Perfect Sound Forever

Johnny Rogan's Byrds Requiem For The Timeless Vol 2


Uh... You Left Out A John, Johnny
An Intense Review
Part 3 by David Chirko


Michael James (Dick) Clarke (June 3, 1946 - December 19, 1993)

Michael Clarke (pp. 408-542) was the Byrds' first drummer and Rogan begins his chapter on him by rectifying many misconceptions regarding his origins and background. Although he actually hailed from Spokane, Washington, Clarke stated that he was born in Stockbridge, New York. Such became common information, as other sources reported similar. 8 Further, Rogan says that Michael maintained that his surname was "Clarke," whereas it was really "Dick" (which he found unpalatable), and therefore he changed it (with an "e," so as not to be confounded with the other Clark in the Byrds--Gene) because of inspiration drawn from viewing the Dick Clark Show. Rogan also explains that, like bandmates Gene Clark and Chris Hillman, Clarke said he was older than he really was, in order to be admitted into bars and clubs. Additionally, he claimed that he spent many a sojourn in Europe as a youngster, where he had actually never visited until the Byrds ventured to England in 1965.

Rogan (2017) asserts that David Crosby pointed out to him that, regarding Jones and Jagger of the Rolling Stones, Clarke "...had Brian's hair and Mick's lips" (p. 412). This instigated teens to swoon over him as they sometimes believed him to be Jones. Regardless, the resemblance itself made him popular early on and that had some influence on why he was chosen for the Byrds flock. However, there is no verisimilitude in some sources who state that Clarke was suddenly discovered by any Byrd, as a facsimile of Brian Jones, standing outside the Troubadour, in Los Angeles. Quite the contrary, because he had made the acquaintance of other Byrds beforehand.

No misconceptions over Michael Clarke, the person

Not shy per se, an unabashed attitude pervaded Clarke's eschewing of interviews. Humorous, innocent, apolitical, 9 sensitive and generous (but careless financially), he was a lothario who could cachinnate at himself, even though he experienced episodes of sorrow. Rogan (2017) further says that Clarke was Byrds' manager Jim Dickson's most beloved from the flock and Rogan too believed that he "...was the most loved of all the Byrds..." (p. 4). Later on, Rogan apprises us that Michael Clarke was thought of "...as the most easy-going and uncomplicated member of the original Byrds" (p. 408). Mark Azdick of Boulder's Mountain Ears recording studio, said Clarke was generous and zany, very well known and liked as much.

Misconceptions over drumming abilities

Yet another myth Rogan delves regarding Clarke was that he had zero experience as a drummer before becoming a Byrd. In fact, Rogan opines that Clarke was an unappreciated drummer, who nevertheless needed to be more serious in order to become stellar. Although he possessed no professional experience, he was earlier, as his mother Suzy Dick explained, proficient on the bongos and congas, espousing R&B and jazz, and playing with musician friends in his parents' basement. He adulated drummer Joe Morello from Dave Brubeck's group. Clarke started out on cardboard boxes in the Byrds' earliest sessions. Nevertheless, some were of the opinion that Clarke was the weak link in the original Famous Five flock. Ric Menck (2007) dishes on Mike's drumming expertise, believing that "It sounds...sloppy on most of the band's recordings... In concert it often felt as though he were flailing at his drum kit..." But, further, "...his playing had character and his looks and personality perfectly suited the band" (OBC). Contrast that with Azdick, who asseverated, that Clarke would "...get on stage in front of thousands...and...be impeccable. We used to call him the human metronome" (Rogan, 2017, p. 445). Rogan (2017) mentions that "Former roadie Carlos Bernal, who...worked alongside every drummer in the Byrds, including...Kelley...Parsons and...Guerin, retained a special affection for Michael" (p. 496). Bernal affirms that "He was the most exciting rock 'n' roll drummer of all...not...technically or fundamentally correct, or top...class at some...rudiments, but...in concert there was nobody like him" (p. 496). Former bassist for the Byrds, John York (who played with Clarke in a bogus Byrds lineup), at The Byrds Lyrics Page, explained Clarke played feverishly until he bled, but always charmed, stating, "We always called him the Robert Redford of Rock and Roll."

