It’s always strange to me when after years of admiring two different artists, I find out that they have a connection with each other. Until today, I never realized that Jonathan Richman had been friends with Gram Parsons.
In an interview in the Parsons biography, Grievous Angel, Richman explains the influence Parsons had on him, even turning him on to the Louvin Brothers.
So I listened and they sure were good. He probably got me to listen to more country-western and bluegrass music, that’s for sure. I became a fan of the Country Gentlemen, the group that did “Fox on the Run.” He got me thinking about different kinds of music than what I had been listening to before. One of the things that I like about Gram, is that he really wanted to play. He wanted to talk music and play. He would be invite me back to his little cabin in the backyard of Phil Kaufman’s house and we took out guitars and started playing. I liked that. He didn’t waste time. He wanted to, you know, play. […]
Continued after the jump…
I was starting to get tired of what we [The Modern Lovers] were doing. And maybe Gram Parsons had a bigger impact than I had been realizing, now that you mention it, because I was getting into acoustic sounds too. I was just starting to think like that. In fact I was thinking of stuff like Leadbelly and things like this. And I was getting tired of the sound that we had had a few years before. And Gram Parsons is a big player of acoustic instruments, as well as an admirer of the Fender Telecaster. I’m sure that got me thinking too. Because the music he recommended to me, the Louvin Brothers for example, was music made with acoustic instruments in an old-style way. And I liked that. Vocals up front, melody, no fancy twenty minute guitar solos. So, in a way it was a very good time for me to meet him. It might have had a bigger impact on what I did than what I realized until this very minute. Mainly I knew that I liked him and that there was a sad quality to his music, which I liked.
I’ve always been fascinated by Jonathan Richman’s transformation from Velvet Underground-inspired rocker in the early 70s to the calypso/kids music/50s rocker he became in the late 70s. He tells a great story about being inspired by a group called the Bermuda Strollers on his Having a Party with Jonathan Richman album, where he realized that his band was too “stiff.” But this Parsons story sheds a little more light on what was going on in his head at the time.
Fan video: Jonathan Richman – “Monologue about Bermuda”