Fathers, Sons, and Gram Parsons 70th Birthday
“I'm an old hippy and I don't know what to do, should I hang on to the old should I grab onto the new?” – The Bellamy Brothers, 1985
That condundrum was a hit three decades ago, when the Bellamy Brothers were traveling around the country singing it and other big hits, with a couple kids in the back seat.
Now those kids are grown and out trying to do the same thing, well, sort of. Jesse & Noah (Bellamy, they prefer to not use the last name) are like every other musician in Nashville with talent, trying the best they can to make it, but on their terms, based on folks they admire who inform their own creativity, some dead and many even older than their father, David Bellamy (author of “Old Hippie” from the Bellamy Brothers' first album Howard & David).
Saturday November 5, on what would have been (and actually is) the 70th birthday of one of those long gone purveyors of something new in country music, they will play what is now the ninth annual Gram Parsons InterNational (GPI) at Douglas Corner, the venerable listening room in Nashville. Also on the bill is Al Perkins' son, Jess Perkins, on pedal steel for Taylor Alexander & Tennessee Tap Water.
Jess Perkins w/ dad Al
Yes in the midst of CMA week in Nashville, along with a host of other players in seven bands, these offspring of past musical icons will be celebrating the birth date of one of their musical heroes, one who died over 40 years ago.
Also on the bill is Colorado's Jock Bartley of Firefall, who was also on the Fallen Angels tour with Parsons after the release of Gram's first solo album, GP. Bartley will join a band called Mr. Hyde for the night, a project by the recently deceased Boomer Castleman and Chris James, longtime editor of Nashville's Shake!, that produced one seminal country rock album in the early oughts. Jock and Walter Egan of “Magnet & Steel” fame, and in whose kitchen Gram and Emmylou joined voices and forces for the first time, will be “filling in” in honor of Boomer, not a household name but one of those players who spent a lifetime, much of it in Nashville, fighting the good fight in country music (he was a friend of Monkees Peter Tork and Micheal Nesmith, and with fellow Texan Michael Martin Murphy had some hits back in the day, including for The Monkees).
Others on the bill include: Alex Ballard & Sugarfoot from GPI's Heartland show last month in Milwaukee*, a brilliant artist, but one like so many others is who is known mainly regionally. From the Carolinas, outlaw James Scott Bullard and Susan Hall will open the one-night show. Michael Ubaldini is flying in from L.A. to play with some local pickers; he's been called the “rock n' roll poet,” and by the L.A. Times: “Better than Bruce Springstein at probing the national soul.” (And speaking of L.A., for GPI's WEST show at Don the Beachcomber December 3, another next generation artist is booked, Kai Clark, son of Gene Clark.)
The more homespun pickers and players, including Daryl Wayne Dasher and Renee Wahl, who also bring rising star Andrew Adkins, were hand picked by GPI founder Will James as being in the legacy of Parsons. Taylor Alexander is finding his Emmylou in the wonderful voice of Kiely Schlesinger. All play a few Gram songs, and then they do their own material, as James believes Parsons would have wanted.
There will also be special guests related to Parsons in the audience (although guests of course can not be guaranteed!). Manuel Cuevas, who famously designed Gram's Nudie suit, together with those of so many other greats, promises to be among the crowd and may even have a show and tell. Clarence White's daughter will attend. Phil Kaufman, the infamous Road Mangler, has been there almost every year. “You never know who's going to show up,” says Will James.
Gram Parsons InterNational is a traveling road show that books regional talent wherever it lands (this year Nashville, L.A., Milwaukee, and Dublin). For the past five years it's been based at Douglas Corner on 8th Ave South. GPI founder Will James kick started it in 2008 at the Nashville Palace to back up a petition he had begun to get Parsons inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame; he now refers to the petition, which has 12,800 names on it to date from all corners of the globe, as the “Gram Parsons Wall of Fame,” although he still considers it an attempt to get the long gone influential renegade into both the Rock and Country Halls of Fame.
Sturgill Simpson and Lydia Loveless have also played GPI in their way up the sometimes treacherous ladder of stardom.
Advance VIP table seats are now on sale for $25; standing room GA at $15 will be at the door. More information at the Facebook event page at http://grambash70nashville.us or just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Originally published in Cosmic American Productions blog © Will James