Sounds of Goodbye: Vern Gosdin
An essential link between country and rock has passed: Vern Gosdin. Gosdin was a singer known as The Voice, a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, mandolin, and banjo), and a songwriter with a string of country hits that stretch from West Coast country and bluegrass in the 1960s to the release of his 40-year career retrospective just last year, died in Nashville on April 28.
Gosdin must truly be called one of the innovators of the country/rock sound that resulted in the more-familiar achievements of The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers right down to what we now call Americana or alt-country. Vern and his brother Rex moved west from Alabama in 1961, and soon fell in with the crowd that was taking bluegrass to the folk clubs and coffeehouses, players such as Chris Hillman, Clarence and Roland White, Gene Parsons and Gib Guilbeau. Hillman and the Gosdins formed the Golden State Boys, which became the Hillmen. The Whites were changing the face of bluegrass in The Kentucky Colonels. Parsons and Guilbeau were in a country outfit called the Castaways that evolved into Nashville West when Clarence White joined. Mix and match and you’ve got the Byrds, Burritos, and the attention of the wider world of rock.
In late 1965, Hillman produced a record for the Gosdins, and brought in Clarence White, Parsons and Guilbeau. The result, released on Edict in 1966, was “One Hundred Years From Now,” backed with “No Matter Where You Go (There You Are)” and one of the earliest recorded examples country rock. That core group, which formed the house band for Bakersfield International Records, continued recording together even after moving to major labels, including Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers on Columbia, and the Gosdins’s solo outing for Capitol, Sounds of Goodbye.
Vern began a traditional Nashville career as a singer and songwriter in the 70s, and his popularity continued for the following three decades. His solo hits include “Yesterday’s Gone,” a duet with Emmylou Harris, “It Started All Over Again,” “Break My Mind,” “Do You Believe Me Now?,” “Set ‘Em Up Joe” and “I’m Still Crazy.”
The Byrds’s “Nashville West” is a hard-driving, bluegrass-inflected echo of the days when the Gosdins, Hillman, the Whites, Gene Parsons, and Gene Clark were inventing country rock. This version is from a show at The Fillmore featuring Roger McGuinn, Clarence White, Skip Battin and Gene Parsons.
The Gosdin Brothers: “Hangin’ On”