen Angels and many of the session musicians from the GP and Grievous Angel sessions to form her own “Hot Band”.

Was Gram in The Byrds?
After David Crosby left The Byrds, they performed as a trio for a while but felt they needed another player to round out their sound. Chris Hillman asked Gram to join The Byrds shortly after meeting him in a bank. Their next album was all country and they recorded in Nashville. The album, Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, was a breakthrough in pop music. Now more than 25 years later it is considered a classic. Gram quit working for the Byrds in London only six months after Chris and Roger had hired him following Gram’s decision not to tour with the Byrds in South Africa.

Did Gram write the Gumby Theme Song?
When Art Clokey started creating a series of 130 surreal six minute Gumby episodes, he commissioned a theme song from a young musician named Pete Kleinow. Pete is the famed “Sneeky” Pete who later became the steel guitar player of The Flying Burrito Brothers. Gram had nothing to do with the theme song.

Were Gram and Emmylou Harris Lovers?
Despite the passion in their vocals and their steamy glances while performing, Gram and Emmylou remained strictly platonic friends throughout their relationship. Although Gram’s marriage to Gretchen was quite unstable and was saturated with jealousy, Gram and Emmylou always managed to keep their relationship a professional one.

Although many continue to claim otherwise, after several years of digging, I have been unable to verify that GP and Emmylou were actually involved romantically. There is no doubt that the two were very much in love with each other, but the prospect of a secret romance between them will just have to remain a delicious mystery.

Did Gram Write “The Ballad Of Easy Rider?”
The Byrds’ “The Ballad Of Easy Rider” has an arrangement of an old Dixie hymn called “Jesus Is Just All Right With Me.” Although it was originally thought that this arrangement was introduced to Roger McGuinn by Gram Parsons, in fact it was fellow Byrd member GENE Parsons (no relation) who was responsible for this introduction. Several years later, the Doobie Brothers had a hit with the song.