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THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS

1969 - 1970

Burrito Discography

Burrito Bibliography


BURRITO SCORECARD:

Flying Burrito Brothers v. 2.2
Gram Parsons: vocals, r. guitar, keyboards
Chris Hillman: vocals, r. guitar, mandolin
Sneaky Pete Kleinow: pedal steel
Chris Ethridge: vocals, bass, piano
Michael Clarke: drums


"The Train Song" /
"Hot Burrito #1"
A&M 1067
June 1969


Flying Burrito Brothers v. 2.3
Gram Parsons: vocals, r. guitar, keyboards
Chris Hillman: vocals, bass, mandolin
Sneaky Pete Kleinow: pedal steel
Bernie Leadon: vocals, guitar, dobro
Michael Clarke: drums


Burrito Deluxe
A&M SP-4258
May 1970
US --

"Older Guys" /
"Down in the Churchyard"
A&M
July 1970
US -- / UK --

"If You Gotta Go, Go Now" /
"Cody, Cody" (US)
A&M
1970
US --

("Tried So Hard" v. 3.0.1) /
"Lazy Days"
A&M
1970

Sleepless Nights
A&M SP-4578
May 1976
US # 185

Round robin exchanges:
Dillard & Clark and the Flying Burrito Brothers both grew out of the Byrds, both recorded for A&M, and both combined rock with country. Not surprisingly, the traffic between the two bands was heavy.
No fewer than six musicians played in both groups at some point, namely drummers Jon Corneal and Michael Clarke (who traded places), guitarist and vocalist Bernie Leadon, fiddler Byron Berline, bassist Roger Bush, and steelie Don Beck.
Guest appearances were also common. Chris Hillman appeared on both Dillard & Clark albums, and Sneaky Pete Kleinow showed up on the second. Gene Clark also recorded at least two songs with the Burritos after splitting with Dillard.


"Wild Horses":
Gram Parsons claimed more than once that Jagger and Richards wrote "Wild Horses" for him, and even that he had inspired the song. In fact, the song was about Keith Richards's reluctance to leave Anita Pallenberg and his new son Marlon for a US tour, and/or about Marianne Faithfull's attempted suicide. The Stones did send the song to Parsons, in the hope that Sneaky Pete Kleinow might be able to add some steel guitar to it. (He never did.)*
The Rolling Stones' version appears on Sticky Fingers (London, 1971). It reached #28 on the US charts in July '71.


Altamont:
In late 1969, the Rolling Stones were stung by criticism for having missed Woodstock and for charging exorbitant ticket prices on their US tour. In response, they organized a free festival near San Francisco, featuring local acts the Grateful Dead, Santana, and the Jefferson Airplane. Crosby Stills Nash & Young and the Flying Burrito Brothers were also on the bill.
Despite the strong line-up, the show was troubled from the outset. It was announced only four days ahead of time; the site was changed to Altamont Raceway one day before the show; a stage had to be cobbled together in one day; and security had to be found. The Grateful Dead suggested their friends the Hell's Angels as security.
The Angels, fueled by speed, booze, and acid, were belligerent throughout the show, threatening Marty Balin and Paul Kantner, and menacing various concert-goers with sawed-off pool cues. 300,000 fans showed up, and the atmosphere was crowded and tense. Fighting broke out in the audience during the Santana and Airplane sets, abated during the Burritos, then resumed while CSNY played. It worsened when the Stones came on.
In the confusion and violence, an 18-year-old black youth named Meredith Hunter drew a gun; he was stabbed and killed by Hell's Angels as the band played on, unaware of his death. The tragic events were captured on film in the Maysles Brothers documentary, Gimme Shelter (1970).


For the secret origin of the Flying Burrito Brothers, see the previous page in this chapter: The Flying Burrito Brothers: 1967-1969.


The Flying Burrito Brothers v. 2.2

In the first of a series of round robin exchanges, the Burritos hired ex-Byrd Michael Clarke away from Dillard & Clark and headed out on a national tour by train. (Parsons, like Gene Clark, had a fear of flying.) The tour was characterized more by poker and pot-smoking than by practice or professionalism, though it did yield the idea for their next single, "The Train Song."
At the request of Parsons, A&M hired R&B pioneer Larry Williams to produce the single. Clarence White and Leon Russell took part in the sessions, yet despite all the talent present, the result was underwhelming. The single was released in July 1969, and disappeared. The song never made a regular Burritos LP, but it was on the compilation Close Up the Honky Tonks (A&M, 1974).


Burritos v. 2.3. Courtesy A&M Records.


