Monday, 23 February 2009

Charley Patton's Grave, New Jeruselum Churchyard Cemetary, Holly Ridge, Mississippi.

We reached Holly Ridge after getting somewhat lost. Once we realised we were lost, all became apparent. We'd turned the wrong way at the last intersection. On finally reaching the New Jeruselum Church, on Holly Ridge Road, the graveyard appeared to be to the left as you're facing the church from the road, however, on searching all the graves in this area, our Charley was clearly not there.

I went back to the car and re-read the notes I had. They were clearly misleading at best and completely wrong at worst. We drove a little way up the road and found that beyond the church was a couple of large warehouses belonging to H.R. Gin Company. Beyond these, there was a marshy area, that had a lot of headstones. So, was this the site. carefully picking between the stones, Myles and I searched and searched for anything looking remotely like Charley or Patton. There was a dog barking from the warehouses, which was not only eerie, but also somewhat threatening. Finally, while I think Myles had given up, I came across the headstone. in the far left hand corner, close the adjoining land of the H.R. Gin Company Apparently this isn't the final resting place of Charley as no one knows where he was buried. He's most likely in this graveyard somewhere, but where is another matter.

Charley didn't leave much, when he died, not even a birth certificate. There was a death certificate, 4 out of the 8 marriage certifcates survive, he is also known to have had plenty of common law wives along the way. There is only one known photo of him and one daughter survived him. No guitars, homes or autographs are known to exist. We can't even be sure where he died, either 350 Heathman Street, Indianola, which is what appears on his death certificate, or as relatives insist, in his house, now demolished, just across the road from the cemetery.

Charley Patton

Born: April 1891 Edwards, Mississippi

Died: April 28, 1934 Indianola, Mississippi

Cause of Death: Heart Disease

Gram Parsons' Grave, Garden of Memories Cemetery, New Orleans

One fine Saturday morning in April 2005, I found myself in New Orleans. Out by the airport, in a motel on Highway 61 (Airline Highway), with my friends Gary and Myles. Myles and I had been in town for a few days, staying at "The House Of The Rising Sun". Gary had only just flown in from Virginia and had hired a car at the airport. We were heading for town to meet our friends from Washington, Jen and David. On the way I suggested that we stop off at The Garden Of Memories to visit the grave of Gram Parsons. Not sure that Gary or Myles knew who he was, or what influence he'd had, but it was an opportunity too good to miss. I had no idea where the grave was and the garden was huge, so I visited the lodge where the keeper greeted me with "I knew it, soon as I saw you coming up the drive. Only old hippies visit Gram"

It was a magical experience.

Here's more on Gram for those that don't know:

Gram Parsons

Original name: Ingram Cecil Connor III

Born: Nov. 5, 1946 Winter Haven, Florida
Died: Sep. 19, 1973 Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley, California

Cause of Death: Heart Failure due to tequila and morphine overdose.

County/Rock Musician. His love of music grew from the guitar lessons that he started at the age of nine. He was a big fan of Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis. At the age of ten he was sent to military prep school in Jacksonville, Florida. While there his father took his own life and Parsons was soon kicked out of the school due to his reaction to the tragedy. His mother then married Robert Ellis Parsons who soon adopted Gram and his younger sister, Avis. In 1960 he formed his first band, The Pacers. His next band, The Legends, consisted of fellow future hit makers Jim Stafford and the members of the band Lobo. Never one to limit his musical opportunities he ventured out with other projects playing keyboards and performing a solo acoustic guitar act. His mother developed a drug problem and soon Parsons was partaking of her drug supply. Due to his growing drug abuse his grades suffered and he failed his junior year of high school. He acquired a level of local celebrity in Greenville, South Carolina and was soon invited to judge a television talent show. Back stage at the show he met and harmonized with members of The Shilos who invited him to sing with them after they were announced the winners. By the age of 17 he was a member of The Shilos. With manager Buddy Freeman they were able to perform for a few hundred dollars a night. In 1964 they went to New York City. It was here that they met their idols, The Journeymen, whose style they had imitated. At Bob Jones University in 1965 they recorded nine tracks. These tracks would later be published on "Gram Parsons & The Shilos: The Early Years, Vol. 1". On the morning of his high school graduation in June of 1965 he learned that his mother had passed away from alcohol poisoning. For a short time during 1965 he attended Harvard University and he formed the International Submarine Band. After two years the band split. Gram and John Nuese stayed with a country sound and Mickey Gauvin and Ian Dunlop formed the Flying Burrito Brothers. In July of 1967 The International Submarine Band recorded their album "Safe At Home". Most consider this to be the first country-rock album although it was not widely successful. Hanging out at the Byrds recording sessions lead to a friendship with Chris Hillman. When David Crosby left the band in February 1968 Parsons took his place. When the Byrds recorded "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" he was finally in big time rock and roll. That album has continued to be a classic. He resigned from the Byrds in 1969 and formed the next incarnation of the Flying Burrito Brothers with Chris Hillman, Chris Ethridge and Sneaky Pete Kleinow. Michel Clarke would join later. In 1970 they recorded their second album "Burrito Deluxe". After a motorcycle accident in late 1970 he left the band and married model Gretchen Burrell. He was the influence for the country sound on the album "Exile On Main Street" by the Rolling Stones. In 1973 he toured with Emmylou Harris whom he had met in 1971. They performed the duets "I Fall To Pieces" and "That's All It Took". Gram invited Emmylou to sing on his album "GP". Three members of Elvis Presley's band, James Burton, Glen D. Hardin and Ronnie Tutt along with Barry Tashian appeared on the album. Emmylou joined Gram's tour band, The Fallen Angels, which was formed to promote the album. 1973 was a touring year for Gram and the Fallen Angels and they also recorded his second album "Grievous Angel". While on vacation in Joshua Tree Gram died. He had stated to friends that he wanted to be cremated at Joshua Tree Desert instead of being buried in the ground. After his death his body was to be flown to Louisiana for burial. However, his body was intercepted at the airport by friends Phil Kaufman and Michael Martin. After stealing his body they drove to The Joshua Tree Desert and poured gasoline inside the coffin to set the fire. The remains were finally interred in New Orleans. Kaufman and Martin were arrested and fined $700.00 for stealing and burning the coffin as it was not against the law to steal a deceased body. In January 1974 ""Grievous Angel" was released. Many artists list Gram Parsons as their musical influence including Elvis Costello, U2, the Black Crowes, The Eagles and The Rolling Stones. Although he never seemed to achieve great fame he had the ability to combine talented musicians to create unforgettable music. In 2003 writer Jeremy Drysdale chronicled the story of Parson's body's journey after death in the movie "Grand Theft Parsons" starring Johnny Knoxville and Gabriel Macht. (bio by: Julie Karen Hancock (Cooper) Jackson)