Why Los Angeles is Gram Parsons Country
By Courtney Sudbrink, Editor, Turnstyled, Junkpiled

Gram Parsons has yet to be honored by a Country Music Hall of Fame induction. Whether or not this is an over site or slap in the face to the Sin City Sound,  it seems Nashville's hesitation to pay the Fallen Angel well deserved respect, may be rooted in the fact that many view him simply as Hollywood's version of Country (even though he was a real Southerner who made his way out here). But, rock-star glam and Nudie suits aside, Parsons had the goods to back up the look and attitude. Without him, Los Angeles wouldn't have the strong Country scene or defining sound that it prides itself on today.

What Gram Parsons did for Los Angeles, is on par with what Merle Haggard did for Bakersfield and neither of them ever conceded to what was going on in Music City, because for the most part, it wasn't real Country and what they played was. Whether the objections that Parsons' image was contrived or strategic, are true, it doesn't matter. Gram Parsons  brought the Honky-Tonk to Tinsel Town and born from his vision of Cosmic American Music, is a tradition that is undoubtedly our own.

Over the course of only five years, Parsons established a musical genre, saw the twangy shift in California Rock with the Byrds' (commercial failure but retrospectively masterpiece) Sweetheart of the Rodeo, influenced the likes of Rick Nelson, Michael Nesmith and Poco (among others), in addition to recording five classic albums (Safe at HomeThe Gilded Place of Sin, Burrito Deluxe, GP, Grievous Angel) and helping Emmylou Harris achieve her slot as Queen of Country harmonies.

With that said, it seems only logical that anyone who was able to accomplish such feats before an untimely death at the age of 26, should be celebrated wherever it seem fit. Though early on, Gram may have taken cues from Hank Williams, he rather unintentionally  followed in the footsteps of his idol.  But like Williams, he is yet another example of a Legend who proves that in some cases, if one's body of work is so immediately remarkable, it may indeed be better to burn out than fade away. Because,  Parsons is the rare sort of force who created such an astonishing burst of art, that it has as marked a presence today as ever.

No better example of this, are his disciples - the new generation of artists emerging out of LA (Mark W. Lennon, The Far West, I See Hawks in LA, Paladino, LA Hootenanny) who prove not only that we have a strong voice in what today is labeled 'Americana,' but that we truly are a city united by Gram.  With the exception of perhaps Brian Wilson (Beach Boys), there isn't a single musician of the 1960s whose sound is as widely heard now or as definitely Angeleno as that of Parsons'.


So, if it truly is the case that Nashville is intentionally excluding Parsons, then not only do they not respect him, they don't respect us. If that is the case, maybe we're Outlaws here in the Wild West. But most importantly, we produce good music and that is far more important than any accolade, due or not.

In support not only of Gram Parsons, but Los Angeles Music in general, please sign the petition to get him inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame:  http://gramparsonspetition.com

In an effort to help the cause, Gram Parsons has been given the title of  Turnstyled, Junkpiled's "Pimp of The Week."

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Tags: gram, parsons

Comment by bryson jones on November 17, 2011 at 9:10am

I agree that LA is "Gram Country", as he's loved and revered here. But seeing as how LA hosted the nation's first Country TV show, (Town Hall Party), and defined the look of Country fashion with Nudie and Turk (which Gram availed himself of famously) I can't see as how he made LA, "Country".

That said, there's no one who reveres the guy more than I do,  and he's certainly cast a huge shadow over the last 40 years of LA roots music. His accomplishments are amazing when viewed in his short time but if you know the history, he was thrown out of Nashville basically and so I can't imagine that they'd bother to be nicer to his legacy now, sadly.

And yes, "they" don't respect LA Country. That is a true fact, not even up for debate. In the end, Nashville as an entity is a sales organization, and while LA Country is wonderful, it simply does not sell. Whether that's our fault, or "theirs", that fact remains. Just as you can't blame Wal-Mart for not selling an unpopular product, in the end, I understand Nashville's rejection of "our" brand of Country. Play the game, write their kind of hits and get on their ferris wheel, but in my opinion, the beauty of LA Country is that most artists here would rather work on film crews and make the music they love than write things they hate and live in a McMansion in Franklin.

It'd be amazing if an LA artist could run up the Country charts, but no one I know is waiting, they are just making the music they want to make.

I agree with the headline of this article, just not the content. We are Gram Country, but Gram didn't make this place Country, it was here when he showed up. He just took it to the next level. And we are outlaws, and true outlaws are seldom accepted, it comes with the label. You want acceptance? Move East, cut your hair and tone down your music. ;)

In the end, Gram fits in perfectly with LA's Country legacy and so does the fact that the Hall Of Fame snubs him. (Hell, even he didn't really sell when he was alive.) LA Country is Art, with a capital "A", done for the love of creation. Now everyone go buy an album by one of the artists mentioned above if you want Nashville to notice.


GP Forever  - Bryson Jones

Comment by Turnstyled, Junkpiled on November 17, 2011 at 10:04am

Thank you for the very insightful comment, Bryson, definitely some good additional points in there.


