This week in Texas music history: Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris appear at the Armadillo World Headquarters

The 1973 performance marked a pivotal moment in the city’s scene, where a sound blending traditional country tweaked by rock counterculture emerged.

By Jason Mellard, Center for Texas Music History at Texas StateFebruary 21, 2024 10:06 am, , , ,

From KUTX:

On Feb. 21, 1973, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris played Austin’s Armadillo World Headquarters.

Parsons had entered the public eye through his work with The Byrds in California, helping redefine the band’s sound with 1968’s country-rock masterpiece “Sweetheart at the Rodeo.” That album, and his subsequent work with The Flying Burrito Brothers, set the stage for a successful solo career by 1970.

He recruited Emmylou Harris after hearing her play at a small club in Washington D.C., and she joined him in Los Angeles for his first solo record, “GP.” Parsons, Harris, and their band the Fallen Angels set off on a national tour in February 1973.

On Feb. 21, they arrived in Austin to play at the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters. The duo’s impeccable chemistry and artistry mesmerized the audience, and they returned for so many encores that they had to repeat songs.


Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

Gram and Emmylou’s 1973 performance at the Armadillo marked a pivotal point in the city’s music history. Austin’s “cosmic cowboy” image converged with Gram’s vision of a “cosmic American music” with traditional country tweaked by the rock counterculture. The scene grew at venues such as the Armadillo and Soap Creek Saloon, and media accounts marveled at the seemingly blurred lines between the otherwise adversarial “hippies” and “rednecks.”

Parsons and Harris’s Texas visit signaled that this development was not only local. At the Houston venue Liberty Hall, a few nights after the Armadillo performance, Parsons and Harris were joined not only by a San Antonio opening act, Man Mountain and the Green Slime Boys, but additional country rock royalty in Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt, who came out to see their California friends play.

The iconic Gram Parsons passed later that year, Emmylou Harris continued down the path they had started together, and the Armadillo World Headquarters augured Austin’s arrival as a music capital.

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