Nashville’s Long Players have now artfully recreated the grooves from about 60 different classic rock records. But, like band leader Bill Lloyd said from the Mercy Lounge stage, “It was about time we did a country record in Nashville.” Their choice was The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the mostly-overlooked at the time, but now-considered groundbreaking foundation for the marriage of country and rock. The guy mostly to blame for the way the record turned out was of course Mr. Cosmic American Music, Gram Parsons. Therefore, it was natural for the LPs to bill tonight’s customary encore segment as a celebration of the music of The Byrds, Burritos and Parsons.
The Long Players previously performed Sweetheart a few years ago at a special engagement in Colorado and had once considered doing it here during the Americana Festival. The Colorado gig featured former Byrd and Burrito Chris Hillman as a special guest. For tonight’s Mercy show, “special guests” were advertised, but with Emmylou Harris’ Bonaparte’s Retreat as the show’s featured charity, she was certainly the odds-on favorite to appear.
It was a great cast for the evening even without Miss Emmylou. New to the Long Players stage were the album-namesake country sister duo Sweethearts of the Rodeo and country-rocker Craig Fuller, the man behind Pure Prairie League’s “Aimee.” Guitar-master John Jorgensen who played with Chris Hillman in The Desert Rose Band was also on hand. Pedal steel player, Lloyd Green, who played on the original 1968 record was in the house, but did not perform.
Guest player Pete Finney kicked things off with the pedal steel intro of the record’s lead track, “You Ain’t Goin’ No Where,” from The Basement Tapes in what would be the first of four Dylan songs in the set. Jorgenson’s slick guitar and solid vocals started things off on a high note, and the evening never seemed to falter.
Emmylou made her surprise entrance for the third song to sing on the Louvin Brothers “The Christian Life” and gave the night its first Gram Parsons story. She recalled that her first exposure to the Louvins came on a photo-less cassette Gram gave her, and how she thought brother Ira was a girl!
Local songwriter and bluesman Gary Nicholson was the perfect choice for soulster William Bell’s “You Won’t Miss Your Water.” His Gram story was about when he let a young Parsons stay at his Nashville crash pad, and how Gram later helped Gary’s band get into the Palomino talent night competition in LA which they wound up winning.
Kristine Arnold of the Sweethearts wore a beautiful green Nudie shirt that she said once belonged to original Byrds’ Drummer Michael Clarke. She got it indirectly through Phil “Road Mangler” Kaufman who got it from Clarke in trade for a Flying Burrito Brothers tee shirt.
Walter Egan knew Emmylou in her early Washington D.C. days, and he told his story of how Gram and she sang for the first-time ever in his kitchen. Walter’s song “Hearts of Fire” was on Gram’s Grievous Angel album, and as Bill Lloyd earlier alluded might happen, history was made when he and Emmy sang this song together in tonight’s encore segment. [Watch the video for “Hearts of Fire.”]
With the songs being short, the album segment was over in just 45 minutes. After a short break, the band later returned for the encore segment of an hour of Burritos, Parsons and of course more Byrds. As for the latter, however, the Rickenbackers came out, and we got to hear some of the non-country side of the diverse band that The Byrds were, including two numbers by the often overlooked, but brilliant Gene Clark.
This was a remarkable evening in the history of this great Nashville institution called The Long Players. It was also a fine celebration of a seminal album that will soon turn 50 years old.
Sweetheart of the Rodeo
- You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (John Jorgenson)
- I Am a Pilgrim (Sweethearts of the Rodeo)
- The Christian Life (Emmylou Harris)
- You Don’t Miss Your Water (Gary Nicholson)
- You’re Still on My Mind (Craig Fuller)
- Pretty Boy Floyd (Buddy Woodward)
- Hickory Wind (Craig Fuller)
- One Hundred Years from Now (Walter Egan)
- Blue Canadian Rockies (Sweethearts of the Rodeo)
- Life in Prison (Patrick Fuller)
- Nothing Was Delivered (Chuck Mead)
- Christine’s Tune (Buddy Woodward)
- Wheels (Emmylou Harris & Gary Nicholson)
- Time Between (Brad Jones)
- Chimes of Freedom (Bill Lloyd)
- She Don’t Care About Time (John Jorgenson)
- So, You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star (Chris James)
- Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man (Craig Fuller)
- Deportee (Plane Wreck at Las Gatos) (Patrick Fuller)
- I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better (Chuck Mead)
- Tambourine Man (Sweethearts of the Rodeo)
- The Bells of Rhymney (Walter Egan)
- Hearts on Fire (Walter Egan & Emmylou Harris)
- Ooh Las Vegas (Emmylou Harris)
- You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (ALL)
Seth Timbs—keyboards and accordion
Pete Finney—pedal steel guitar