Legal name: Ingram Cecil Connor
Ingram Cecil Connor III (November 5, 1946 – September 19, 1973), known professionally as Gram Parsons, was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and pianist. Parsons is best known for his work with the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers. He also popularized what he called "Cosmic American Music", a hybrid of country, rhythm and blues, soul, folk, and rock. He recorded as a solo artist, and with the International Submarine Band, The Byrds, and The Flying Burrito Brothers. His relatively short career was described by AllMusic as "enormously influential" for country and rock, "blending the two genres to the point that they became indistinguishable from each other."
Parsons was born in Winter Haven, Florida, and developed an interest in country music while attending Harvard University. He founded the International Submarine Band in 1966 and, after several months of delay, their debut album Safe at Home was released in 1968 (by which time the group had disbanded). Parsons joined The Byrds in early 1968, and played a pivotal role in the making of the seminal Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. After leaving the group in late 1968, Parsons and fellow Byrd Chris Hillman formed The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1969, releasing their debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin, the same year. The album was well received but failed commercially. After a sloppy cross-country tour, they hastily recorded Burrito Deluxe. Parsons was fired from the band before its release in early 1970. He soon signed with A&M Records, but after several unproductive sessions he canceled his intended solo debut in early 1971. Parsons moved to France, where he lived for a short period at Villa Nellcôte with his friend Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. Returning to America, Parsons met Emmylou Harris through his friend and former bandmate Chris Hillman. She assisted him on vocals for his first solo record, GP, released in 1973. Although it received enthusiastic reviews, the release failed to chart. His next album, Grievous Angel, met with a similar reception, and peaked at number 195 on the Billboard chart. His health deteriorated under several years of drug abuse, and he died in 1973 at the age of 26.
Since his death, Parsons has been credited with helping to found both country rock and alt-country. He did not consider his work "country rock" because he felt it should not be categorized in a single genre because it was a unique blend of many genres and styles of music with his own personal twang.
In 1968 the Byrds appeared on the Grand Ole Opry and were met with a hostile crowd. They then appeared on Ralph Emery's WSM radio show, and were shocked to find he had none of their records. Parsons and Roger McGuinn wrote the song Drug Store Truck Drivin Man in response. A few years later Chris Hillman was on the Ralph Emery show and the song was brought up. Emery asked how Gram was doing. Hillman replied "He's still dead, Ralph."
His posthumous honors include the Americana Music Association "President's Award" for 2003, and a ranking at No. 87 on Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time."