If music was a sports team, Gram Parsons would have, hands down, won the most inspirational player. But what he really wanted was MVP. The charismatic Parsons influenced so much of what we know today as alternative country rock yet never quite hit his stride before overdosing on… well, a lot of things.
Parsons lived in Los Angeles and frequented venues like the Palomino, a place that held artists like George Jones and Buck Owens in the highest regard, which was just fine with him. Nudie suits, unique, extravagant suits tailored by Nudie Cohn, were a symbol for country music at the time. Gram, as with everything else, put his own spin his, having it adorned with poppies, marijuana leaves, and other symbols of drug culture, a culture not embraced by traditionalists. It was hard to tell if Parsons was trying to put rock and roll into his country music or country music into his rock and roll, but the result was timeless music, and a million people enjoying the influence.
When he joined The Byrds at the peak of their popularity, he bought them all Nudie suits and somehow convinced them to go off brand and record the album, “Sweethearts of the Rodeo.” The album was not well received upon release. It wasn’t until much later that the album received the appreciation it deserved, and Parsons eventually became identified as the genre bender he was.
Emmy Lou Harris was brought to the world’s attention through Parsons. Their vocal blend was iconic. Songs like “Love Hurts” seem to reveal a tender and tuned relationship between the two.