Gram Parsons InterNational North Comes to the Toronto’s Cadillac Lounge
Gram Parsons InterNational North comes to Toronto for the third time Friday, October 3, at the Cadillac Lounge.
Organizer Will James says, “When I first contacted Sam Grosso about doing the show at the Cadillac, his first and immediate response was, ‘Without Gram Parsons there would be no Cadillac Lounge.’ ” While that may or may not be true, it shows the passion for Parsons in the world of authentic country music.
It’s labeled a “tribute show,” though Will James does not consider his Gram Parsons InterNational truly a tribute show. “I have no issue if you want to call it that. But when you use the word tribute,” says Will, “Many folks think the show will consist of just GP covers. I ask my bands to play at least a couple Gram and/or Emmylou songs, but I book them because, after looking long and hard, I believe them to be the best in the legacy of Gram Parsons.” He also plays actual Gram Parsons over the P.A. during the short changeovers (a shared backline is used to keep the show moving along).
This year seven area bands caught Will’s twang-tuned ear: Lucky Mike & the Real Deal (featuring guitarist Bob Cohen, friend and band mate of Jesse Winchester, and Bobby Dove from Montreal); GT Harris & the Gunslingers; Jacques & the Valdanes; Local 164, Northern Empties; Billard Blossom; and The Lost Anglers.
As Will points out, the legacy of Gram Parsons is a long one. “He was huge in the early ’00s, then suddenly everyone was talking Wilco as an original influence. That’s when I began the Petition to Induct Gram Parsons Into the Country Music Hall of Fame and held my first event to back it in Nashville in ’08. Now we’re doing our seventh there in November.” This is its third year in Toronto. Other cities have included Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Seattle, and Dublin.
Why this passion for Gram Parsons 41 years after his death? “Parsons is consistently listed in Rolling Stone’s Most Important Artists of All Time, yet is one of the few listed there in neither the rock nor country halls of fame.” James also notes that Parsons has more books written about him than just about anyone who died by age 26 (others include Anne Frank, King Tut, and Keats). His performance with The Byrds at the Opry is listed by that institution as one of the top moments in Opry history. Bottom line, as James’s Proposal for Induction concludes, “Gram Parsons believed wholeheartedly in his art, in country music, in what William Faulkner called the only thing worth writing about: the human heart in conflict with itself.”
“Toronto has so much to do with my lifelong love of the ‘real thang,’ ” Will states. “I grew up watching Nashville North and The Ian Tyson Show, whose airwaves snuck over the border to Buffalo (and I attended a taping of Ian’s show, a highlight of my life!). My buddies and I took the bus up and walked up and down Yonge Street in its heyday. I met John Prine at the Riverboat when he still thought he was a mailman and was amazed anyone would drive the 90 miles from Buffalo to see him. Jesse Winchester at the U of T. “Each time I drive up now I hardly recognize the place, it’s like, Where’s the Royal York?” he laughs. “We couldn’t be happier to be at a venue with such dedication to the music,” Will concludes.