Archive for the Whiskeytown Category

Gram Parsons & Ryan Adams: Birthday Post

Posted in Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams, Whiskeytown on November 5, 2009 by AmericanaPulse


Today is the birthday of two of my favorite musicians… Gram Parsons & Ryan Adams.

For more of an in-depth look at the two birthday boys, you can check out last year’s post. For now though, I’d just like to wish a happy 35th birthday to Ryan Adams and a happy would-have-been 63rd birthday to the late Gram Parsons.
Here’s one track featuring Gram with the Flying Burrito Brothers and one featuring Ryan with Whiskeytown.
The Flying Burrito Brothers: Christine’s Tune (Devil in Disguise) (Buy Album)
Whiskeytown: Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight (Buy Album)

Happy Birthday: Gram Parsons & Ryan Adams

Posted in Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams, Whiskeytown on November 5, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Cecil Ingram Connor (Gram Parsons) was born November 5, 1946 into a wealthy family in Winter Haven, Florida and grew up living a very privileged lifestyle. As a nine year old, Gram saw Elvis Presley play a concert in his hometown and decided to become a musician himself.

At the age of twelve, Gram’s father committed suicide. A few years later, his mother remarried, and Cecil Ingram Connor adopted his new step father’s surname… legally changing his name to Gram Parsons.

As a teenager, Parsons continued to pursue his dream of becoming a musician, playing in various bands throughout his high school years. One band, The Legends, also featured future music stars Jim Stafford (“Spiders and Snakes”) and Kent Lavoie (“Me and You and a Dog Named Boo”). After high school, Gram attended Harvard University as a theology student, but dropped out after just one semester that was devoted more to music than studies.

His time at Harvard was not completely wasted, however. It was during his time in the Ivy League that Gram put together the International Submarine Band, the group that would help him solidify his vision of a mixture of country and rock. It was a sound Gram called “Cosmic American Music.” The group spent some time in New York before relocating to Los Angeles to record their debut album Safe at Home in 1967. By the time the album was released in 1968, The International Submarine Band had disbanded and Gram was on to other things.

From there, Gram’s story is well documented. He joined the Byrds in time to serve as a major influence on the sound of their 1968 Americana masterpiece Sweetheart of the Rodeo. He went on to form the Flying Burrito Brothers with Chris Hillman and record two solo albums that introduced the world to Emmylou Harris. He also became close friends with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and greatly influenced some of the Stones’ country tinged songs such as “Wild Horses” and “Dead Flowers.”

Gram’s prolific output and tremendous influence masked what was becoming a serious addiction to drugs and alcohol. He still had access to a massive trust fund that was amassed through his family’s success in the Florida orange grove business, and he used that trust to support his habits. Keith Richards once said that Gram had better drugs than the Mafia.

Gram’s habits caught up with him on September 19, 1973. On a trip to Joshua Tree National Park in California, Gram overdosed on a mixture of drugs and alcohol. The bizarre story of his death and the strange events that followed it can be found here.

It has been debated over and over as to Gram’s true influence on the country-rock movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Some view him as a true pioneer who originated and birthed an entire genre of music. Others see him as merely a piece of the puzzle… a tragic figure whose legend has outgrown his actual influence. Whatever your stance on that debate, his influence on future generations of artists cannot be debated. Many of today’s Americana and Alt-Country artists have publicly stated their love for Gram and his music and cite him as a central influence on their sound.

Which brings us to today’s other birthday boy, Ryan Adams…

Gram Parsons died in 1973. The following year, in 1974, Ryan Adams was born on what would have been Parsons’ 28th birthday. Now… I’m not one who believes in reincarnation or anything like that, but it isn’t hard to believe that at least part of Parsons’ spirit lives on in Adams’ music.

David Ryan Adams was born in Jacksonville, NC in 1974 and formed his first band, the raucous The Patty Duke Syndrome, as a teenager. In 1994, Adams formed Whiskeytown and began cranking out his own brand of Parsons inspired alt-country. Of course, Whiskeytown disbanded in 1999 after a brief and brilliant (if tumultuous) run that produced some very memorable moments. His recent recordings with his current backing band The Cardinals notwithstanding… Adams has been on his own ever since.

If you want to find out more about Ryan Adams, Payton over at This Mornin’ I am Born Again has a tremendous series of spotlight posts about Ryan Adams and Whiskeytown.

Now for today’s music…

I’m going to post a few songs from each artist that I think highlight their styles and similarities. We’ll start with a song called “A Song for You,” a Parsons original that first appeared on his 1972 album G.P. Whiskeytown’s cover comes from the 1999 Gram Parsons tribute album, Return of the Grievous Angel. After that… just a few of my favorites from each artist.

