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Parsons, Gene (4th September 1944-Present)

Multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, California, who had a long-standing musical partnership with Gib Guilbeau and followed in his footsteps to join The Castaways in 1963.  It was a short-lived experiment that ended with the group members pretty much going on hiatus for a year, with Gene returning to his job as a machinist.

He and Gib would re-unite several times, first as Cajub Gib and Gene (or Guilbeau and Parsons) and they recorded one self-titled album with Clarence White.  They performed at The Jack of Diamonds in Palmdale and Nashville West in El Monte and eventually took their name from the latter.  Nashville West recorded an eponymous album and backed other groups, such as The Gosdin Brothers.

In 1968, Clarence and Gene joined The Byrds in time for the album, Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde, which reached a modest #153 on the Billboard top 200.  Damage control was needed, and they employed the services of Terry Melcher to produce their next album, Ballad of Easy Rider.  It featured one of Gene’s compositions, “Gunga Din”, an autobiographical piece about life on the road.  This was followed by an untitled album and 1971’s Byrdmaniax, which Gene still despises because of its omnipresent strings.  In spite of this anathema, he stayed on board for one more album, Farther Along, although a couple of bits they recorded with Earl Scruggs survive on the live album, Earl Scruggs Performing with His Family and Friends.

Gene was fired by Roger McGuinn during a 1972 tour and went on to record his solo debut album, Kindling, which featured Vassar Clements, Ralph Stanley and Clarence White, and was critically lauded but not commercially successful.  Its blip on the musical radar was rendered even more insignificant by the death of Clarence, whose life was cut short by an intoxicated motorist.  His death paralyzed Gene, who lost all interest in music.

Eventually, he returned to music by gigging with friends such as Joel Scott Hill, Steve Gurr, and Graham Keighley.  They dubbed themselves as The Compche Firehouse Benefit Blues Band and then morphed into The Docker Hill Boys.

Gene went on to join The Flying Burrito Brothers and penned a handful of songs for them, such as “Out of Control”, “Sweet Desert Childhood”, and “Wind and Rain”, which were featured on the albums, Airborne and Flying Again.  Gene injured his wrist and had to take another sabbatical.  He officially quit the band in 1978 and released his sophomore effort, Melodies, in 1979.  In 1980, he signed on with Sierra Records as an artist and repertory executive and then formed The Gene Parsons Trio, which comprised Peter Oliba and Richie Rosenbaum.  This was followed by a stint with Battin, Kleinow and Friends, who became The Peace Seekers.

His next success was as part of a duo with Meridian Green, a folk artist from the Golden State whom he married in 1986.  By 1991, they had dubbed themselves as Parsons Green and the release of their inaugural album, Birds of a Feather, was not far off.  Gene multi-tasked on Meridian’s debut solo album, In the Heart of The Time, singing harmony and playing a variety of instruments.

In 1998, he appeared on Haywire’s Yuletide offering, Bluegrass Christmas.  Gene released a live album, I Hope They Let Us In, on New Year’s Day 2001.  In 2002, he performed as part of another duo with Julian Dawson on the compact disc, Hillbilly Zen, and sat in with The David Nelson Trio in concert at Fort Bragg, California.

He has been spending much of his time since developing an invention that he and Clarence White created, known as the B-Bender (or StringBender), a device that stretches the B string of an electric guitar to give it the same sound as a steel.  The StringBender has become very popular and a shop and record label bear its name.

He has also written a book of memoirs entitled Sweet Desert Childhood.