Parsons at Joshua Tree
Parsons at Joshua Tree

Mojave Meets Phil Kaufman

UPDATE: This particular blog about Gram Parsons has been interesting to say the least, intended to only be one story has now turned into three.  After I first wrote the first leg of this story about a year later I got the crime-scene-photo from a friend, then I updated this blog with the pixelated picture only to remove it later at the family’s request.  We found the exact same rock that was in the 1973 crime-scene photo in 2014, then somehow I ended up in contact with Phil Kaufman and had plans to meet him and give him a copy of the photo which my friend Brad was to give to him.  Tonight (9/28/14) I had that meeting and I was thrilled to have met him but also moved by what I saw.

Mr. Kaufman was in touch with my friend Brad, after waiting all day for the call he called, he had arrived and was staying at the Joshua Tree Inn, the same place Gram had died over 40 years ago.  We were to have a change of plans, on the phone Phil said to meet him at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown instead of the Joshua Tree Inn, I was hoping to get pictures at the Inn so I was a bit disappointed but in the end what transpired was much more thought provoking.

We got to Pappy’s, Hank Williams III was performing that night and he was doing his sound check.  All of us, my wife Kerry, Brad and his wife Deb and I looking and waiting wondering if we would recognize him.  I walked around then there he was, when I saw his shirt with many name on the back of recording artists like Emmylou Harris I figured it was him. Wearing shorts I could see his iconic rooster tattoo on his leg, this was my verification that it was him.  I said Phil, he turned around and said “yes”, then quickly said “well only if you’re not a cop”.  He was graceful and kind and generous with his time. He sat at the table with us outside and we talked just like old friends.  Brad presented Phil with the photos of the crime scene and I could see Phil looking at it, I could almost imagine how those 40+ years ago must have felt like yesterday, I felt bad for him but I also know that he must be proud that he followed through with his friend’s wish; from all my research I came to the conclusion that this is what Gram would have wanted.  Gram did not want the normal funeral, he stated that, Gram always strived to be immortal in the sense of being famous and Phil helped him with his wishes.

The Hi-Desert has grown a lot, much of which was caused by stories like this, also many movies were filmed here and also being only 2 hours from Hollywood it became a quick getaway, all of these stories being a thread in the history of the area. Tonight Pappy and Harriet’s was booming all because of people like Phil.  One of the originators of the fame of our area, one of the oldest threads was sitting at Pappy and Harriet’s and no one recognized him, chatting with us gracefully, Hank Williams III playing in the background, young “hipsters” from the Los Angeles area wandering around, listening to Hank and none of them knew the importance of this man to Pappy’s, other local businesses and the culture of the area.  Countless Gram Festivals have been held here, a local home grown band, a favorite of this area is Gram Rabbit, in part named after Parsons.  I found it quite ironic.

Mr. Kaufman, you look great for being 79 years old, thanks for signing my book, I look forward to meeting you again and thank you for your kindness.  I think Gram would be proud of his buddy fulfilling his wish.  Gram’s fame will live forever thanks to his music and thanks to you, but not just Gram, you and Gram will live forever through local legend and lore.

Looking at Photo
Looking at Photo
Phil and I
Phil and I
Phil Kaufman "Road Mangler Deluxe"
Phil Kaufman “Road Mangler Deluxe”

 

Take It Easy – Mojave

[DesertUSA Note – We brought this story back as the anniversary of Gram Parsons’ death is September 19th. There are two other parts to this story that Mojave wrote as the information came out.  The Strange Tale of Gram Parsons’ Funeral in Joshua Tree and Gram Parsons’ Funeral Location.]

15 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting retelling of an infamous honky Georgia’s peaches post-mortem misadventures. Gram could make a Johua Tree weep when he was in the zone. I’m sorry he didn’t get to grow up like Keith Richards. We’d probably making fun of both of them for looking so haggard and ill preserved, but love their music.

  2. Thanks Drew, I am glad this blog spurned your memories. From my research two things contributed to Grams death. He did drugs like Keith Richards, it was said that if Keith ate rusty nails he would urinate rust, it seems no one could keep up with Keith including Gram. His road manager Phil Kaufman did not go on this trip which was a guilt trip for him, he tried to be with Gram at all times to make sure that he did not overdose, well look what happened, Gram seemed to be self destructive and most likely would have OD’d eventually. If he had lived to an old age no telling what the world would be in store for. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Room #8 just opened back up for tonight! 15% off, if anybody wants a night in there! This month we’ve got openings in #8 during the middle of next week, a few mid-week nights the following week, and then the last couple nights of the month. We’ll look forward to seeing y’all! Call 760-366-1188 to book. http://www.joshuatreeinn.com

  4. Jeff, Great job of sleuthing! Very interesting that you found the rock. No question it is the same rock. Great update!

  5. The “friend’ at who’s funeral the pact was made, was the great Bluegrass/country-rock guitarist, Clarence White, who played guitar for the Byrds. Clarence had only recently musically reunited with his brother, mandolin player Roland White, from whom he had been estranged for a few years as Clarence went in the drugs/rock direction and Roland stayed in Bluegrass. Clarence and Roland and their band were rehearsing for a tour by playing some regional gigs when after a show in Palmdale, as Clarence and Roland were putting their instruments into their car, Clarence was struck and killed by a drunken driver. Roland’s arm was dislocated when he grabbed Clarence and tried to pull him clear of the oncoming car. The death of the much-loved Clarence impacted LA’s musical community greatly. After making the pact at his funeral, Gram embarked upon his final bender and was dead a month later.

  6. Thanks Linda, I get to meet the guy that did this, Phil Kaufman next month, he has not seen the un-pixelated picture so we will be giving him a copy. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Interesting to hear this story again. When I was young my family told me about my ex brother in law Ed Walters who worked at a gas station in Joshua Tree. Supposedly he sold the gas to the group that burned Mr. Parson’s body but I do not know the whole story.

  8. HI, I am very interested in discussing the actual location of Gram’s funeral. The rock is awesome but I’d kinda like to know if you have an idea of the actual cremation site.

    Really enjoyed your posts on this blog site…
    Thanks and take care,
    Will

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