Gram Parsons: A Song for You (song removed by file host)
Whiskeytown: A Song for You (Buy Album)

The Flying Burrito Brothers: Cody Cody (Buy Album)
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: The Hardest Part (Buy Album)
Gram Parsons: Ooh Las Vegas (Buy Album)
Whiskeytown: Drank Like a River (Buy Album)

The Players: Brad Rice

Posted in Brad Rice, Johnny Cash, Ryan Adams, Son Volt, The Backsliders, Tift Merritt, Whiskeytown on August 13, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Here at A Fifty Cent Lighter & a Whiskey Buzz, I talk about a lot of different artists, but usually the posts are geared toward the artist whose name appears on the CD or the front man for the band. That is to say a post about Alejandro Escovedo will deal mostly with Alejandro Escovedo while a post on the Jayhawks will focus mainly on Marc Olson & Gary Louris.

But what about the players behind the front man? The ones who make the music but stay out of the spotlight?

For every Johnny Cash… there is a Luther Perkins. Perkins’ guitar is just as important to the sound of the early Johnny Cash records as the voice of the Man in Black himself, but Perkins doesn’t get nearly as much recognition. The records don’t say Cash & Perkins… they just say Cash. There are moments, however, where Luther Perkins got a chance to shine.

Johnny Cash: Luther Played the Boogie (Buy Album)

It is in the spirit of Luther Perkins that I introduce what I hope will become a semi-regular feature here at AFCLAAWB. “The Players” will take a look at the musicians behind the music… the ones who don’t quite get as much attention as men and women with the microphones. With that in mind… I present guitarist Brad Rice.

In the mid-nineties, Brad Rice and his guitar joined a band out of North Carolina called The Backsliders, a roots-rock outfit that blended a nice bit of country twang with their guitar fueled rock. Their debut album, 1997’s Throwing Rocks at the Moon, was produced by Pete Anderson (Dwight Yoakam) and drew favorable reviews. Rice shines on several songs, including the title track and “Paper Doll World.”

The Backsliders: Throwing Rocks at the Moon (Buy Album)
The Backsliders: Paper Doll World (Buy Album)

After leaving the Backsliders, Rice hooked up with fellow North Carolinian Ryan Adams and worked on a few projects with him. He was featured on Whiskeytown’s 2001 release Pneumonia and stayed with Adams after that band’s demise. He was a part of Adams’ band for the second Pink Heart sessions in July 2001 (not to be confused with the first Pink Heart sessions that took place in December 2000 with John Paul Keith). Those sessions were never fully released, but one of the tracks, “Nuclear,” showed up on Adams’ odds and ends collection Demolition.

Whiskeytown: Crazy About You (Buy Album)
Whiskeytown: Don’t Wanna Know Why (Buy Album)
Ryan Adams: Nuclear (Buy Album)

(Payton over at This Mornin’ I am Born Again has more info about “Crazy About You” here and more about the first Pink Heart sessions with John Paul Keith here.)

As everyone does… Rice eventually left Ryan Adams’ band as well. This time he hooked up with Tift Merritt and joined her touring band shortly after the release of 2004’s Tambourine. This was my first real introduction to Rice as I saw him play with Merritt several times at The Mercy Lounge in Nashville and the Mountain Stage in Charleston, WV. While he never showed up on any of Merritt’s studio recordings, Rice was a vital part of her band for a couple of years and appeared on two live recordings. A DVD released by Austin City Limits in 2007, and a hard to find 2005 release called Home is Loud. Here’s Brad Rice rocking live with Tift Merritt.

Tift Merritt: Neighborhood (Live) (Buy Album)
Tift Merritt: I am Your Tambourine (Live) (Buy Album)

When Jay Farrar assembled his new Son Volt line-up before recording 2005’s Okemah and the Melody of Riot, he came calling on Rice to provide some muscle on guitar. Most of the songs on the album are guitar heavy, and this is probably the best chance Rice has had to truly flex his muscles since his days with The Backsliders. That is no more evident than on the songs “Afterglow 61” and “Who.” Rice also appeared on Son Volt’s 2007 release The Search, but nowhere on that album does he get the same workout he did on Okemah.

Son Volt: Afterglow 61 (Buy Album)
Son Volt: Who (Buy Album)

These days, Brad Rice is making the big bucks on tour with Keith Urban, but hopefully one day he’ll return to the world of Americana. Until then, you can find out more about Rice at his website http://www.bradrice.net/.