Friday, August 15, 2014

Mocking Byrds: Hickory Wind

If you would scan the names of the members of The Byrds, you might conclude that the band had two Clark(e)s (Gene Clark & Michael Clarke), two Parsons (Gram & Gene), and two McGuinns (Jim & Roger). None of these people were related to one another except for the two McGuinns who were actually one and the same person. Of those in our list, we turn our eyes (and our ears) to one: Gram Parsons.

Gram Parsons was influential in persuading his fellow Byrds to tackle a complete country album instead of McGuinn’s original intent to do an LP of 20th century American music. He even convinced the band to record the album in Nashville.

The result was the seminal recording of “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” The album would help shape the sound of The Byrds and led Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons to form The Flying Burrito Brothers. The “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” lineup featuring another new member, Kevin Kelley on drums, lasted only a brief five weeks in 1968.

Probably considered Gram Parsons’ signature song, “Hickory Wind” was penned by Parsons and his former band mate Bob Buchanan. There has been some controversy considering the authorship of the song, as South Carolinian Sylvia Sammons claimed to have penned “Hickory Wind.” Although a cash settlement was reached with Sammons by the song’s publisher in 1969, many believe that it was an authentic Parsons/Buchanan composition.


While many artists have recorded “Hickory Wind,” one of the earliest covers of the tune was recorded in 1969 by Joan Baez. Because Baez’s then husband, David Harris, was going to be sentenced for draft evasion, she recorded an album of country music as her gift to him. Because Harris was a fan of country music, Baez titled the LP as “David’s Album.”

Interesting enough, Baez’s foray into country music did better on the charts than The Byrds despite their contract with a major record label. While others have recorded this tune, Joan’s low voice is stronger than most others who attempted “Hickory Wind” including Parson’s close friend Emmylou Harris. Enjoy.


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