Around the time the International Submarine Band dissolved, Parsons met Chris Hillman, the bassist for the Byrds. At that time, the Byrds were rebuilding their lineup and Hillman recommended to the band's leader, Roger McGuinn, that Parsons join the band. By the spring of 1968, Parsons had become a member of the Byrds and he was largely responsible for the group's shift towards country music with their album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Originally, the album was going to feature Parsons' lead vocals, but he was still contractually obligated to LHI, so his voice had to be stripped from the record.
Gram Parsons only spent a few months with the Byrds, leaving the band in the fall of 1968 because he refused to accompany them on a tour of South Africa, allegedly because he opposed apartheid. Chris Hillman left the band shortly after him and the duo formed the Flying Burrito Brothers in late 1968.
By the summer of 1972, he was prepared to enter the studio to record his first solo album. Parsons had assembled a band -- which included Harris, guitarist James Burton, bassist Rick Grech, Barry Tashian, Glen D. Hardin, and Ronnie Tutt -- and had asked Merle Haggard to produce the album. After meeting Parsons, Haggard turned the offer down, and Parsons chose Haggard's engineer, Hugh Davis, as the album's producer. The resulting album, G.P., was released late in 1972 to good reviews but poor sales.
Following the release of G.P., Parsons embarked on a small tour with his backing band, the Fallen Angels. After the tour was completed, they entered the studio to record his second album, Grievous Angel. The album was completed toward the end of the summer. A few weeks after the sessions, Parsons went on a vacation near the Joshua Tree National Monument in California. He spent most of his time there consuming drugs and alcohol. On September 19, 1973, he overdosed on morphine and tequila, and was rushed to the Yucca Valley Hospital; he was pronounced dead on arrival. According to the funeral plans, his body was to be flown back to New Orleans for a burial. However, Parsons' road manager stole the body after the funeral and carried it back out to the Joshua Tree desert, where he cremated the body. Phil Kaufman revealed that the cremation had been Parsons' wish. Kaufman could not be convicted for stealing the body, but he was arrested for stealing and burning the coffin.
RIP, my almost-birthday-buddy.