10 Things You Didn't Know About The Wild Life Of Gram Parsons: Country-Rock's Messiah And Grievous Angel

By | September 12, 2022

test article image
CHICAGO - MARCH 1969: Singer/Songwriter Gram Parsons plays acoustic guitar backstage in March 1969 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

When Gram Parsons died in 1973 he was only 26 years old. In the few years before his death he played a pivotal role in the crossover between country and rock, blending the genres until they were one in the same. As a member of The Byrds, Parsons changed the band at a genetic level, and with the Flying Burrito Brothers he created the template for the country-rock sound.

In spite of his lack of success while he was alive, Parsons' friendships with The Rolling Stones and Emmylou Harris were extremely influential on those artists. He didn't just make Harris a sought after singer, but he brought the Stones into their own as a rootsy rock band, and inspired "Wild Horses," one of their most beloved songs.

Parsons died young and never reached the heights of his friends, but his songs continue to echo through country and rock, so much so that you can still hear his influence today.

From prep school to country star

test article image
source: pitchfork

Ingram Cecil Connor III is hardly the name of the country-rock messiah, but in 1946 that was the name given to a newborn in Winter Haven, Florida. The grandson of John A. Snively, a citrus magnate whose crop was once responsible for one third of the Floria citrus crop, he started going by Gram at a young age (it's short for Ingram), and even though he had a good childhood his family was marred with depression and alcoholism.

Gram was drawn to music at a young age, and as a teenager he started playing in cover bands that played all around Florida while attended prep schools throughout the south. After his mother passed away from cirrhosis on the day that he graduated from prep school in 1965, Parsons set out on a folky journey that saw him playing in coffee houses and hootenannies with his group the Shilohs. In 1966, he started the International Submarine Band with a group of folkies from Boston before moving to New York and finally Los Angeles where he dropped the Submarine Band in favor of one of the most popular groups in the world.