The Flying Burrito Brothers v. 2.3

As 1969 wore on, the Burritos came apart. Chris Ethridge left in the fall, so Hillman moved over to bass and Bernie Leadon, also late of Dillard & Clark, joined up on guitar. Parsons seemed less interested in working with his own band than on hanging out with the Rolling Stones, in town for several months to mix Let It Bleed (London, 1969). Hillman said of this period, "After that brief initial burst, Gram and I just couldn't seem to hook up again.... Burrito Deluxe [(A&M, 1970)] was written and recorded without any of the feeling or intensity of the first album, and it seemed that we were walking on different roads."*
Hillman recalled the root of Parsons', and the band's, problem: "He was getting into a lot of drugs and -- well, you know the story.... He just went headlong in the direction of physical abuse and it was an area where I just couldn't help him at all. There was nothing that any of us could do. I think his major failing, as far as being a member of the group was concerned, was that he lacked the sense of professionalism, discipline, reliability and responsibility which you must have if you work with others."*


Burrito Deluxe. Courtesy A&M Records.

At Hillman's suggestion, the band hired Jim Dickson to produce their next album. Due to Parsons's lack of interest, the band had no material, so Dickson suggested Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go," of which an undistinguished version was recorded. They cut a leftover from the last album, "High Fashion Queen," and a would-be rave-up from the Submarine Band era, "Lazy Days." Parsons and Hillman threw together one song that met their previous standard, "Cody, Cody," and one that didn't, "Down in the Churchyard." Leadon helped them write "Older Guys," and co-wrote another track with Parsons, the so-so "Man in the Fog." Leadon also brought one of the album's better songs, "God's Own Singer." A Harlan Howard cover ("Image of Me") and a traditional country gospel number ("Farther Along") turned out well enough, as did a song Parsons got from his chums the Rolling Stones: "Wild Horses."
Despite a few bright moments, the album was a disappointment to all involved -- including A&M, who had already lost a small fortune on the band. Predicting an even worse showing for the second album, the label withheld the release. Meanwhile, Parsons's increasing fear of flight limited the group to local appearances. Nevertheless, when the Rolling Stones announced in November they would headline a free music festival in San Francisco, Parsons successfully wheedled them into giving the Burritos a slot in the lineup. The Burritos' appearance at Altamont was uneventful, despite the many disasters that plagued the show and arguably ended the age of Aquarius.
With A&M still sitting on the second album, Jim Dickson hustled the Burritos into Hollywood's new Sound Factory to record some classic country songs. Recollections differ on whether these tracks were intended as sessions or merely rehearsals; the haphazard character of many of them suggest the latter. Most of these half-finished songs saw release on Sleepless Nights (A&M, 1976).
The Sleepless tracks do reveal a lot about the Burritos' influences. Most of them are honky-tonk songs written or popularized by West Coast acts: "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down" and "Sing Me Back Home" by Merle Haggard; "Together Again" and "Close Up the Honky Tonks" by Buck Owens; "Crazy Arms" by Ray Price; "Green, Green Grass of Home" by, among others, Porter Wagoner; "Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)" by Joe Maphis and Rose Lee, and "Your Angel Steps Out of Heaven." Another Stones tune, "Honky Tonk Woman," showed up, in an arrangement similar to the version that became "Country Honk" on Let It Bleed (London, 1969). (Parsons claimed the credit for the "Country Honk" arrangement in later interviews. Whoever is responsible for it, the country arrangement is the one originally intended for the song by the Stones; the better-known arrangement was developed later.)


Sleepless Nights. Courtesy A&M Records.

A few other rock numbers from the same sessions, including "Bony Maronie," "To Love Somebody," and a fragment of "I Shall Be Released," emerged on comps like Honky Tonk Heaven (Ariola, 1974) (Dutch) and, many years later, Farther Along (A&M, 1988) and Out of the Blue (Edsel, 1996). The band never finished the tracks properly, and in May, A&M finally released Burrito Deluxe (A&M, 1970). It sunk without a trace.
Around the same time, Parsons injured himself severely while riding his poorly-maintained Harley with head Papa John Phillips. After a few weeks in the hospital, he went out with the Burritos again, seemingly determined to get himself kicked out of the band through contrariness and indiscipline. In this he was successful; by June, the Burritos were a four-man band.



To follow the career of Chris Hillman, Mike Clarke and the remaining Flying Burrito Brothers, see The Flying Burrito Brothers: 1970 - 1972. To pick up the story of Gram Parsons from 1970, see Gram Parsons: 1970 - 1972.



Notes

"...[B]rief initial burst..." Fong-Torres, Hickory Wind at 134.

"...[A] lot of drugs..." Frame at 36.

"Wild Horses" Fong-Torres, Hickory Wind at 135.


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Spinoffs | Flying Burrito Brothers | 1969 - 1970

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