TWENTY THOUSAND ROADS > THE BALLAD OF GRAM PARSONS AND HIS COSMIC AMERICAN MUSIC by David N. Meyer

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Many believe that Gram Parsons belongs in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Their truncated argument: Parsons, a onetime Byrd and Flying Burrito Brother, fortified landmark albums like Sweetheart of the Rodeo and Gilded Palace of Sin. Label: VILLARD
[RATING: 4.5]

Many believe that Gram Parsons belongs in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Their truncated argument: Parsons, a onetime Byrd and Flying Burrito Brother, fortified landmark albums like Sweetheart of the Rodeo and Gilded Palace of Sin. He penned the enduring classics “Hickory Wind,” “Return of the Grievous Angel” and “In My Hour of Darkness.” Even peripherally, Parsons’ impact was significant-Rolling Stones masterworks “Wild Horses” and “Honky Tonk Women” might not exist without him.

It’s a compelling case. “As much as Hank [Williams] himself, [Gram] influenced the form of music he loved the most,” Parsons’ daughter Polly wrote in a petition to the Hall earlier this year. “Parsons was pure country, and influenced everyone in the field after his tragic death.” More than a thousand fans-including celebrated songwriter Charlie Louvin-signed the document. Ultimately, though, the effort predictably failed. This year’s list of inductees ended with the names Ralph Emery, Vince Gill and Mel Tillis.

Nonetheless, respect for the cult legend continues to grow. Look to no lesser a source than the Grand Ole Opry for evidence. When The Byrds, on March 15, 1968, became the first rock band to perform at the venerable venue, Parsons made a controversial event even more contentious by veering from the issued set-a serious no-no-on live radio. “At the time, the gig was nothing more than a curiosity,” writes David N. Meyer. “Today [it’s] a cornerstone of Gram Parsons mythology. The Opry places his performance at No. 33 among greatest moments in Opry history.”

Twenty Thousand Roads is the comprehensive biography Parsons fans have longed to devour. Extensively researched and sharply written, Meyer candidly examines Parsons’ troubled childhood – his father committed suicide, mother was an alcoholic – and the natural talent he both shared and squandered. “The simple facts are these,” Meyer writes. “Gram Parsons looked like a movie star, sang like an angel, wrote like a poet, slept with every woman he wanted, took the most and the best drugs, hung out with the coolest people, and set the musical trends for the next two generations.”


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