Other pursuits

Clarke was not only adroit with the drumsticks, but the paintbrush, as well. Along with Roger McGuinn, a write-up and reproductions of his artwork--scenery done in acrylics and oils (not watercolor, as Rogan, [2017], p. 515, asserts)--can be found in the book, Musicians As Artists, by Jim McMullan and Dick Gautier (1994). Therein, Clarke says that, between all the travel and personal elements of a frenetic life, painting "...saves on psychiatrist's bills and keeps me...from curling up in a fetal position" (p. 21). Clarke's father was also a painter and his mother was a jazz pianist.

Upon his leaving

Clarke grew tired of the Byrds and was desirous to embark on something fresh. He left, sans any acrimony, January 3, 1968 (the day The Notorious Byrd Brothers LP was released). 10 Rogan (2017), explains, this was executed through an "Agreement For Sale of Partnership Interests" (pp. 419-420) 11 (whether or not it was really in his best interest).

Some of the other rock stars Michael Clarke later played with:

Dillard & Clark Expedition --The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark, 1968. As a member.

Flying Burrito Brothers – (Including outtake compilations), Burrito Deluxe, 1970, to Close Up The Honky Tonks, 1974. As a member. Partnered with former Byrds Gram Parsons (until 1970) and Chris Hillman.

Barry McGuire – Barry McGuire & The Doctor, 1971. As a guest.

Roger McGuinn – Roger McGuinn, 1973. As a guest.

Terry Melcher – (Byrds' producer); Terry Melcher, 1974. As a guest.

Firefall – (excluding compilations), Firefall, 1976, to Undertow, 1980. As a member.

Chris Hillman – Clear Sailin', 1977. As a guest. (Rogan neglected to list this fact in his Requiem 2 discography.) 12

Nyte Flyte (or Flyte) – With Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, et al, recorded, at Jim Dickson's implorement, five songs in 1982. They played a couple of gigs, minus Clarke, and then dissolved. Rogan described this in his Requiem 2 text, but only referred to it in the Gene Clark discography, not Michael Clarke's.

Firebyrds – Gene Clark, after releasing the album Firebyrd in 1984, sans Clarke, toured with him and others as the Firebyrds and Rogan's discography doesn't list anything recorded, however, he reports that there are mastered cassette tapes of live performances kept by Firebyrds' member Mike Hardwick, but the Clark estate halted any further developments regarding releasing this material.

Bogus Byrds bands -- As a member, Clarke performed with various combinations of Gene Clark, John York, Carlos Bernal, Nicky Hopkins, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, et al, 1984-1985; then with his own version, 1988-1993, involving Skip Battin, John York or Carlos Bernal, et al.

High flying Byrd

Clarke imbibed inordinately (like his mother used to), and his escapades were legendary. He enjoyed vodka and beer and also had an affinity for cocaine and amphetamines. He arrived, in a sozzled state, at the Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame Induction ceremony for the Byrds (where Eagle Don Henley delivered the induction dissertation), in New York City, January 16, 1991. British psychiatrists, Neil Kessel, M.D., and Henry Walton, M.D., in their book, entitled Alcoholism (1989), discuss the many facets of dipsomania. Focusing on the personality of the alcoholic (and one could perhaps apply this to the demise of some of the Byrds), the authors state that two aspects figure in here: psychological characteristics of an alcoholic that can assist in causing alcoholism, and how extended imbibing can affect the personality. Moreover, they aver that an alcoholic personality trait may in fact stem from the drinking itself. The cycle can work like this: Imbibing reduces social tensions, inhibitions and timidity. The drinker then feels omnipotent, possessing augmented self esteem, and with the ensuing pleasure believes that their dependency needs are taken care of. However, Kessel and Walton admonish that, "A...dependent person, when drinking, can become...passive, without recognizing...this lapse into inactivity and irresponsibility" (p. 43). When deprivation and disappointment of any satisfaction occurs, rancor develops, which causes guilt, leading to self punishment. Drinking again lowers that rancor, with its accompanying pain. Furthermore, alcoholics attempt to punish family members who are indifferent to their emotional needs.

Reuniting and reigniting the nest

In 1985, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke hoped to reunite the original Famous Five. However, David Crosby was in drug rehab; Roger McGuinn was vexed over the McGuinn, Clark & Hillman scenario and was pursuing a solo flight; Chris Hillman was incensed that they called themselves the "Firebyrds" and was reluctant; and Gene Parsons didn't want to go on the road. They even pursued Tom Petty but, no deal. "20th Anniversary Tribute To The Byrds," sometimes billed as "The Byrds," sallied on without the last five, aforementioned.

