"Rehearsals were a joke. We got high and partied and didn't take care of business. Emmylou had no idea what was going on she thought it was standard to learn introductions and such. We had a good time for two weeks instead of learning the arrangements from the album. When we opened in Boulder, Colorado, we were awful."
Neil Flanz recalls his tenure in Gram Parsons' Fallen Angels with a sheepish grin. The neatly dressed pedal steel player doesn't look like the wild sort, nor does he look like he's 67 and has been performing for nearly six decades. A native of Canada, he grew up north of Montreal, learning as a teen to play steel. After getting his green card, he moved to Nashville in the mid-Sixties, playing on the Grand Ole Opry and supporting acts like Charlie Louvin.
The famous stint with Parsons came when he was invited to join the 1973 tour. After that memorable experience, Flanz lived in Austin briefly, accompanying the Bronco Brothers with Marcia Ball. Ever the country traditionalist, he maintains a high standard of playing and rues the Eighties when road gigs dried up and "they started using keyboards instead of steel. Steel was too country, too twangy."
In addition to teaching pedal steel, Flanz performs regularly with James White and Alvin Crow's Hardcore Country band as well as Crow's Pleasant Valley Boys. With compadres like Herb Steiner, himself a Crow alum, the move from Florida to Texas in 2004 was relatively painless.
"At 65, you don't just pack up and move halfway across the country. But I wanted to because I wanted to be here."