Gram Parsons at Joshua Tree

In this post we look back to the 70s at country pop singer Gram Parsons. I did not even know who he was until recently. I thought he was part of The Alan Parsons Project. I can’t think of a single song by him that I am familiar with. Gram Parsons was in The Flying Burrito Brothers. The Flying Burrito Brothers are one of those bands like is Bad Finger. I have heard the name, but I can’t remember anything about them. Many famous musicians liked Gram Parson’s his work and cite him as an influence. He died at age 26, falling short of making into the 27 Club. I see him as being more famous for hanging out with Keith Richards and what happened to his body after he died then for his music.

Gram’s father wanted his body buried in New Orleans, but Phil Kaufman stole it and tired to light it on fire at Joshua Tree. There is a shrine for him at Cap Rock, but the National Park Service keeps removing it. I didn’t know about it, when I went to Joshua Trees or I would have checked it out. The shrine is not marked because they don’t want people going there. The police came while they were burning the body and Gram Parson body was ultimately taken back to New Orleans and buried in Metairie which is a suburb of New Orleans.

Parsons died from taking too much morphine on top of drinking six double tequilas at The Joshua Tree Inn. He died in Room Number 8 and if you go to the website for the Joshua Tree Inn you can even book yourself into the actually room he died in. The rooms at the hotel all look really nice and I would consider staying there if I wanted to go back to Joshua Trees someday. The Joshua Tree is not a dive hotel like the one Bradley Nowell died in. Keith Richards said Parsons took too much morphine because he over estimated his tolerance level.

Phil Kaufman who stole Gram’s body and lit in on fire blames the fans who he claims can’t get past the issue and move on. He should have been charged with abusing a corpse, but it not was a crime in 1973 so he was only charged a insignificant fine of $750 dollars. I can only imagine how upset Gram’s family must have been. Kaufman was trying to cremate his body, because he thought he heard Parson’s say he wanted to be created and his ashes scattered at Joshua Tree. But, if none of this was in writing who is to say if Parson did say this or if he even remembered what he said.

Phil Kaufman is also famous for being a friend of Charles Manson, hanging out with The Family, and trying to help Manson with creating a record. I think he did this before Manson became his killing spree, so that does not really make him a bad person. Many people wanted to help Manson before the killings because they found him have charisma and potential to become famous in music. In spite of doing a lot of research on Charles Manson, I had still never heard of Phil Kaufman or Gram Parson so I thought it was an interesting topic for my 70s blog. If had come across the name I must have not made a mental connection that Phil Kaufman was worth remembering. Phil Kaufman wrote a book about his life in which he details the incident. I may read someday if I have time. As Keith Richards pointed out, had he lived longer Gram may have had a music hit. I have been reading about a lot of sad cases of lost artistic potential like this one lately.

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