As Gene Clark had earlier abandoned the project, Clarke received the brunt of condemnation. Messrs. Crosby, Hillman & McGuinn filed suit in April 1989 against Michael Clarke via an injunction for employing the Byrds' name, which a judge eventually ruled against because Clarke (nor Clark) didn't indulge in misleading advertising by claiming his group was "the original Byrds." Also, because Clarke utilized the Byrds' moniker for four years before the injunction, Crosby, Hillman & McGuinn, cognizant of this, couldn't demonstrate that they were damaged. The latter decided against pursuing a costly lawsuit they might lose.

Crosby once averred that, first Gene Clark--who could sing and compose--ventured out with a poor band employing the moniker of the Byrds. Fine. However, when Michael Clarke--who never sang or wrote anything--did same, with a yet worse bunch who could not perform the canon, Crosby exclaimed, "What they were was a bunch of drunks out there trying to make enough money to get to the next bus stop" (Tim Connors [1989-1990], 1997).

One Byrd killed with one stone

I first heard of the demise of Michael Clarke years after his passing, through a CD Plus publication, in a segment adumbrating the most dangerous bands to be in. Just before Clarke left us, in Treasure Island, Florida, he entreated his dear friend Susan Paul to prepare a foundation, Campaign for Alcohol-Free Kids, in order to deliver his anti-alcohol message to high schools. Therein he penned a heartfelt testament "from the grave" wherein, identifying himself musically only as a former member of the Byrds, he confessed his culpability for his dire situation, and admonished young people to eschew alcohol because of its noxious social and physical effects. Clarke described how drinking made him irresponsible, difficult and dangerous; detailing the horrendous transformation his body underwent--legs, stomach and chest swelling like a "...sumo wrestler" (Rogan, 2017, p. 519). Moreover, his weight, at 6'2", going from 175 lbs. to 75 lbs. It concluded with, "Trust me, you don't want to suffer like I did, really, it's no joke" (p. 520). He died of liver failure.

Chris Hillman, at The Byrds Lyrics Page, apprises us, saying "I'd heard from someone that Michael was seriously ill. I called his house early that Sunday morning (December 19). His ex-wife Robin answered. I said –Hello, is Michael home?. Who's this? she said. It's Chris, I replied. Oh, honey, he just passed away in his mothers [sic] arms. I haven't cried like that in a long, long time. I miss him." Chris apprised Suzy Dick that he was so perturbed over the Clarke episode, that he would break up his group, the Desert Rose Band. Suzy exclaimed, "...Michael's death taught him..." (Rogan, 2017, p. 520), to devote more time to his family.

Things got contentious over the distribution of Michael's ashes. There was one faction: his mother, former wife Robin King, their son Zachary, and friend, painter Susan Paul (whom he had planned to marry, divorcing his wife, below), versus the other faction: third wife Lee Elliot, and her mother. (Second wife Joy Mittelstadt, and Joan Pound, another woman he had lived with, were not mentioned in this context.) In the end, the two parties acceded to split the remains, with the former garnering the most, wherein Paul deposited their share in the Florida sea.


Kevin Daniel Kelley (March 25, 1943 – April 6, 2002)

Kevin Kelley (pp. 543-624) was born, an only child, in Los Angeles. 13 He was Chris Hillman's cousin--which became almost tantamount to a moniker. The two were close in childhood. They had some propinquity, regarding location and were both on the roster for the recording of Sweetheart of the Rodeo, but seldom saw one another after Kelley left the flock. Chris never called him and Kevin, very independent and proud, never called Chris, his more successful relative, because he didn't want to put him on the spot for anything. In fact, Kevin seldom spoke of Chris (whom he esteemed) or, for that matter, the Byrds, after he departed the band.

Fractured Byrds nest

Kelley rarely subjected himself to interviews. Rogan tells us that he grew up in blessed circumstances. He commenced playing the drums in grade school orchestra and fashioned an affinity for the Classics. Kelley took classes in the latter at a couple of colleges. His parents divorced when he was six years of age and he resided with his mother. In order to somehow impress his estranged and authoritative father, he joined the Marines. He became esteemed as a cryptographer. British psychiatrist and theologian Jack Dominian, M.D., in his book, Marital Breakdown (1969), tells us that it is sometimes the atmosphere of a home that underwent a divorce, rather than the divorce itself, that is the most inimical element here. He also relates suicidal attempts and the fostering of personality disorders in the child as a result of the marital discord that impacts on them. Disorganization stemming from a broken home situation mollified by a needed harmony with step-parents become paramount. Reconstruction of the family after divorce is key. A relationship with a divorced father for the boy was usually more stable than with a father in a not so felicitous, but intact, family. The situation can be discombobulating for the child, where their security, loyalty and image to, and of, their parents is shattered--coercing them into taking sides. Dominian asseverates, "The children of such...intolerance, antagonism and hatred, pay a heavy price" (p. 120). Taking that into consideration, things were, no doubt, hectic in Kelley's childhood situation.

