Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Flying Burrito Brothers

The Flying Burrito Brothers was an early country rock band, best known for its influential debut album, The Gilded Palace of Sin (1969). Although the group is most often mentioned in connection with country rock legends Gram Parsons, Bernie Leadon and Chris Hillman, the group underwent many personnel changes. The Flying Burrito Brothers was founded in 1968 on the West Coast of the United States by former The Byrds members Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, as well as pianist and bassist Chris Ethridge and pedal steel guitarist Sneaky Pete Kleinow. The group recorded their debut album The Gilded Palace of Sin without a regular drummer, although 'Fast' Eddie Hoh and Jon Corneal were both occasional full-time members during the early days of the band and both are featured on this album. The album contains originals by Parsons and Hillman, and two covers by soul music writers Dan Penn and Chips Moman. After firing Corneal the band needed a permanent drummer for touring purposes; they hired another ex-Byrd, Michael Clarke, who had recently been working with the Dillard and Clark Expedition.

Although critically well received, The Gilded Palace of Sin did not sell well. Ethridge departed in mid-1969, and Hillman moved to bass as the band hired singer and guitarist Bernie Leadon. The band performed at the Altamont Free Concert in December 1969, and, as documented in the film Gimme Shelter, the band was on stage when fights broke out in the audience.

Owing to disagreements between Parsons and Hillman, the band's next album, Burrito Deluxe, included few collaborations between the pair. Parsons left the group after its release in 1970, and was replaced by Rick Roberts, with the new line-up releasing the self-titled album, The Flying Burrito Bros, in 1971. Kleinow then left to become a session musician, and Leadon departed to create the Eagles. Al Perkins and Kenny Wertz replaced them, and Roger Bush and Byron Berline participated as guests in live performances, with the band releasing a live album, Last of the Red Hot Burritos, in 1972.

The original band dissolved after the last founding member, Chris Hillman, took Perkins with him to join Manassas. Berline, Bush and Wertz continued with their own band, Country Gazette. Roberts assembled a makeshift Flying Burrito Bros group to fulfill contractual commitments for some 1973 European live shows, then initiated a solo career before forming Firefall with Michael Clarke.

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