Off We Go with The Flying Burrito Brothers

Editor’s note: This is the second in a four-part series about “Americana” music, a hybrid rock sound that gave birth to the country rock format. (Catch up with Part 1 now.) Here’s rock historian Doug Morgan.

The Flying Burrito Brothers were formed out of what was basically a jam session with Gram Parsons, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Gene Clark and Chris Hillman getting together and jamming a couple of times a week. They all decided they liked the idea of playing together, and by adding Chris Ethridge on bass, and bringing over Bernie Leadon from Dillard and Clark, the band was rounded out, sort of. The group had no drummer, but top tier session man "Fast" Eddie Hoh filled in, and by early 1969 the group was ready to enter the studio.

"The Gilded Palace Of Sin" was the LP. Released early in 1969, it was a critical success. Where the country music press panned "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo", Country Music Review praised it. England's New Musical Express called it "magnificent," and Rolling Stone sang it's praises, saying it was the perfect followup to "Sweetheart," and it's generally considered that "The Gilded Palace Of Sin" was the first great country-rock LP.

But a commercial hit it wasn't. Not a flop, but close, and during the tour for the album, the band began to splinter. Michael Clark joined the band as full time drummer, but bass player Ethridge was fired during the tour due to drug use, and Hillman took over the bass. Then they preformed at the Altamont Free Concert disaster, but in early 1970 held it together enough to go back in the studio to record "Burrito Deluxe" in early 1970s.

Sound familiar? The boys sang this version about a year before The Stones. Parsons had been paling around with The Stones, and the thought is, although the song is credited to Jagger/Richards, the general feeling is that Gram Parsons had a major hand in it's writing.

Alas, the album was an absolute flop. A failing to hit the charts flop. A critical flop, too with the unfortunate task of being "The Gilded Palace Of Sin's" followup, and thus being compared to it.

The band recorded a third LP but never released IT and in May of 1970 Parsons, the de facto leader of the group, showed up for a gig 1) drunk and 2) minutes before showtime. During the show, he forgot the set list and worse, lyrics to their songs, and was fired by Chris Hillman. Parsons went off on a solo career, and a vocal duo with Emmylou Harris.......

Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris-"Love Hurts" from "Grievous Angel"

.....and some fame before he died of an overdose in September of 1973.

Rick Roberts replaced Parsons, and the band soldiered on, until Bernie /Leadon went off to form his own country/rock outfit (The Eagles) and Hillman took replacement Al Perkins with him to join Steven Still's band, Mamassas. At this point, the first major country-rock band was done in it's original form. In late 1975, a new Flying Burrito Brothers was formed (by Chris Ethridge and Gib Guilbeau) and, in one form or another, continues on to this day.

The Flying Burrito Brothers - White Line Fever

Coming up next: Poco breaks away…

Don’t miss a beat! Catch up with earlier installments now:

Part 1: The Byrds

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