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Calling Me Home: Gram Parsons and the Roots of Country Rock

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Calling Me Home: Gram Parsons and the Roots of Country Rock.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Bob Kealing(Author)

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Selected as one of the best books of the year by:

Uprooted Music Revue
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Calling Me Home: is about just that: a land that always beckons, that underlies most of Gram’s songwriting, . . . a land that informs not only him but all others with whom he associated and learned from him.”—Gram InterNational

“Takes the reader from the present to the past and back again, conveying a vivid document of Gram Parsons’s life and career, as well as those who played essential roles in the country-rock pioneer’s journey. There are lots of surprises along the way.”—Holly George-Warren, author of Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry

 “Has a great narrative velocity. Even though we know how this story is going to end—tragically, of course—Kealing keeps us turning the page as we follow Gram Parsons through his short, rich life.”—William McKeen, author of Outlaw Journalist: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson

 “I could almost hear the music coming from those now-dilapidated buildings where Gram Parsons received his musical education. Bob Kealing makes them come alive as he explores the faces and places that turned Parsons from a southern-bred trust fund child into a self-destructive yet visionary musical pioneer.”—Jeffrey M. Lemlich, author of Savage Lost: Florida Garage Bands: The ’60s and Beyond

On September 19, 1973, Gram Parsons became yet another rock-and-roll casualty in an era of excess, a time when young men wore their dangerous habits like badges of honor. Unfortunately, his many musical accomplishments have been overshadowed by a morbid fascination with his drug overdose in the Joshua Tree Inn at the age of twenty-six and the failed attempt to steal his body and burn it in the desert—but not in this literary journey.

Known as the father of country rock, Parsons played with the International Submarine Band, The Byrds, and the Flying Burrito Brothers. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, he was a key confidante of Keith Richards. In 1972, he gave his musical soul mate, Emmylou Harris, her first big break. When Tom Petty re-formed his Florida garage band Mudcrutch, he invoked the name of Gram Parsons as an inspiration. Musicians as diverse as Elvis Costello, Dwight Yoakam, Ryan Adams, Patty Griffin, and Steve Earle have also paid homage to alt-country’s patron saint. In the decades after his death, tribute albums, concerts, and biographies have legitimized the role Parsons played in the evolution of modern music and freed his legacy from that half-charred coffin abandoned in the desert.

In Calling Me Home, Kealing traces the entire arc of Parsons’s career, emphasizing his southern roots. Drawing on dozens of new interviews as well as unpublished letters and photographs provided by Parsons’s family and rare images from legendary photojournalist Ted Polumbaum, Kealing examines the remarkable array of musicians and friends with whom Parsons collaborated and from whom he gained inspiration. Through his tireless efforts, Kealing has uncovered facts that even the most stalwart Parsons fans will find new and revealing.

Starting in Waycross, Georgia, Parsons’s boyhood home, Kealing traces Parsons’s journey through both famous venues and out-of-the-way dives. From the overlooked teen youth centers of Orlando and central Florida, to the southern folk mecca of Coconut Grove, Florida, and from the birthplace of outlaw country in Austin, Texas, to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, Kealing celebrates Parsons’s timeless and transformative musical legacy—a legacy that’s still alive among the swamps, palmettos, cypress knees, and Spanish moss of the American South.

"A Top Music Book of 2013"-Uncut"I am utterly blown away by Calling Me Home. It's masterful"-Bobby Braddock, Country Music Hall of Fame SongwriterAuthor, Down in Orburndale, A Songwriter's Youth in Old Florida."Bob Kealing's Calling Me Home takes the reader from the present to the past and back again, conveying a vivid document of Gram Parsons's life and career...There are lots of surprises."-Holly George-Warren, author Public Cowboy #1: The Life and Times of Gene Autrey "Thankfully, Kealing forgoes the familiar to dig deeper in 'Calling Me Home,'...a welcome new definition of a cult figure who is long overdue for one." Jim Abbott, Orlando Sentinel, Tribune Newspapers"Kealing has drawn on dozens of new interviews, uncovering information that even Gram Parsons' most rabid fans will find fresh and revealing."Dave Carew, Underground Nashville"Mesmerizing...Kealing offers a compulsively readable and intimate portrait."Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Bookpage"Bob Kealing has done some fine original reporting...breaks some new ground on a story of as vital and original a musician as this country has produced."Jeff Baker, The Oregonian Calling Me Home sits at a crossroads between Literary Journalism and little-known Southern history; a place where I've always loved to be.With many new primary source interviews of Gram Parsons's family, friends, love interests and collaborators from every phase of his life and career, letters and memoirs from Parsons and his sister "Little Avis," and rare photographs and memorable discoveries, even stalwart fans will find new things within these pages. This is not a Parsons biography per se, there are several fine ones in print. This is a literary journey to the heart of the Cosmic American South where Parsons's love of music caught fire seeing iconic Elvis, he wrote his first songs, played in garage bands, and eventually returned to make his most historic recording with the Byrds. Years later, when Parsons hit his stride with musical soul mate Emmylou Harris, it was in the South that Parsons's vision received its first warm receptions.No more should Gram Parsons be defined by the legend that blew up surrounding his premature death in the California desert and the tragicomic events that came after.  Calling Me Home dwells mostly in the "Low Country" where Gram Parsons's legacy as a pioneering visionary is celebrated, and his music still holds a kind of transformative, healing power. You'll see.As a working journalist in Orlando, I toiled on this book in my spare time while covering the sensational Casey Anthony drama from the first day until the end of her controversial trial. This book was a most welcome change of pace.I'm proud to share with you the fruits of five years of research, travels, interviews and writing

