Friday, October 31, 2014

Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman: Burrito Brothers

In the annals of Rock Music, the most historically significant interview I ever conducted came during the brief tenure of the Flying Burrito Brothers original foursome: Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, Chris Ethridge, and Sneaky Pete Kleinow. Ironically, since the underground newspapers that printed the interview (much shortened) carelessly omitted my credit, I got no strokes from its publication. But I had the last word eventually, and literally, because in this blog in 2007 I finally uploaded the never-before-revealed, three-times-longer, complete version.

Much has been written (too much, according to Hillman) about Parsons as the "flawed genius" creator of so-called Country Rock--which Gram high-falutin'ly, maybe tongue-in-cheekily designated "Cosmic..." something-or-other... "American Soul Music," maybe. No doubt I've been guilty of some hagiographing too. A&M Records sent me a promo copy of the Burritos' debut album, The Gilded Palace of Sin, and I was fascinated by it and soon sought out the band when they played Seattle on three different occasions early on.

My mother was born and raised up in rural south Georgia, a whoop and a holler from Macon, on a farm we visited regularly in the 1940s and '50s. I felt some kinship with Southern charmer Gram, and we hit it off, briefly; he came to dinner, I interviewed Hillman and him, separately and together, and he subsequently vouched for me with Jim Morrison... which led to a strange afternoon, an encounter also documented in the IW Archives. (More on that some other time.)

For Rock historians, Parsons fans, and regular readers with stamina, here's the complete saga in five sections--beginning here, continuing in Part 2, diverging in the third segment, shifting briefly for Part 4, and then finally concluding.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Which Rick Nelson?

Over the course of his four-decade, yet tragically crash-shortened career, rocker Rick Nelson managed to do some creditable acting too, from teen heartthrob Ricky courtesy of Ozzie and Harriet, to cast-against-type rapist (for an Eighties TV movie, I think); whether a young gunfighter backing John Wayne (in Howard Hawk's great Rio Bravo), or a Navy lieutenant in some Jack Lemmon shipboard comedy circa 1960, or years later the guy who keeps bursting into the wrong sitcom-family kitchens ("Hi, Mom... I'm home!") in a brilliant early Saturday Night Live skit.

Still, Rick was happiest and most comfortable on stage, singing, initially in his rockabilly combo with guitar-great James Burton, then stuck doing country-ish
Pop tunes for too long, before finally fronting a fine country-rock band in the Seventies performing mostly his own songs, from "Restless Wind" to "Garden Party" and beyond.

I got to spend a weekend hanging out with Rick the country-rocker for an interview piece that appeared in Fusion, Boston's then-answer to S.F.'s Rolling Stone. Forty years on, I still think of him as the friendliest, most easy-going star/celebrity I ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was sometimes accused of being wooden and withdrawn (and later had drug problems), but I believe he was just shy and private, a likeable, rather ordinary guy thrust into more limelight and folderol than he really ever wanted.

I've been thinking of Rick in these latter days, when Parkinson's symptoms and the side effects of meds leave me embarrassed and unhappy out in the public eye.
People want to be helpful, and no one's pointing at me and snickering but, pace Greta Garbo, I just want to be ignored and left alone. (Soon I'll be walking around like Frankenstein's monster, with electrodes in my skull, wires down my neck, and a pacemaker-like device in my chest, as "deep brain stimulation" attempts to stall some symptoms for a few years.)

Whether I stutter then, or stumble, or somehow stand taller, I guess I'll still be some version of Ed. But... I'd rather folks remember examples of the good fortune and good times I was granted--including my take on Rick Nelson, archived partly here and the rest here.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

John Hammond's True Blues

I do quite like the idea of "3"... it's the most basic "family" unit (that is, source parents plus child), the minimum number of voters for a democratic resolution, three of a kind, three on a match, trouble in triplicate, the trio rhythm section of Jazz, baseball's least common hit, Christianity's Holy Trinity, three to get ready, ménage a trois (although three's also a crowd), number of storied Bears/Musketeers/Wise Men, even 3x3 to produce an extra-lucky integer. I also consider it the minimum number of items to fashion a representative sample of something, which is why I often provide three examples rather than a barebones one or a not-convincing-enough two.

Moving through this "Bereaved Knew Whirled" of Parkinson's dissed-ease has me, for now, mining the IW Archives to entertain you reader. Recently I dredged up... I mean, carefully selected, three posts of poems celebrating animals. Now I offer you--again, one per each new post--a threesome of meaty-beaty interview-portraits from my venerable rock critic days, back when I got to hobnob with the hoi polloi of musicdum.

First up, the then-younger Bluesman often identified as John Hammond Jr., even though his middle name does not echo that of his famous music producer dad. In three parts (but of course!) Hammond holds forth here... and hear-to... and then here.