Saturday, May 05, 2007

Take me to heart and I'll always love you

I've written about the genesis of what came to be called Country-Rock several times here. And my good friend John Einarson has written the definitive book on the topic, called Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock.

One of the major groups in that scene was The Flying Burrito Brothers. While not the ultimate progenitor of the species, they are perhaps the best known examples of the art. Evolving out of The Byrds, Chris Hillman and enfant terrible Gram Parsons, adding bassist Chris Ethridge and pedal steel guitarist 'Sneaky' Pete Kleinow, created the first band in Southern California dedicated to furthering the exploration of country songwriting, style, and instrumentalism.

Here are a couple of YouTubes of the Burritos. The first, "Lazy Day", performed during a Parsons 'hiatus', features a young Bernie Leadon on vocals and guitar. He would next go on to found a group that found some success called The Eagles:

Here's "Christine's Tune", with Gram singing lead:

Note steel guitarist 'Sneaky' Pete, who differentiated himself from traditional steel guitarists by not using the volume pedal, and adopting the distortion sound becoming popular at the time among rock guitarists.

Here's a different edited video of "Lazy Day":

From the Wikipedia entry about Pete:

One of the first pedal steel players to work in a rock context, Kleinow incorporated liberal use of electronic innovations like the fuzzbox and backwards recording techniques. As such, his style of playing was immediately influential upon second-generation players such as Jerry Garcia, Buddy Cage of the New Riders of the Purple Sage and sessionman Al Perkins.

Respected as the "Hendrix of the steel guitar," Kleinow was rarely short of session work. Finding session work to be more lucrative, he left the Flying Burrito Brothers in 1971 and played for an eclectic range of artists, including Joe Cocker (Joe Cocker!, 1969), Delaney, Bonnie and Friends (To Bonnie from Delaney, 1970) and Little Feat (many albums including Sailin' Shoes, 1972).

He also added steel guitar to records by Frank Zappa (Waka/Jawaka, 1972), the Bee Gees (Life in a Tin Can, 1973), John Lennon (Mind Games, 1973), Linda Ronstadt (Heart Like A Wheel, 1974), and Fleetwood Mac (Heroes Are Hard to Find, 1974).

Sadly, Pete left us recently, and the passing was largely unnoticed.

From his website:
The Family of "Sneaky" has sadly announced that Peter Kleinow has passed on from Alzheimer's disease Saturday morning January 6, 2007 at the nursing facility.
Pete will be missed and never forgotten!
From a related website about Skip Battin, former Byrds musician who also recently died of Alzheimers:
As we all know, Sneaky Pete and Skip were very close over the years. Due to Sneaky's passing I am starting this page in his honor. We will start with an e-mail sent to the webmaster by his daughter, Anita.
I just stumbled upon your website. My name is Anita,
Sneaky Pete is my father. I think what you are doing
here is wonderful. Skip and Sneaky were the best of
friends, truly enjoyed each other's company. Skip was
such a sweet guy. Always polite and so funny! Skip and
my dad together were hilarious. They both totally
loved life and enjoyed it to the fullest. They both
loved fine food, fine wine and travel. Their lives
paralleled in so many ways. My father was devastated
when Skip was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He visited
him often and was shocked at the cruelty of the
disease. Then, Skip was gone. Just terrible.

When my father was diagnosed, well, that's when it
really hit me. Two brilliant men taken too soon. It's
too sad for words. Let's never forget them.

Peace, Anita Kleinow
It's really hard seeing the 2nd generation of rock pioneers, the guys I looked up to in the '60s, start to drop off. The good news is that the music is there, on tape, on CDs, for generations to come.

That gives me hope.

Update: My friend darkblack in comments reminds me of this video of the Burritos, at the infamous Altamont festival. It's not a great performance, but it's a good look at 1969 and the people of the time: