Peek Inside Gram Parsons' Notebook at the AMA Conference

As a songwriter, you have to find a way to keep track of the often fleeting ideas, melodies, progressions, and lyrics which pop into your head at the most inopportune moments. For how often we hear songwriters compare their creations to "their babies," except for a lucky few, songs hardly ever emerge whole and complete into the world. Often, it's more like giving birth to a leg or a finger at a time, then piecing it all together when you finally get a minute to yourself. 

So, a notebook in which to scribble all your ideas - verbal and non - can be a vital tool to carry around. It can also be an intensely personal one, containing all your whims and momentary bursts of crazy (you'll shape them into sanity later), your doodles and drawings - such as they are - parts of verses, set lists, made-up words, non sequiturs, lovelorn pinings, and mindlessnesses while you wait for your dinner order to be filled.

With all that in mind, the possibility of peeking into the journal of one of the finest songwriters to have ever touched the craft of American roots music - a hugely respected and inspirational figure to generations of other writers. . . would be a rare opportunity, indeed.

And so it is that The Hard Rock Cafe has granted No Depression access to Gram Parson journal.  

The journal was auctioned off at Christie's rock auction in London in 1995 and obtained by the Hard Rock Cafe. They contain Parsons' scrawlings from 1969 to about 1973 (roughly two months before his death). Following his death, the jurnals were inherited by Parsons' friend, violin and bass player Rick Grech, who used them for his own songwriting and ideas for a while.

Inside are the lyrics to "Wild Horses", "$1,000 Wedding," "Man in the Fog," "High Fashion Queen," and more, not to mention plenty of lyrics and ideas for songs which were never completed or recorded.

If you're heading to Nashville next week for the Americana Music Association's conference and festival, you'll be able to experience this notebook for yourself during a special event presented by the Hard Rock Cafe and No Depression, in conjunction with Gram Parsons Foundation and the Sin City Social Club

From 5-7 p.m. on Friday, Sep. 14,  conference attendees will be able to peruse Gram's notebook via iPad as its pages are projected on a giant screen. A number of artists  including Jim Lauderdale, Brendan Benson, honeyhoney, Tim Easton, Susan Marshall, Kurtis Brothers, Brian Wright and American Aquarium will also be on hand to perform their favorite Gram Parsons songs. If you're registered for the conference be sure to put it on your schedule and don't miss out. For those of you unable to make it to the conference, keep it here for reactions to the event from some of the community's finest volunteer bloggers along with images of more pages from the journal.

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Comment by Stina on September 4, 2012 at 5:24am

That sounds like an amzing conference. That's something that I'd love to attend. Gram Parsons was an amazing artist that wasn't taken seriously enough partly because in some cases he was more interested in the drugs then in furthering his music 100 %. Look wohat he managed on less then 100%. My mind can't comprehend what he would've managed had he straightened out and lived.

 

Am I the only one that thinks it's kinda weird that Rick Grech continued to write in it?

 

To anyone who gets to go: would love to hear thoughts, opinions, etc. Lucky.

Comment by Sue Rarick on September 4, 2012 at 6:31am

Plans at the moment are to go to the AMA’s barring any late minuet studio work. I could walk there from my home (which actually might be faster during Nashville’s rush hour).

But I will make a valiant effort to miss looking at Gram’s notebook. IMO an artist’s personal notebook is just that, personal. It’s kind of like watching a neighbor’s private sex tapes. It just seems wrong to me.

I can understand academics wanting to view it as a part of history. I can understand his fans wanting just a little more of him. But in an era of people wanting their ‘personal space’ it just has a tawdry feel to it.

I personally could care less about any artist’s personal life. The only thing I care about is the art they have presented to the public. But I also know I have a minority point of view which is why I’ll just side step that part of the AMA’s and have a good time.

Comment by Gram Parsons Foundation on September 4, 2012 at 6:38am

Just wanted to pop on here and let everyone know what we are doing here at the Gram Parsons Foundation. Our mission specifically targets our youth outreach programs to teach alcohol and drug prevention, awareness and education through music. We just (re) launched in March of this year during SxSW and are busy getting our programs outlined and taken into schools. It's an exciting time for us and we are so pleased to be bringing this message to our kids. We will have some of our GPF tshirts at this AMA event and they will also be available through our website soon. ( I know some of you have been waiting so patiently!) We gratefully accept donations through our website www.GramParsonsFoundation.org and we are a recognized 501 (c) (3) nonprofit. We also have charity auctions up from time to time on eBay (www.eBay.com/GramParsonsFoundation) where you can help support what we are doing by bidding on items or donating items for us to auction. Come "like" our Facebook page www.Facebook.com/GramParsonsFoundation and find us on Twitter #GPFoundation! Whew! Thanks for supporting what we are doing. Any questions? Email us at info@GramParsonsFoundation.org and we look forward to hearing from you.....

Comment by Will James on September 4, 2012 at 7:10am

I have to somewhat agree with Sue. Having said that, if there were any way I could make the conference, I would be there. For one, there has been precious little over the years at AMA that concentrates on its genre's guiding light. Why not have a event/seminar regarding the omission of Parsons from the nearby Country Music Hall of Fame? His name was mentioned recently at CMT.com together with Johnny Horton and Dottie West as a possible posthumous candidate. Peter Cooper just included him in an article on "catching up" on candidates for the Hall. The Petition to Induct is at 7,700 with a goal of 10,000 by the 40th anniversary of Parsons' death next September. Perhaps on that occasion they will do something of substance on his place in country music/Americana history. Until then, enjoy this rare occasion, as a historian and voyeur I would be there; but if you miss it, don't miss the fifth annual Gram InterNational coming up in early November in Nashville  (grambash.us) or its counterpart in Chicago a month from yesterday in Chicago (grambashchicago.us), in support of his legacy and the Petition to Induct.

Comment by Will James on September 4, 2012 at 7:27am

Sorry about the lack of an editing feature, I'm not doing that again...

Comment by Will James on September 4, 2012 at 7:34am

And, btw, thanks to the mention from the Gram Parsons Foundation, which is doing great work, and its related FB page for over 250 new signatures over the Labor Day weekend on the Petition (http://gramparsonspetition.com). Also meant to mention, for a bit of writing about the final product of his notebook, please have a look at "Gram Parsons: An Underrated Songwriter?" at  http://graminternational.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/gram-parsons-an-u....

Comment by Stina on September 4, 2012 at 3:29pm

A songwriter's notebook is personal of course but I wouldn't use the word tawdry at all in regards to the event. A good example for me being, artist's visual journals. I'm new to the medium and have been enjoying viewing online portfolios of sorts through shared visual journal pages. These and song writing journals are a great insight into an artist's (of any medium - be it song, paints, etc) work process and shows the steps to the completed project. I think they are a great resource for not only fans but fellow musicians (etc).

 

Would love to see Gram's notebook just as I would love to see Joe Mimran's (fashion designer) should he have one and of course Ryan Adams. Possibly especially Ryan Adams simply because he does poetry, lyrics, and stories as well as art. Bono would also create a fascinating journal. Whether the journals feature words or art, I find them fascinating. Of course, when I say journal, I don't mean a diary which is a completely different and private thing. Cathy Johnson explains it better than I could.

Comment by Ruth on September 4, 2012 at 5:48pm
Includes words to Wild Horses? Does this offer verification that he wrote that song?
Comment by Will James on September 4, 2012 at 6:04pm

Good question Ruth. Or perhaps a strong hint anyway? Are there other examples of songs by others for which he transcribed the lyrics?

Comment by Peggy Hanson on September 4, 2012 at 9:04pm

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.