Sunday, July 1, 2007
Parsons and Hillman, Part Three
So your intrepid interviewer next inquired about the Burritos' (later much-honored) pedal steel guitarist, Sneaky Pete Kleinow...
Can we talk about Pete for a minute?
GP: I'd love to talk about Pete.
CH: He's been playing steel for ten years. He's from Indiana originally; he migrated out west.
GP: He also made most of the special effects that were used in Outer Limits. ((Sixties sci-fi TV show))
CH: He's an animation expert.
GP: He played the music in front and then he did the other thing on the side, and he went back and forth. He's a true-to-life maniac. He's 34; he's got a daughter who's 15 and sings country music and can take his steel apart and put it back together--she's just as crazy as he is! He's got a son that's 14 and went on the road with us, that can drug any of us under the table. And Pete himself doesn't need nothin'. He's on the natch.
And here he comes now...
GP: The Maharishi of country music, here he is now, Peter Kleinow!
CH: Beat it, Sneaky. Take a powder.
GP: Tell him ((meaning interviewer)) what you did with Projects Unlimited.
SP: I ran them out of business. I joined these guys, and I'm workin' on them... I used to be special effects, in the animation business; used to do all kinds of movies for George Pal and Outer Limits.
Well, are you still in animation?
SP: No, I'm just keepin' it in case these guys fire me next week; then I can go back to it.
GP: He does all the hirin' and firin'. I don't know what he's tellin' you.
SP: Well, if I can't do somethin' without workin' at it, I won't do it.
GP: He's the original country musician-administrator.
SP: Lazy Bones and the Burrito Brothers.
GP: When any of us are trying to figure out what's the basis to what we're doin', we always talk to Pete.
SP: Well, if you'll excuse me... ((repeating his earlier quick exit; as Gram says below, Pete was focussed on repairing his steel))
Chris E: Sneaky. He done snuck off.
I get the impression it's the music he's interested in. This external stuff like a reporter asking questions...
GP: Not at all. The music is what he's interested in, but he loves to talk when he's got the time.
Chris E: He and Michael Saul get along real well... ((Saul)) sat in with us in New York and played every song we play just perfectly.
GP: He's the one cat that's sat in with us that didn't make mistakes.
CH: ((reminding them of another)) Richard Greene...
Chris E: Aww, that guy, fiddle his ass off. But Michael Saul, him and Pete got along so good they just ran all over New York together. Went to restaurants together, got drunk together, just had a ball--and Pete doesn't even drink, so they really got along.
GP: He'll have some of that good, what is it... ((phoney French)) Pea-not Nwah?
GP: Yeah. And he'll tell you all about the steel guitar--all the ethics of it, the mechanics of it and everything. But he's just so mad now tryin' to get it fixed. He's got a funky old steel, you know. It's funkier and older than the funkiest, oldest Telecaster ever made--an old, old Fender steel that has... well, you notice on "Dark End of the Street" how much it sounds like a Telecaster. It can me made to sound that way. And we have such a time getting people to understand our specific equipment difficulties and the sounds we're trying to make.
Yeah, because everybody's used to working with Ten Years After and that kind of Blues thing.
((Gram makes guitar sounds with his mouth))
CH: All the groups sound like that shit. All of them doin' that stuff.
I've been listening to black Blues for like ten years, and it took me about five years before I'd listen to any white groups play. And now it's all the same, it seems.
CH: The best group is Taj Mahal. Taj feels the music, and he can sing.
GP: And Indian Ed'll lay more guitar on you than any of them Blues guitar people you can name. Indian Ed ((Davis, who died of an overdose a few years later)) is the cream of the crop; he's better than Clapton and Hendrix put together.
Seems to me The Byrds made some noise ((meaning bluesy or experimental guitar)) in their time too.
CH: Yes, but there was some sort of context to the music--not just "turn up to 10 and jam in one chord, one key, E..."
GP: I used to know the Injun back before Bonnie and Delaney got together with the Main Street Blues Band--as they ((Indian Ed's group)) were called before they joined them.
((fiddling with tape deck I lost some conversation about Seattle and also about Bo Diddley, who appeared as did the Burritos at the Seattle Pop Festival; resumed with a question for Ethridge))
How did you get over to L.A. from Meridian? What were the steps?
