As we continue our look at Rock going Country, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the influence of Gram Parsons – an influence that will extend beyond this post to the next two posts. When Parsons joined The Byrds in 1968, he was responsible for changing the band to more of a country-rock vein.
Although some of his input to the album “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” had been replaced by Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, his trademark song “Hickory Wind” made it the final mix of the album. The song had been written by Parsons and Bob Buchanan when they were together in the International Submarine Band.
In addition to singing lead, Parsons played acoustic guitar and piano. He was joined on the cut by fellow Byrds Roger McGuinn on banjo, Chris Hillman on bass, and Kevin Kelley on drums. Additional instrumentation was provided by session musicians and included Lloyd Green on pedal steel and John Hartford on fiddle.
“Sweetheart of the Rodeo” was the only album on which Parsons appeared. He and Chris Hillman left The Byrds and formed The Flying Burrito Brothers. Former Byrds’ drummer Michael Clarke would join this band in time for their second album which was Parson’s final album with the group prior to embarking on his solo career. In a later incarnation of the Flying Burrito Brothers, another former member of The Byrds, mulch-instrumentalist Gene Parsons (no relation to Gram) joined the band as its drummer.
Parsons would later rerecord “Hickory Wind” as a duet with Emmylou Harris. This second version of the tune was featured on his second album “Grievous Angel,” which was issued posthumously in early 1974.