catalog ID: 4462
Raised on country music (Hank Williams was a lifetime hero), by the time he
entered Harvard (as a divinity student !!!), singer/guitarist Gram Parsons
had been in a string of bands (The Pacers, The Legends and The Shilohs).
Having formed a band with bassist Ian Dunlop, former Troll guitarist John
Nuese and keyboard player Tom Snow, Parsons quickly came to the conclusion
his academic efforts were a waste of time. In 1966 he formally quit school
and with the rest of the band (drummer Mickey Gauvin replacing Snow),
relocated to New York.
In New York the quartet came up with their name (reportedly a reference
taken from an old Our Gang television series) and began working on their
unique country-rock sound. Paying their bills as a studio group brought them
into contact with ex-child star Brandon DeWilde. DeWilde's television and
film connections earned the band an opportunity to record a one-shot single
for the small San Francisco-based Ascot label. Recorded for the soundtrack
of a quickie B flick, "The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are
Coming" b/w "Truck Driving Man" (Ascot catalog number 2218)
vanished without a trace. A follow-on single for Columbia ("Sum Up
Broke" b/w "One Day Week" Columbia catalog number 4-43935)
proved equally obscure. Frustrated with their lack of progress, 1966 saw the
quartet take advantage of DeWilde's offer to help them make it in
California. Relocating to Los Angeles, the decision appeared promising when
they were hired to perform in a throwaway Roger Corman film "The
Trip". While they had a brief performance role in the film, their
musical contribution was erased from the final product; an Electric Flag
track overdubbed in its place. Regardless, the band benefited from the
resulting publicity and their friendship with "The Trip" star
Peter Fonda. Unfortunately, personal frictions and disagreements over
musical direction reared their ugly heads. The end result saw Dunlop and
Gauvin calling it quits; quickly replaced by Chris Etheridge and Parsons'
buddy/drummer Jon Corneal.
An audition for eccentric Lee Hazlewood's newly formed LHI label won the band
a contract and within a matter of weeks they were in the studio with
producer Suzi Jane Hokom. If nothing else, 1967's "Safe
At Home" deserved immediate notice as one of the first
true country-rock outings. Offering up a mixture of covers and original
material (penned by Parsons), tracks such as "I Must Be Somebody Else
You've Known", "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Still Miss
Someone" left no doubts as to the the band's country roots and
interests. That shouldn't scare anyone off, since the combination of
Parsons' melancholy voice and a rhythm section with one foot firmly in the
rock camp (in the middle of recording sessions bassist Etheridge was
replaced by Bob Buchanan), made for a thoroughly entertaining effort.
Parsons-penned originals such as "Blue Eyes" (first song we're
aware of to make reference to getting stoned) and "Luxury Liner"
were genre standards. While the album generated a buzz among critics and
with musicians themselves, it was simply too odd for mainstream radio - too
rock for country audiences and too country for rock audiences. Sales proved
"Safe At Home" track listing:
1.) Blue Eyes (Gram Parsons) - 2:45
2.) I Must Be Somebody Else You've Known (Merle Haggard) - 2:15
3.) A Satisfied Mind (J.R. Hayes - J. Rhodes) - 2:30
4.) Folsom Prison Blues/That's All Right (John R. Cash / Arthur Crudup) -
5.) Miller's Cave (J. Clement) - 2:45
1.) I Still Miss
Someone (John R. Cash) - 2:45
2.) Luxury Liner (Gram Parsons) - 2:43
3.) Strong Boy (Gram Parsons) - 2:01
4.) Do You Know How It Feels To Be So Lonesome? (Gram Parsons - Barry
Goldberg) - 3:33
Interestingly, by the time the album was released, Parsons' was no longer
involved in the band, having accepted an offer to join The Byrds (see
separate entry). While the remaining members attempted to keep the band
afloat, auditions for a replacement failed and they called it quits shortly
after the album was released. The decision also proved costly for Parsons.
Caught off guard by Parson's sudden defection, claiming he was still under
contract, Hazlewood threatened to slap the singer with a costly lawsuit.
Settling out of court, Parson's waived rights to the ISB name. Columbia (The
Byrd's parent label) also reacted with concern, insisting that Parson's
vocals be stripped from his first effort with the band - 1969's
"Sweetheart of the Rodeo".
death the small California based Shiloh label reissued the album as a
Parsons' solo side - 1979's "Gram Parsons".