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Gram thickened his drawl and went to it, enthusing to his new bandmates on the revelatory nature of their upcoming experiment that would roll the Beatles and Hank Williams all into one, seducing two disparate audiences simultaneously.
Columbia Records was slightly wary of the concept, the label executives raising their brows at what amounted to a concept album, a time-travel journey encompassing Appalachian hoot and holler, defiant Dylanesque folk, sprawling space jams and urban-cowboy country.
The three spent long nights together smoking hash, hanging out and listening to tracks by George Jones and Hank Snow.
Country became a new adventure, a door open to fresh air, and Chris and Roger were ready to breathe deeply, ready to shake the dust off their four years together and test out something new.
Not only had Gram become a fully-functioning member of the band, but Hillman and Mc Guinn were also willing to let him play occasional front man, blending his high thin voice with Mc Guinn’s graceful harmonies.The Byrds had opted for full regalia, Nudie suits catching the spotlights, colors vibrating, rhinestones glowing, their hair stroking their shoulders, their long-legged hippie-kid ease a spit in the face of Opry tradition and an utterly alien presence on the Ryman stage.They started out easy, breezing through Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home,” the audience sighing with relief at the familiar chords and settling in to see what these California kids could do.As the Byrds prepared their 1968 landmark album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, an ambitious but not-yet-famous Gram Parsons once again found himself on the crest of music stardom.He’d started in a teen rock band in Winter Haven, Fla., then checked out the folk scenes in Cambridge, Mass., and New York City.