Kelley played drums in a blues and folk oriented band called The Rising Sons, which included Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal. They had talent, in fact, during the conclusion of a Hoot Night showing at the Troubadour in spring of 1965, David Crosby egged on the throngs gathered, by hopping atop a table and exclaiming repeatedly, "Long live the Rising Sons!" (Marc Kirkeby, 1992, p. 3). In January 1968, Kevin became the early Byrd after the Famous Five began to fragment. He was with them until early September, when he was apprised by Hillman that he was to be replaced by Gene Parsons. This was at the urging of guitarist Clarence White, who was the bandmate of the latter in the Reasons (Nashville West). Parsons then remarked "...they were looking for a heavier drummer. They had me play the same tunes as Kevin so that they could compare us...I thought Kevin was a really good drummer. His work on 'Sweetheart...was really good" (Simon Evans, 2001). Rogan (2017) acquiesces with the aforementioned and said Roger McGuinn in 1969 opined, "except under pressure on stage. If you had a big crowd, he'd sort of break up a little bit--his timing would go bad" (p. 561-562). Further, roadie Jimmi Seiter added that Kelley was a good, albeit frantic, jazz--not country--drummer.

Some other wings (not to be confounded with two others named "Kevin Kelly," who did session work)

Phil Ochs – Gunfight at Carnegie Hall, recorded, 1970 and released, 1974. As a guest.

Fever Tree – For Sale, 1971. As a member, but not on any later releases.

Jesse Wolff & Whings – Jesse Wolff & Whings, 1972. As a member.

Drugged Byrd

Rogan tells us that by 1972, Kelley was enjoying the finest hash and cocaine and doing some small time dealing himself. Elsewhere, his drug dealer's partner was shot to death by a supplier, who was killed by the dealer, who absconded. This shook Kelley up and he resorted to imbibing alcohol more. At this point, Kelley, according to his mates in Whings, saw him as a good guy who could be cynical, distrustful, even misanthropic, when it came to society's inequitable treatment of the "little guy." Gary Marker of the Rising Sons related how trying it was getting along with Kelley, who wanted music arranged his own way and if that was not the case, his demeanor would became impudent and childish. This was because of a passive-aggressive character flaw. This is, according to the APA Dictionary of Psychology (2015), "characteristic of behavior that is seemingly innocuous, accidental, or neutral but that indirectly displays an unconscious aggressive motive" (Gary R. VandenBos, [EIC], p. 767). Perhaps Kelley's anger was intended for his father. However, Marker did appreciate Kevin's good drumming and "...nice, high voice..." (Rogan, 2017, p. 553). By the late ‘70's, with no recording or session work available, Kelley resorted to delivering flowers for a living, which Rogan says, lasted for quite a few years. In the early ‘90's, Kelley became a rotund recluse. He had back issues, emphysema (which his mother died of), high blood pressure, hyperglycemia and experienced suicidal ideation. This is when Wolff and Kelley's friends got him into rehab. After a couple of months, he began drinking even more excessively. By early 2001, he was composing again.

Love Byrds

Rogan goes into Kelley's loves. He was enamored with a Lynn Naugh, whom he apparently treated a skosh condescendingly because of his fame when he was a Byrd. He was devastated when she curtailed the relationship, which he could never put behind him. Chanteuse, bard and former heroin user and convict Judee Lynn Sill was another woman he dated, but the nature of their relationship is not known. Vicky McClure was a medical assistant he became close to for a couple of years. She even sang lead and harmony on his songs with him in his home as a pastime. Kevin wasn't succeeding as a singer-songwriter in the mid to late ‘70's and she broke up with him.