Chris E: I flew. ((laughter all around)) Really, I was playing with this group in Biloxi, and I met this cat, and he brought me out. I played session stuff with different people then for about a year and a half. Then I joined the Burritos.
GP: We could get real profound, but I guess Rolling Stone doesn't like that. They like the hillbilly side... sit around and talk like ol' Bonnie and Delaney: "Waal, mah ol' gran'mama down there, she cooks the best Hoppin' John anybody ever made. You don' know what Hoppin' John is?" But I really got off livin' with some guys over in England--with Keith and Mick of the Stones, diggin' things that are profound about where music's at and where it's goin'. I can't ignore things like that, you know. If everybody wants to think we're simple, that's fine. And if everybody wants to think Bonnie and Delaney are simple, that's fine. But they're not, and neither is Leon, who is a very big part of that album. But there are guys that didn't join that band, that left that band, that were with them back then, that could be the band that, like, Rolling Stone was projecting them to be... J.J.Cale, Jimmy Karstein, Junior Markham, and Carl from Bonnie and Delaney--put them together with those horn players that Markham knows, and you got yourself a funky white band. You got yourself some people who don't know nothin' except the bottom of a beer can when they see it through the hole, you know?
Chris E: They're all just good people. Bobby Keyes...
GP: Bobby Keyes is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the first time Junior Markham turned him on, Bobby called Junior a "homosexual" and a "dope-pusher." That's how funky and down into it Junior is, man. He's just there. And that's why everybody hates him--why he's gotten all those knife and shotgun scenes.
Chris E: Shoulda heard the song Leon wrote about that, played it the other night down at the session. I didn't believe it... ((sings)) "There's a shoot-out on the plantation... da da da da da-da... Junior better run, 'cause he ain't got nothin' but a knife, and Gary's got the gun." Gary Sanders, cat that went back down to Galveston.
CH: That came from woman problems.
GP: "Woman poisonin'," as Junior Markham calls it. Junior Markham and the Tulsa Rhythm Group would be the wild flower group. Bonnie and Delaney would be... ((I still don't know what he was getting at here.)) They're not the simple people everyone thinks they are; they been around a long time. And so have we, but our past is more difficult to hide. And it sort of flashes out. "Waal, uh-hum, how about the old Byrds?" They were never into The Byrds to that extent. They're more into the Burrito Brothers.
How did you come up out of Waycross?
GP: I just started runnin' away from home at an early age. I was scared to death of Waycross. My father's name was "Coon Dog," and he was really into it.
God, I guess.
GP: "Coon Dog" Connor--Connor was my original name. I got adopted later on. But he lived in the woods and was from, like, Columbia, Tennessee, and taught me how to dig it. And I dug it as long as I was with him, but he passed on early. When I was about 13, I got my new parents--Parsons now. My family's from New Orleans, and it's much more acceptable. But when I was a Connor from Georgia, I didn't like it too much. I moved from Waycross down to Florida. Parsons came from New Orleans and moved my mother down to Florida. And then she died. He just moved back to New Orleans a few years ago, and that's my home now. That's where my Mon and Dad live.
((Gram here has skimmed over a complex Southern Gothic snarl of families and deaths, which later also claimed Bob Parsons, the stepfather who adopted him. As though discomfited by the family talk, he decides to go clean up... and I foolishly tried to ask a few hurried questions while he was preparing to head for the shower.))
Where do y'all live now?
GP: Livin' in Beverly Glen, near David Crosby.
When did you form the Submarine Band?
GP: I formed the Submarine Band when I was at college. At Harvard. I dropped out my freshman year.
((He then said some friendly words about the man who had become his mentor and friend, Harvard's freshman dean the Reverend Dr. James E. Thomas--which I failed to get on tape. And I said something about the performance clothes he was going to put on later.))
Speaking of Nudie, how much does one of those fancy suits cost?
GP: Starting about $350, anywhere up to $10,000.
((With that, he scooted off to the shower... a good place to end this portion. Next time, the long solo talk I had with Chris Hillman while Gram was gone.))