The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Death of the Grievous Angel

            One of the odder rock and roll star death stories was that of Gram Parsons.   It wasn't so much his death that was odd, but what happened after he died. 

              Gram Parsons came from a moneyed background, but his parents were alcoholics and his father committed suicide when Gram was 12 years old.  To escape from his troubled youth, Gram turned to music and played in various rock and folk bands.  In 1968 he joined the already legendary group The Byrds.  He had a big influence on the highly regarded album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, which helped lead to the country rock movement.  His association with The Byrds was short lived and by summer of 1968 he left the group.

           In 1969 Parsons co-founded the country rock group The Flying Burrito Brothers. He recorded a couple of albums with this group and then moved on to attempt a solo career.  He floundered and increasingly fell under the influence of drugs and alcohol. During the period of the early 70s he also associated with the Rolling Stones in hopes of recording on their label.  His drug usage began to interfere with his professional life.

             In 1972 Gram managed to shake his heroin addiction and returned to the U.S. to record his milestone album GP.   Among those collaborating on the album with him was Ric Grech, who had been part of the super group Blind Faith, and singer Emmylou Harris.  The album is traditional country with some rock influence.  It received critical acclaim, but was a commercial dud, selling very poorly. 

            On the heels of GP, Parsons toured with Harris and a band to promote the album. but with no great success. After the tour Parsons recorded his next solo album.  On September 19, 1973 Gram Parsons died in a motel room in Joshua Tree, California.  He had overdosed on morphine and tequila.  He was only 26 years old when he died.

             He had told some friends not long before his death that when he died he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes strewn in Joshua Tree National Monument.  However, his stepfather had arranged to have the body shipped back to Louisiana for burial.  Before the body made it onto the plane at Los Angeles International Airport, his friends arrived in a borrowed hearse and stole the body.  They drove the body to Joshua Tree, where they dumped a five gallon can of gasoline inside the casket and tossed in a lit match.   A 2003 movie called Grand Theft Parsons, starring Johnny Knoxville, depicts the incidents leading up to and after the stealing of the corpse of Gram Parsons.

               The death of Gram Parsons was overshadowed by the death the following day of a much more well-known artist, Jim Croce, who died in a plane crash.  Gram Parson's impact on music, particularly country rock and country has been substantial as many artists cite his influence in their work.

              Are you familiar with any of the work of Gram Parsons?  Would you like to stay in the motel room where Gram Parsons died?   For only $105 you too can stay in room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn.  They claim the room is haunted, but it hasn't stopped many fans from staying.


  1. Never heard of him, but interesting story.

  2. That is really an interesting story. Never heard of the man but I'm glad he got his wishes in the end.


  3. Being in the UK as you do we never hear of many of your stars likewise you ours. I must say this was a very interesting story and no I wouldn't like to stay at that hotel.
    He sounds a very good artiste so sad he died so young.

    Ps have got to 201

  4. His friends stole his body? Never knew that.

  5. Was he in any way related to Alan Parsons?

  6. Will -- Parsons is mainly an icon of certain musicians and fans of late 60s California country rock. He's probably not well known at all in Canada.

    Clarissa--Problem is that the guys who tried to cremate him didn't do it right and the police got there before they could get the ashes to distribute. What was left of the body was still taken to be buried in Metarie (New Orleans), Louisiana.

    Yvonne - - Congrats on breaking 200 followers. Actually Gram Parsons may have a larger following in Britain than the U.S.-- wouldn't surprise me.

    Alex -- Check out the movie Grand Theft Parsons--it's a pretty entertaining account of what happened.

    L. Diane -- Gram Parsons would certainly not be directly related to Alan since Parsons was actually the name of Gram's stepfather and not his birth name.

    Ocean Girl-- He wasn't anything like Jason Mraz, that's for sure.

  7. rLEE-b ~
    Are you perhaps having problems with your Email system these days?

    For two days in a row now, I have Emailed you only to receive back the following message:

    This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification. THIS IS A WARNING MESSAGE ONLY. YOU DO NOT NEED TO RESEND YOUR MESSAGE. Delivery to the following recipients has been delayed. [*And then your Email address is typed in HERE.*]

    Do you know wha's up with this?

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

  8. Stephen McC-- I have just sent you an email. If you didn't get it then let me know here in the comments and I'll give you an alternate email address.

  9. Got it and just sent a return, Bro.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

  10. That was very cool, Arlee. You always have such great ideas!

  11. Yet another great rock n' roll tale.

  12. I love Gram Parsons. He had some great songs. I think I like him, in addition to his own talent, he and Bobby Bare recorded alot of the same songs. He wrote some good songs. Shame he wasted his life and talnet.

  13. I've never heard of him - thanks for sharing this interesting story.

  14. Raquel -- Thanks, but it wasn't my idea it's a true story, but I was glad to retell it to those who hadn't heard it before.

    Carol-- Yeah those crazy hippie days!

    Gregg-- It's sad that so many talented people have squandered their lives. And now I'm starting to think about all this kind of stuff in context with your current series on God's Will.

    Jemi-- It's sad that he didn't gain more recognition.

  15. Lee, Thanks for putting this out there! I had no idea; I do remember seeing some of this movie, just a couple of weeks ago. I will have to search on TIVO for it. It is a great
    story. I do recognize his music-really love some of his stuff also
    a Jim Croce fan! Green, Green Grass of Home, that was huge at my house! I don't know, who sang it, but it wasn't him...I'll have to go research that..(Phone call to Mom in Maine)

  16. I asked my Mom she is watching a movie, she said, Roger Miller. She'd be wrong...It is Porter Wagoner, I found it on
    I knew when I heard it. My Dad played this tune, a lot! Thanks
    for taking me down memory lane~

  17. when's the heaven eleven posting going up?

    Oh, and thanks for the interesting post!

  18. Ellie --- Tom Jones also had a hit with "Green, Green Grass" in the late 60's. A lot of people have recorded this song in fact.

    Ron -- We're doing the Heaven Eleven on this coming Monday June 7.

  19. I often despair with the early sad and lonely deaths so many young talented artists succumb to. And what wonderful art have we been deprived of because of this.


Go ahead and say something. Don't be afraid to speak your mind.
I normally try to respond to all comments in the comment section so please remember to check the "Email follow-up comments" box if you want to participate in the comment conversation.

For Battle of the Bands voting the "Anonymous" commenting option has been made available though this version is the least preferred. If voting using "anonymous" please include in your comment your name (first only is okay) and city you are voting from and the reason you chose the artist you did.

If you know me and want to comment but don't want to do it here, then you can send me an email @ jacksonlee51 at aol dot com.