New Gram Parsons book sheds fascinating light on GP’s visionary musical contribution

by Dave Carew

For years the debate has raged: What was Gram Parsons’ REAL contribution to contemporary American music? Is he over-rated? Under-rated? Why has the fascination with this thoroughly unique musician—who lived mostly on the periphery of the music scene during his brief 26 years—grown stronger and stronger with each passing year?

A new book, Calling Me Home: Gram Parsons and the Roots of Country Rock by Bob Kealing explores GP’s groundbreaking contribution to American music and culture. Shedding eye-opening new light on GP’s legendary life and career, Mr. Kealing has drawn on dozens of new interviews, uncovering information that even Gram Parsons’ most rabid fans will find fresh and revealing.

In this exclusive two-part interview with Underground Nashville, Mr. Kealing, a central Florida resident, discusses his new book:

UNDERGROUND NASHVILLE: What sparked your initial interest in Gram Parsons?

BOB KEALING: Gram is central-Florida born and spent a lot of his teen years in Winter Haven. The more I dug into this story, the more I realized how Gram is the thread to tell the story of so many important musicians and entertainers who grew up in [central Florida]. The list is long. Add to that Gram’s upbringing—part old South aristocracy, part free-wheeling musician, part trail-blazing visionary, part addicted child of alcoholics—and you have the makings of a fascinating story and cautionary tale.

UN:  Why did you feel there is a critical need for Calling Me Home? What is distinctive about your new book vis a vis other books about Gram Parsons and his music?

BK: In other writings about Parsons, he seems to receive particularly harsh treatment because he overdosed and died young. If time has taught us anything, it’s to blame the addiction, not the addicted. What resulted [in the book], was a cathartic journey tracing the entire arc of Gram’s career, but from a uniquely Southern perspective.

In 2009, at the Newseum in Washington D.C., I uncovered the Ted Polumbaum photos of Gram Parsons at Harvard. This is the first time they’ve been published in a book. I was [also] given the first access to quote from a memoir written by Gram’s little sister Avis. Her words are often heartbreaking. But they clearly spell out how she and Gram felt about their mother, father, and later, their adoptive father.

There are new interviews with key figures in Gram’s career, who’ve been hesitant to speak out: Jim Stafford takes us to the very living room where he gave Gram the advice to pursue country music. Roger McGuinn gives a new take about Gram’s brief but historic time in the Byrds and their landmark album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. I interviewed a guy who snuck backstage before the Byrds’ performance at the Ryman, and interviewed the Byrds for his college newspaper. He has some keen, up-close insights on Gram’s experiences that historic night.

Part 2 of our exclusive Underground Nashville interview with author Bob Kealing will be posted later this week.

Calling Me Home will be officially published on September 23, but may be pre-ordered now at Amazon.com and other online vendors. 

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter.” He also is a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, journalist, and advertising/marketing/public relations writer.

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Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective, offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew

 

 

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2 Responses to “New Gram Parsons book sheds fascinating light on GP’s visionary musical contribution”

  1. Dennis Glaser Says:

    Good journalism on his part, and good interviewing on your part, Dave.

  2. joan52 Says:

    thanks for this

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