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Book details

  • PDF | 296 pages
  • Bob Kealing(Author)
  • University Press of Florida (September 23, 2012)
  • English
  • 5
  • Arts & Photography

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Review Text

  • By Cecil Fleece on May 2, 2013

    Calling Me Home is definitely not the insightful, revelatory biography of Gram's early years that I had been led to expect by the other reviewers on Amazon; are they ringers or people who can profit from bumping Gram's catalog or are they merely mistaken? I don't know. But this book reads like it was conceived as an expanded college-level thesis on the teen club scene in Florida in the '60s and written in a basic, workman-like style by someone who displays little affinity for Parsons' music beyond a few desultory quotes from his lyrics. The photos are badly printed too.Where is Stanley Booth's long-promised memoir about Gram? That's the book I want to read.

  • By Kevin on June 30, 2015

    I am extremely disappointed with this book and very surprised by the positive reviews. It is really just a superficial gloss on Gram's life and career drawn from more in-depth, quality books on Gram (such as David N. Meyer's excellent "Twenty Thousand Roads) and trite interviews decades after the fact with peripheral figures from Gram's youth. I just can't see how this book justifies its existence. It spends an enormous amount of time on the least exciting parts of Gram's life (before he's twenty, basically) and his time in the South without really ever explaining the importance of this period for Gram's musical development: it's just a general gloss on how amazing Florida youth centers of the time were.I was reading the book last night and simply couldn't believe how far along I was and the book was only just beginning to touch on Gram's *actual* music career, beginning in Los Angeles with the International Submarine Band. I had a really slim part of the book left and almost nothing had happened. Then, once things heat up, the author spends (for example) precisely one and a half pages on (again, a horribly superficial gloss) of Gram's first solo record, GP - essentially just a list of the songs.I understand that the book is about Gram's "Roots" but event then the book fails to explain anything relevant to Gram Parsons, as opposed to general comments on Florida youth culture concurrent with Gram Parsons's childhood. There's no discussion of *why* Gram might have related to the music of "Cosmic America" given the tawdry facts of his life, his suffering, his loneliness, and so forth, which is what an actual *analysis* of these issues would reveal. Very strange.I would recommend this book if you just wanted a really basic, high school level (or lower) understanding of Gram and Southern Music, but I think all serious scholarship of Gram still has to start with Meyer's "Twenty Thousand Roads." Disappointing - the premise is interesting and it could have been really well done in a more thoughtful author's hands.

  • By BMac on January 14, 2013

    I doodle on the guitar but do not consider myself a musician by a long shot. That being said I can not fairly say whether Gram does or does not live up to his reputation as the driver behind the blending of country and rock and the large influence for many of the artists who do credit his influence. What I do know is the the Byrds were my favorite group and when they came out with Sweetheart of the Rodeo I was initially disappointed. I gave it a fair listen and ended up being the lone country rock fan among my circle of friends who were into Black Sabbath, etc. I have had the Gilded Palace, GP, Grevious Angel on vinyl since the early 70's and like them a lot but also consider some of it to be real stinkers. The work Gram did with EmmyLou Harris is what I like and consider the best on his two solos. Now for the book - Gram comes across as very sad figure, very bad home life who found safety and an identity with his music. I give him all the props in the world for his dedication and drive (to a point) but he also comes across as very shallow and manipulative in the majority of his relationships. Not all that unusual in an addict but the trend started when he was young and before his addictions took control, family life had a lot to do with that I am sure. I find it rather poor that his attempts to pass off other's work as his own and elevate his accomplishments through false information (lies) is glossed over and I was just left wondering how much more was left out. All in all this was a very interesting read of the era that I grew up in and the stories behind some of the music that I still listen to.

  • By Jim on September 6, 2012

    In all modesty, I believe my name appears in most, if not all, of the Gram Parsons biographies. I've certainly been interviewed many times for dozens of articles and books about Gram. And while there have been some fine bios written about him, this is the one I can read and say, 'yeah, that's the way it really was.' This thoughtfully written work accurately portrays and chronicles so many insightful vignettes and humorous (finally) episodes from Gram's formative years through his musical apotheosis. Kealing's writing took me back all those decades ago and evokes so many vivid memories. And I'm happy to say that this book doesn't dwell on the sensational events surrounding Gram's death. Instead, Bob Kealing presents a story that's been overlooked or perhaps dismissed by many of Gram's other biographers. Yes, the reader gets to look behind the curtain of a trust fund kid's life in the Old South but the author doesn't discount the "Happy Days" that Gram and the rest of us enjoyed. Gram was a great artist who grew up in some extraordinary circumstances, but in so many ways he was just another normal kid who loved girls, cars and rock and roll. If that's not normal, I don't know what is.I think what impresses me the most about this book is Kealing's relentless dedication to unearthing the real Gram Parsons. He's uncovered stories and has found friends, family and acquaintances that none of the other G.P. biographers have. He got the story. It's not sugar-coated, nor is it exaggerated. It's the honest and comprehensive chronicle of a prescient and very hip young artist. Moreover, it's a fascinating story that illuminates not just Gram Parsons but also the garage band scene in Every Town, U.S.A. in the early Sixties. Do yourself a favor. Get this one. It's a great read.


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