Just 88 miles from Jacksonville, FL, the city Synconation calls home, is Waycross, GA. You may not know this, but Gram Parsons went to High School in Jacksonville at Bolles! A not so insignificant fact considering Gram’s famous nudie suit is hanging in the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1967 Gram’s band the International Submarine Band was signed by singer/songwriter/producer Lee Hazelwood. Gram was a member of the Byrds when they recorded the classic country rock album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. He left the Byrds to join the Flying Burrito Brothers, and later went on to record great solo records including duets with Emmy Lou Harris before Bob Dylan and Neil Young did. He is credited for inventing Country Rock what he called “Cosmic American Music” otherwise what we know today as Alternative Country. Gram was famously friends with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and tragically died at the Joshua Tree Inn from a drug overdose. He did this all by the age of 26. He is country music’s James Dean. For all the flash of Gram’s short life his songwriting and his unique voice are timeless and the substance of his songs hold up against anybody. I recommend him even if you think you don’t like country music.
For the past 15 years Uncle Dave Griffin has been organizing the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull at the Okefenokee Fairgrounds in Waycross, GA literally across the street from Gram’s childhood home. I wish I had a picture of the road leading to the little brick house that Gram grew up in, but my phone died after this awesome weekend festival where Ralph Stanley & His Clinch Mountain Boys mesmerized me, I got to check out songwriter Christian Lee Hutson of the Driftwood Singers, Jim Lauderdale put on a great show of classic country hits, and Ian Dunlop brought the house down with his unique songwriting and performance artistry, with a full band culled from the local Waycross music scene. All the Jacksonvillians and Gram Parsons fans who did not go to the festival this weekend have a chance to experience a part of this awesome festival and a piece of our local music heritage.
Painting by Ian Dunlop http://iandunlopart.com