Gram may not have been from LA, but Southern California was a place close to his heart and we are very proud of the contributions he made in the short time he was in here.  If Los Angeles Country had an anthem, it might be hard to find one better suited for it than "Sin City."


Thanks again for reading and adding your take on things.

Comment by Will James on November 17, 2011 at 10:56am

Clearly Gram Parsons is identified with southern California; so many images of deserts etc. usually accompany anything to do with him. I believe this is largely because of his death, that is Cap Rock, Joshua Tree, Room 8, etc. But I don't think he was a "regional brand." This is not to say that he wasn't immersed in and partly formed by L.A. He was. Did L.A. accept him? Not really, he even had to find redneck bars in the valley and risk his life to play true country music. Was his vision developed in other regions? Yes, clearly as he discovered his country roots -- in New England and NYC. And if you listen to the songs, the best and most poignant clearly come from the heart of the South (She, Hickory Wind, etc.). Gram was not kicked out of Nashville; he barely had anything to do with it. Yes, the Opry was pissed, but now ranks that performance as no. 33 of the most important Opry moments of all time. Would Gram have moved to Nashville? I believe he would have, as Emmylou and many others outside the castle walls of CMA have. I would not equate Nashville as a whole with the CMA and their Hall of Fame, which is actually a small part of the CMHOF *AND MUSEUM* (the full name, in asterisks not owned by CMA). As an aside, I would love to get good numbers on the number of Gram Parsons "units" sold since his death 38 years ago. In the end analysis, Gram's unique legacy is global, as the locations of the signers to the petition attest, and his cred based on CMA's own criteria is solid for induction (see Proposal for Induction, link off the petition site), and thanks Courtney for the link and for this thoughtful piece.

Comment by Barry Mazor on November 17, 2011 at 1:51pm

There's an easier case to be made that Gram Parsons (whose music I 've loved) impacted rock and roll than he did country music, as a field. (If you follow country music, as a field, not as a whipping boy..)  Maybe that petition should go to the Rock Hall.

 Or maybe he and L.A. are being disrespected--by Cleveland.

Comment by Will James on November 17, 2011 at 2:05pm

Of course I support Gram's induction into the RRHOF, as I believe all signers of the petition do. Hard to believe that The Byrds have been inducted, but not Parsons and Clarence White. He has been nominated there three times, the last in '05 I believe. Gram has not been close to nomination in the CMHOF (btw, I think we should get away from the regional labels as synonymous with the museums and HOFs). Cleveland has a tribute band, Brent Kirby & the New Soft Shoe, that dedicates the entire night biweekly to Gram Parsons material; we teamed with them for GIN IV Cleveland and they are getting lots of press there. Some of us (6,000+ so far committed online so far, and btw, not easy to get everyone who supports the cause to put their names in an online form) believe Gram Parsons belongs to the world to true country music as a pioneer and that that's where the emphasis should be. But by all means, let's get him into the Rock Hall as well.

Comment by Shawn Edward Cote on November 17, 2011 at 3:53pm

Somehow I can't see the Country Music Hall of Fame welcoming the man who co-wrote "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man" with open arms.  It's probably just as well.  It's kind of a dubious distinction anyway, like being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.   

Comment by Rudyjeep on November 17, 2011 at 4:21pm

Interesting take Turnstyled.  Many factors go into being elected into the the Rock and Country Hall of Fame's, but I've never thought that talent was preeminent.  Sales, political correctness (Darlene Love anyone?) and industry influence yes, but not talent.  And with people like Nick Lowe and John Anderson not even getting a sniff, Gram is in good company not being enshrined.   

Comment by Turnstyled, Junkpiled on November 17, 2011 at 4:29pm

The great irony is  (to somewhat reiterate Woody Allen's point in Annie Hall) , that LA is a city that gives out awards for everything...  yet Nashville won't give an award to one of our Patron Saints (so to speak). 


I wrote an AMA Awards Op-Ed commentary on that very matter (the lack of significance in winning an award), but in the case of someone whose been gone for such a long time, any sort of accolade, honor or mention is something that will keep the spirit alive.


It's just the "right thing" to do, in regards to Cleveland (who notoriously have dropped the ball in the past) and Nashville (a place Gram tried to encourage but like Bryson mentioned, didn't accept him.)


Thanks to everyone for the insight and to Will: keep up the good work, your efforts are doing much of what the Gram induction would do for Gram at this juncture anyway.  The petition is a reminder that those who do appreciate his music and influence, that we need to ban together as a community to defend his memory.

Comment by Hal Bogerd on November 17, 2011 at 6:41pm

It seems, with all due respect, that we get hung up on this Hall of Fame crap. Is there a Hall of Fame for painters? Writers? Poets?

Comment by Will James on November 17, 2011 at 9:43pm

With all due respect, let's not re-start the old Grant Alden blog again, OK? I've got the link to it if y'all want to re-visit that ugly mess. Some of us think he should be in and that it's important, others obviously don't and don't care for museums or halls of fame. That wasn't the point of this blog. OK, we good? Good.


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