Sweetheart not so sweet

In late 2001, musician and rock writer Jim Carlton (a buddy of Gram Parsons) was requested by Sundazed Records to purvey sound notes for an archival release of other takes from the Sweetheart Of The Rodeo album sessions, entitled Sanctuary IV (not Sundazed IV, as Rogan, 2017, p. 604, lists it). Carlton called Kelley and found him sounding intoxicated and, probably because he didn't garner the acclaim he believed he was deserving of, disconsolately paranoid--uttering conspiratorial balderdash--meaning he may have been suffering from a delusional disorder, of which the persecutory type is most often witnessed. The Psychodynamic Diagnostic Manual (2006) tells us "Delusional disorder is diagnosed when an individual has nonbizarre delusions (delusions with plausible themes and situations; e.g., of being followed) for at least one month" (PDM Task Force, p. 143).

Kelley said that drumming credit for Jon Corneal was superseded for his contribution. He stated to Carlton that his song "All I Have Are Memories" (not "All I Have Is Memories," as he correctly indicated) was not used and that his vocals were not employed because Clarence White and Lloyd Green were chosen to be instrumentally highlighted and that the other Byrds didn't celebrate his singing. Rogan provides rectification, saying Corneal explained he only played on "Lazy Days," which was excluded from the original release, plus a couple of other, no doubt, outtakes Corneal can't recall. Kelley saying he was replaced in the credits on the album back cover has no veracity because his name is therein mentioned fourth, while Corneal's is sixth. "Memories" was finally put on record--instrumentally--as a bonus cut on the 1997 Sony Legacy expanded CD reissue of Sweetheart. Rogan does not mention that therein the song was attributed to E.D. Hewitt and R.J. Ledford. Kelley was still alive then and who knows whether or not he was alluding to this fact. "Memories" was released yet again on a Sony Legacy 2003 expanded CD with Kelley's vocal--the only song he ever sung in his tenure as a Byrd--correctly identifying him as the author, but this was after his death. It was found that Kelley wrote dozens of other songs, unfortunately untaped.

Cousin Chris to the rescue

A few months before Kevin's passing, cousin Chris called him, imploring him to clean up his life. Kevin found the tough love approach from him painful to hear. He died of heart failure, brought on by alcohol abuse, in impecunious circumstances (the father he took care of earlier, willing him nothing), in Sherman Oaks (suburban Los Angeles) (Rogan, 2011, p. 840), or North Hollywood (Rogan, 2017, p. 607). 14

Kelley had a memorial service at the Sportsmen's Lodge, Studio City. Dozens of his former musical cohorts showed up, including Hillman, who had delivered a terse and forgettable homily--as Rogan explains the mourners found it. Furthermore, Hillman offered to contribute generously to his cousin's funeral expenses, but, as Bill Wolff asserts, was not as forthcoming. Serendipitously, because of Kelley's Marine record, there was a service and burial at the Armed Services cemetery, Riverside, California.


Gram Parsons (November 5, 1946 - September 19, 1973)

Gram Parsons (pp. 625-832) was born and named after his father Ingram Cecil Connor (but followed by "III") in Winter Haven, Florida, into an opulent citrus grower family and was gifted a most handsome trust fund. Both of Parsons' parents were alcoholics and when he was 12, his father committed suicide (as did the father of bandmate Chris Hillman, over financial difficulties when the latter was 16). Gram took the name Parsons from his step-father, Robert Ellis Parsons, who also fell prey to alcohol and cocaine abuse. He had a sister and step-sister. A Harvard dropout, he later played in folk and country oriented ensembles like the Shilohs and the International Submarine Band, respectively. As a personality, Gram was independent, extroverted, charismatic and this extended to his magnetic presence, known for donning his flamboyant, flowery and florid Nudie suit on stage while performing his music. He was known to embellish a story now and then and was witty and puckish (when he drank), but generally carried himself with comity. Parsons was a Byrd from February to July of 1968 and appeared on the Byrds' landmark LP, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. He also co-wrote, with Roger McGuinn, "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man" (a satirical paean to Nashville deejay Ralph Emery), which appeared on their Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde LP from 1969, and he sang harmony on "All The Things" from (Untitled) , released in 1970.

New Byrd in the town nest

Rogan begins this chapter on Gram Parsons quoting Chris Hillman, who exclaimed on The Gram Parsons Project web site, "YOU must remember something – he was never a member of the Byrds" (p. 625). The author says that Hillman believed Gram to be a sideman and that only the original Famous Five were actual Byrds. Rogan reminds us that one cannot always look to contract ink, if so, Hillman wouldn't have been a Byrd when "Mr. Tambourine Man" was recorded. Jim Dickson had to include his moniker on the CBS contract. Some of Hillman's reactions broach cognitive dissonance. There are matters that seem irreconcilable in him, creating conflict and making him seek a balance. Under cognitive dissonance theory, we see that, "When inconsistency occurs, people experience an unpleasant psychological state that motivates them to reduce the dissonance..." (VandenBos, 2015, p. 203). One maneuver involves diminishing the significance of the element that perturbs one. With Hillman, whenever he confronts what he perceives as one-upmanship, he has a propensity for devaluing the person's abilities, looking at it in a black and white fashion--as he did with Parsons and others. Rogan (2017) quotes Jim Dickson who, in 1998, exclaimed, " ...Hillman has never been able to face...the reason Gram was important was that he expressed feeling. Chris can't...he's more like a robot" (p. 741). Dickson was alluding to Hillman's persona onstage. Rogan (2017) is unreservedly eloquent when he describes Gram singing, for instance, "Hot Burrito #1": "...mining the emotional centre of country music, denuding its form of sentimental artifice and creating a song that transcends its time" (p. 720). We also learn in this chapter an envious Hillman was indignant that Parsons' step-father purchased a club for him to sing in when he was a teen.

Misconception over origins of country-rock

Rogan (2017) explains that "...the claimants are many" (p. 876), when it comes to who birthed country-rock. He says that outside of the Byrds, one could perhaps even go back to some of the rockabilly artists of the early ‘50's to locate its originators. He doesn't seem to espouse a definitive position. However, Safe At Home by the International Submarine Band is, he states (and notice the fourth word), "Often cited, somewhat extravagantly, as the ‘first country rock album'..." (2017, p. 710). Robert K. Oermann, in America's Music The Roots Of Country, proclaims that there were numerous bands integral to the inchoative development of the genre, but "...the catalyst was Gram Parsons, and the album that defined the style was Sweetheart of the Rodeo..." (1996, p. 201). I might add that, when country-oriented Parsons became a Byrd, McGuinn and Hillman were, so to speak, already card-carrying members of the rock establishment, replete with attitude, voluminous hair and sideburns. Moreover, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, vis-a-vis Safe At Home, was more complete because it also featured gospel and bluegrass, i.e., mandolin, fiddle and banjo; as well as some 12-string guitar (later, on a bonus cut). There was also that greater rock thrust in the songs, especially the cuts featuring McGuinn's lead vocal, compared to the laid back country feel in the Parsons' outtakes. Jessica Hundley and Polly Parsons (2005), in Grievous Angel an intimate biography of Gram Parsons, averred that Safe At Home maintained as per Gram's intentions, an experimental rock and country hybrid, that was arduous to classify, but that "It was an undeniable country album..." (p. 98). John Einarson (2008), in his volume, Hot Burritos: The True Story of The Flying Burrito Brothers, avers Safe At Home is "hardly the cutting-edge country-rock classic it is often claimed to be, nor is it groundbreaking."

Misconception over authorship

The first entails the composing of Parsons' most famed (and Hillman concurs) Byrds song, "Hickory Wind." We learn that in 2002, one Sylvia Sammons inculpated the author of plagiarism while interviewed via internet by David W. Johnson at internfolklinks.com. Everything following becomes nebulous. She claimed she composed the piece around 1963 and that on the radio in May of 1969 she heard a rendition of the song by Joan Baez. 15 She averred that she called the radio show deejay to ascertain who the songwriter was, but cannot remember what he said. Sammons, as well, didn't elaborate on the specifics of the tune or its lyrics that were purloined. Further, she states she mailed the original tape of the song to herself, then ceded same for copyright reasons. Rogan notes that the ensuing royalty payments would have been substantial, however, we are not apprised of the amount, or who specifically paid her the money, although she allegedly said she settled with Vanguard or a music publisher. No legal copyright documentation is available, not to mention alternate taped copies of the song. Rogan says that Joan Baez's label, Vanguard Records--who assert they don't have correspondence from that early, would have directed her to Tickson Music, the publishers who handled Parsons' canon under the moniker Wait And See. Neither Tickson's Eddie Tickner, his widow Delores, former business partner Jim Dickson (who never heard of Sammons), nor Parsons, ever alluded to any issue, or legal claim with "Hickory Wind." Moreover, Parsons' friend Jim Carlton saw him penning his segment of the song, while co-writer Bob Buchanan can lucidly recollect his input. Rogan also enquires why Parsons' "Hickory Wind," such an excellent piece, was never part of the oeuvre of any of the other artists he worked with before 1968, when the song was written.

