Interview with Gram Parsons bio author Bob Kealing (Part 2)

by Dave Carew

Earlier this week, we posted the first half of our exclusive, two-part interview with Bob Kealing, author of the new book Calling Me Home: Gram Parsons and the Roots of Country Rock. (Please see part one below.) In this second and final installment, Mr. Kealing shares additional insights concerning the visionary musical legacy and contribution of Gram Parsons.

IMPORTANT NOTE: It has just been announced that Mr. Kealing will be signing copies of “Calling Me Home” at 12th & Porter on Saturday, November 3, as part of Gram InterNational V Nashville, the annual concert publicizing the international effort to induct Gram Parsons into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

UNDERGROUND NASHVILLE:  Why do you feel it has taken nearly 40 years for Gram Parsons’ musical contribution to gain full recognition?

BOB KEALING: People have concentrated on the tragicomic events surrounding Gram’s death. That is a major distraction from Gram’s accomplishments as a pioneering musician. At barely 21 years old, Gram took America‘s most influential and important band of the 1960s [the Byrds] in a bold and risky new creative direction.

Gram never had a hit song, which is why Rolling Stone‘s description of him as the greatest “cult figure” in contemporary music is particularly apt. He also wasn’t the greatest singer or musician. He had a trust fund and a questionable work ethic. That’s all easy fodder for those who are bitter about or jealous of all the post-mortem attention Gram has received. There is always a vocal group of critics who argue Gram doesn’t deserve the attention. All by itself, Emmylou Harris’ 2008 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame is validation of Gram’s legacy.

UN: What do you believe was the distinct contribution made to contemporary music by Gram Parsons?

BK: Gram was the first “rock” musician to fully embrace country music. Gram wasn’t interested in “countrypolitan.” He performed and wrote full-on “regressive” country, as Emmylou Harris so famously called it. Moreover, he regarded Merle Haggard and George Jones as authentic artists. You have to remember that in 1968—when Gram was championing it—country music was still regarded by many of Gram’s generation as uncool and square. He opened the doors—along with Dylan, Gene Clark, Linda Ronstadt, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and a select group of others—through which came the country-fied Rolling Stones, the Eagles, and ensuing generations of alt-country musicians like Steve Earle, the Jayhawks and Lucinda Williams. Gram also paved the way for outlaw country.

Calling Me Home will be officially published on September 23, but may be pre-ordered now at 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



Interview with Gram Parsons bio author Bob Kealing (Part 2)

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