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The Flying Burrito Brothers

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With their 1969 debut The Gilded Palace of Sin, The Flying Burrito Brothers came to define the brand of Southern California country-rock that would inspire groups like the Eagles and artists like Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt. The group's name initially referred to an informal group of Los Angeles musicians, notably former members of the International Submarine Band (bass player Ian Dunlop and drummer Mickey Gauvin), the Remains (guitarist/vocalist Barry Tashain and keyboard player Bill Briggs), horn player Junior Markham, saxophonist Bobby Keys, singer/keyboardist Leon Russell and Jesse "Ed" Davis. The name was appropriated in 1968 by former Byrds members Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman for a new venture that would integrate rock and country styles.

The artistic triumph of their first album was hard to follow up. Burrito Deluxe, which  featured future Eagle Bernie Leadon on guitar and ex-Byrd Michael Clarke on drums, showed a band unsure of its direction as Parson's role became increasingly questionable. After Parsons left for a solo career in 1970, the arrival of Rick Roberts brought the band back to par with a self titled album that included Gene Clark's "Tried So Hard" and Merle Haggard's "White Line Fever." More personnel changes followed, with Leadon out and pedal steel guitarist Al Perkins, bassist Roger Bush and super-fiddler Byron Berline in.   

Last Of The Red Hot Burritos captured the excitement and power of their live show, but the septet subsequently lost Hillman and Perkins to Stephen Still's group, and Clarke left as well. Roberts, Wertz, Berline and Bush were joined by Alan Munde (banjo), Erik Dalton (drums) and Don Beck (steel guitar) on a tour of Europe, highlights of which were released on the Six Days On The Road: Live In Amsterdam album. After the tour finished, Wertz, Bush, Berline and Munde concentrated on Country Gazette, while Roberts embarked on a solo career before founding Firefall with Michael Clarke.

The personnel changes kept coming. Former manager Eddie Tickner commandeered the Flying Burrito Brothers' name with original members Pete Kleinow and Chris Ethridge, along with Gene Parsons, Joel Scott Hill and Gib Guilbeau. This new line-up signed a deal with Columbia Records and released Flying Again in 1975. Hill, Guilbeau and Kleinow subsequently formed Sierra with Thad Maxwell (bass) and Mickey McGee (drums). Guilbeau, Kleinow and McGee later reunited with Parsons and Skip Battin to tour Europe. Two live albums (Flying High and Close Encounters To The West Coast) document this period.

Yet another lineup began recording as The Burrito Brothers in the early 80s, enjoying Top 20 success on the country charts with the slick country pop of "Does She Wish She Was Single Again" and "She Belongs To Everyone But Me." Battin objected to the new sound and left during the recording of Hearts On The Line, and Kleinow elected to stay in Los Angeles and concentrate on film work. While the Burrito Brothers were on their last legs, a varying line-up of Gene Parsons, Kleinow, Battin, Harris, and drummers Ed Ponder and Jim Goodall had begun touring as the Peace Seekers.

In 1997 The Flying Burrito Brothers released the acclaimed California Jukebox, which included guests Waylon Jennings, Buck Owens, Sonny Landreth and Charlie Louvin. At the start of the new millennium, the band in some form or another continued to tour and stir up the same excitement which brought them to the forefront of country/rock three decades earlier. 

© 2004