Misconception over love interest

Another issue was the eternal rumors behind a supposed Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris amorous thing together. The latter was originally cagey about such, however, much later on confessed that their partnership would have eventualized into something more romantic if they had continued working together. In fact, Harris proclaims, in an interview for The Emmylou Harris Story, on BBC Radio 2, April 29, 2006, "... people...already decided that Gram and I...had this affair, which we didn't have, even though we were in love with each other..." (Rogan, 2017, p. 785). Other love interests

Rogan describes how Parsons also made advances that were fruitless, to the somewhat resistant Mamas and Papas' singer Michele Phillips, who just had her drink doused with acid during the helicopter ride and egression from the infamous concert at Altamont, California, December 6th, 1969. This was just after a murder had taken place in the melee amongst the throngs down below.

Parsons and Gretchen Carpenter (born Gretchen Lisl Berrill, whom I couldn't locate in Rogan's or Hundley's indices), who was a thespian (Pretty Maids All In A Row, 1971) and Playboy model (April 1971), were married from 1971 until his passing in 1973. Gretchen is now married to Bob Carpenter (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band). Curiously, Rogan informs us, no music associates of Gram's were on the invitation list for this wedding.

Gram did have a relationship with Nancy Lee Ross, whom he snatched from David Crosby after being introduced by his friend, actor and aspiring rocker, Brandon de Wilde (who had befriended Crosby). Parsons had planned to marry her--perhaps as a luxurious publicity stunt, or happier conclusion to a failed relationship, mollifying guilt. Rogan (2017) said Ross thought said case "...was a big, awful joke" (p. 718). In another discombobulating situation a few years earlier, Gram had executed the same maneuver with another girlfriend, Patti Johnson. In 1963, she was the first woman he ever sang with, at school concourses and county shows, and reveals that Gram was visiting a psychiatrist to ventilate, no doubt, an arduous family situation.

Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers in 1969 recorded "Christine's Tune," which was about Crosby's mendacious girlfriend, Christine Gail Hinton. 16 Rogan states Parsons' co-writer, Chris Hillman, claimed that although ostensibly endearing, she was engineering trouble with the wives of the two behind their backs. Hinton was killed in a road accident September 30, 1969 and so they altered the title to "Devil In Disguise." Rogan elucidates that the song was not about Christine Fryka, associated with the GTO's (which also included groupie Pamela Des Barres), and Frank Zappa. She passed away on November 5th, 1972 from a drug overdose.




Parsons left the Byrds just before they were scheduled to depart from England to play in front of segregated audiences in a tour of South Africa. That may have been an excuse to associate with his comrades, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.

Other flocks Gram Parsons later flew with

Flying Burrito Brothers -- The Gilded Palace Of Sin, 1969; Burrito Deluxe, 1970. As a member.

Delaney and Bonnie and Friends -- Motel Shot, 1971. As a guest.

Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street, 1972. As a guest.

Gram Parsons – GP, 1973. As a solo artist.

Gram Parsons & Fallen Angels – Gram Parsons And The Fallen Angels – Live 1973. Released, 1982. As a member. Includes Emmylou Harris.

Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris/Fallen Angels – Grievous Angel, recorded, 1973 and released, 1974. Contains "In My Hour Of Darkness," with Emmylou and Linda Ronstadt chiming in. It is about Brandon de Wilde, Clarence White and Sid Kaiser (drug and jazz aficionado).

Polly wants a crack at more assets

The 1990 Byrds Box contained four songs featuring Gram Parsons' recovered lost vocals. Saul Davis contacted Polly Parsons (the daughter of Gram, and Nancy Ross) and suggested she approach Sony Music for royalties. They were reluctant to comply because Gram never directly signed to them whilst a member of the Byrds. Sony eventually settled and it got charged to McGuinn, who curtailed any future rapprochement with Parsons.

