Apr 242012

I forgot to mention that I saw late last night that Flying Burrito Brothers bassist Chris Etheridge died yesterday at the age of 65. Etheridge co-wrote “Hot Burrito #1” with Gram Parsons. I suppose as a goof Etheridge is playing drums in this video.

I didn’t realized he’d been spending his recent days as part of Willie Nelson‘s band, but what do I know about the world of country music?

I also didn’t realize Etheridge left the Burritos after their first album, The Gilded Palace of Sin. I like that one and the follow up a a lot. I thought that group of musicians had a great vibe together that I never enjoyed half as much in their various post-Burritos incarnation. After Gram Parsons left the Flying Burrito Brothers Etheridge would hook up again with his old International Submarine Band co-conspirator on Parsons’ solo albums.

Jan 172012

In the recent Laura Nyro thread Townsman alexmagic made some hyperbolic statements regarding Mike Nesmith. (Seriously, Mike Nesmith “is the most indefensible omission from the Hall of Fame?” I think I could successfully defend his exclusion from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as easily as I could defend his exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame.) However, he touched on one point that I think the uni-mind that is Rock Town Hall should explore, to whit, the thought that Mike Nesmith is “often given credit for launching the ‘country rock’ genre.”

There seem to be a lot of candidates for that. There are The Byrds, whose Notorious Byrd Brothers showed a bit of country and was released in January 1968, or the more often cited Sweetheart of the Rodeo, released in August, 1968. The latter made it all the way to #77 on Billboard and featured a number by another candidate for country rock launcher, Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”

And there’s Graham Parsons & the International Submarine Band, whose Safe At Home came out in 1968. Wikipedia says their b-side cover of Buck Owens’ “Truck Drivin’ Man,” released in April 1966, is “now largely considered the first country rock recording.” It starts at 2:11 of the following clip:

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Oct 192010

Hey man, you can take your country rock and leave the best parts of The Flying Burrito Brothers to me! I love the band’s first album, The Gilded Palace of Sin, for its heavy bass, fuzz guitars, and reedy vocals. No offense, but I could give a damn about the whole “country” thing. My favorite country music usually sounds like rock ‘n roll anyhow.

As much as I love the band’s debut, it’s all a little hokey and dated, the way many “psychedelic” albums are bound to be. Better yet is the band’s 1970 follow-up album—and the last one with St. Graham ParsonsBurrito Deluxe. It’s actually way more country rock, with future Eagles member Bernie Leadon joining the band on lead guitar and vocals. As much as I hate Eagles (not The Eagles, as we recently learned), Burrito Deluxe explains why anybody else may have cared to make such music. (Thank god some of the pub rockers, like Brinsley Schwarz, actually had the spirit and playfulness to nail this approach!) Maybe some fans like the more traditionally country songs, but for me the album centers around a few pinky-rock classics: “Lazy Days,” a breakneck cover of Dylan’s “If You Gotta Go, Go Now,” and the song with this super-hokey video that I just found, “Older Days.” (The album also featurs a nice version of “Wild Horses,” but I’m afraid to tell you that for fear that your mind will run to a series of glorified Stones cliches.)

There are few musical styles that more readily hit my soul than chooglin’ pinky rock. When done by The Flying Burrito Brothers on Burrito Deluxe I get the perfect mix of the best parts of the intersection of The Grateful Dead’s occasional pinky-rock workouts and The Velvet Underground‘s Loaded. And that Bernie Leadon was something else! I remember seeing an old Eagles performance of one of the few songs by them that doesn’t make me throw up, and Leadon was on fire. How’d that guy get lost in the rock ‘n roll shuffle?

I’ve long sought videos of the band from this period with no luck. Tonight, after a pretty trying day that, unfortunately, looks to be headed for an equally trying tomorrow, I hit paydirt! Here’s an actual live clip of “Lazy Days,” from the time shortly after Parsons left the band.

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