I am late to the game here ---just getting into Gram's and Clarence's music about six or so years ago.....better late than never. This music surely transcends time and musical genres--both putting country in country rock (or the "cosmic" in Cosmic American Music," as Gram liked to say). Both musicians are known for their stints in later day configurations of the Byrds (Gram--1968; Clarence--1968-73). They actually both played on the landmark "Sweetheart of Rodeo" album (with Clarence only as a "session" player). They were kindred souls whose paths often crossed --and sadly both died far too young and tragically in the same year of 1973. A well told story is Gram telling his manager Phil Kaufman at Clarence's funeral that he wanted to be cremated and his ashes spread in the desert . Clarence did die shortly after and to fulfill Parsons' funeral wishes, Kaufman and a friend stole his body from the airport and in a borrowed hearse drove it to Joshua Tree where they attempted to cremate it by pouring five gallons of gasoline into the open coffin and throwing a lit match inside.

A less told story of the two music giants is related in the Ben Fong-TorresGram Parsons bio, Hickory Wind:

"Gram and Emmylou (Harris) were preparing for a trial, three-date tour set up by Warner Bros. Records. The idea was to have a caravan of country acts -- Country Gazette, the Kentucky Colonels, and Gram and Emmylou. Gene Parsons, by now a solo artist on Warner, along with Chris Ethridge and Sneaky Pete (Kleinow), completed what the label billed as a traveling 'country rock festival.'

With so much talent on board, the stage was bound to be overcrowded, and at one of the shows -- the one in Annapolis, Maryland -- it was. It was the electric set, the highlight of a day-long show. It was after midnight when Gene, Chris, and Sneaky Pete, joined by Clarence White, climbed onto the stage with Gram and Emmylou.

As Gene recalled it, the song had reached the place where White would take his solo break. Clarence was considered by his peers the best country guitar player going and he was not a great admirer of Gram. The word was that he'd been considered for The Byrds in 1968 when Gram got the job.

Now here was Gram playing to the crowd by motioning for Clarence to turn down his volume. If Gram was no longer sashaying like Mick Jagger, he was still putting on superstar airs. Soon, he was motioning for the whole band to turn it down, even confiscating Gene's drumsticks, leaving him to play with his hands.

When Clarence stopped playing his solo, Gram didn't appear to notice. All he knew was that the crowd seemed to enjoy his antics. Clarence picked up again and finished his solo and the electric set ended. But the show continued backstage.

Clarence, who was almost a foot shorter than Gram, grabbed him by the neck, pulled him off to one side, and shouted: 'Listen, you son of a bitch, I've played more country music than you've ever played and I know more about it than you'll ever know! Just remember: You're not the only fucking star around here!'

Gram talked back, but without much energy or conviction. It was nearly three in the morning and through a haze of drink and drugs, Gram managed to understand that he had been out of line. His southern manners came back and he managed an apology. 'I didn't mean to offend,' he said."

The star line coming from Clarence is funny--in that you could not have met a man with a reputation for being more humble than Clarence. Clarence accepted Gram's apology and they became close friends.

Below is Clarence singing the song Gram sang at his funeral.

7/17/2012 05:30:31 am

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