Later, Polly, encouraged by Saul Davis (who had no financial interests herein), would in 1991 try to sue, unsuccessfully, the Byrds' business manager Ed Tickner, supplemented by Jim Dickson (who administered Wait & See Music) and lawyer Len Freedman (the new owner of Wait & See Music catalogue) over the rights to 11 songs Gram was involved in penning, which were in his estate, wherein Gretchen Parsons was administrator. This could involve Gretchen and what she would continue to derive from it, which contained no will. In any event, all was dismissed before going to trial in 1996. Rogan asserts that none of the other biographies on Parsons--including the one Polly did with Hundley--give mention of this scenario.

Gram Parsons: the man, the legacy

Gram Parsons developed the alternative country movement, terming his genre "Cosmic American Music." What was "cosmic" about his music seemed to flummox not only the author, but the reader, such as myself. Some, like Hillman, disrelished the term "country-rock." Gram has had eight biographies written on him and 10 tribute CD's devoted to him, including two CD tributes of songs he covered and a motion picture soundtrack--both, more than all Byrds, dead or alive, combined. He is the only Byrd, apart from David Crosby, to fly higher as a solo artist or with another flock, after departing the Byrds nest. Even the much lengthier career of The King of the 12 Strings, or "Big Byrd," 17 Roger McGuinn, pales in comparison. Rogan (2017), lauding Gram's cult status, exclaiming, "...arguably more has been written about Parsons than almost any other Byrd. Crosby no doubt has the edge due to his CSN&Y association, but the...fascination with Parsons shows few signs of abating..." (p. 626). In fact, "100 Most Important People in the History of Country," from LIFE The Roots Of Country Music (1994), by Robert Sullivan, ed., rated Gram Parsons 43rd (and Emmylou Harris, 44th). In the Appendix of Colin Larkin's book, "The All Time Top 50 Country Albums," p. 283. Grievous Angel is rated number 1, The Gilded Palace Of Sin, 2nd, and Sweetheart of the Rodeo, 3rd. And on p. 102, Sweetheart is "...a landmark release, popularizing the notion of country rock..." Moreover, its "...influence...is immeasurable." There are those in the country and bluegrass industry agitating to get Parsons (and Clarence White, who did some unreleased, sketchy recording with him in 1970), into the Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame.

Pharmaceuticals mark the end

The drugs Parsons had been known to take included cocaine, heroin and psilocybin. Rogan (2017) elaborates that there were blood, urine, liver and bile tests conducted. The drugs Parsons had in his body, according to the autopsy, were: traces of amphetamines and cocaine, plus a fair amount of morphine. Drug toxicity killed Gram Parsons. Period. Rogan is commendably succinct with the drug aspect. He dismisses heart issues and seizures Gram experienced after an earlier motorcycle accident followed by prescription drug use. As well, there were fatuous conspiracy theories...

At Clarence White's funeral (below), earlier in the year of Parson's demise, the latter ratified a pact with road manager Phil Kaufman, that whoever died first should have their body burned out in the desert. When Gram passed on, his body, en route to New Orleans for the family funeral, was hijacked at the Los Angeles (Rogan [2017] forgot the "Angeles" on page 778) International Airport by Kaufmann and his partner in crime, Michael Martin. A burned coffin with corpse was later located near Joshua Tree National Monument, in the Mojave Desert. Kaufman 18 and Martin, were each fined $300, plus another $750 for damaging a casket. The 35 lbs. of remains were then transported to New Orleans for funeral service. Parsons is currently resting at Garden of Memories Chapel of Peace Mausoleum and Memorial Park, Matairie, Louisiana. Rogan explains that few of Parsons' rock friends attended that service as they supported what Kaufman had done earlier. Parsons' epitaph reads: "God's Own Singer."

Motion picture epilog

Later, Parsons became the only Byrd to have a motion picture made about him 19, covering his death, theft and burning of his corpse, entitled Grand Theft Parsons (2003), directed by David Caffrey and starring Gabriel Macht as Gram; Johnny Knoxville as Phil Kaufman (and Kaufman himself, as a handcuffed miscreant, in a cameo); Christina Applegate, as former girlfriend Barbara (or "psycho" Betty on the DVD box back cover) Mansfield; Marley Shelton, as current love interest Susie; Robert Forster, as Stanley Parsons, his father; and Michael Shannon, as Larry Oster-Berg, the hearse driver who assisted Johnny with the conflagration. A caveat: some characters and events were fictionalized. In the credits, Gretchen Carpenter and Polly Parsons were given special thanks for their advisory role input for the movie.

See Part 4 of the Requiem review
and our Gram Parsons tribute articles




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