Man Mountain and 'Sin City'

Man Mountain and 'Sin City'

In Ben Fong-Torres' 1991 biography Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons, the author describes the hastily assembled, short rehearsed Gram Parsons & the Fallen Angels tour during the spring of 1973, with its stops in Texas, including Austin's Armadillo World Headquarters. Of particular note was Parsons' four-night, six-show run in Houston at Liberty Hall with Man Mountain & the Green Slime Boys, proto-roots rockers from San Antonio who were well-known enough to open for Willie Nelson at the Armadillo. According to the book, "Sin City" was added to the set list thanks to audience demand during the Houston run. Man Mountain's founder-guitarist Ron Rose recalls a different version of how Parsons' anthemic number came to be performed.

"[Hickory Wind] pretty well laid it out," affirms Rose. "Wednesday and Thursday, they screamed for 'Sin City,' and he didn't do it. The first show Friday night he didn't do it, so when they emptied the house for the second show, I said: 'Mr. Parsons, we know "Sin City," and this crowd seems to really want to hear it. If we're lucky enough to get an encore, it'd be great if you'd come out and sing it with us.'

"He got all aw-shucks, gosh. It was real cute because until then, he'd been an ass to us. He thought he was Elvis, didn't talk to us, didn't speak a word, no exchange. He'd show up at sound check with a full bottle of Jack Black. At the end of the night it would be empty, and he wasn't sharing. So he turned to mush, said something like, 'That'd be nice, but I don't wanna cramp your style.'

"And I'm thinking: 'Aw, go ahead, Gram. What the hell.'

"During break between the shows, upstairs backstage, we gathered 'round to find parts for everyone – my group already had three-part harmony worked out. We were rehearsing with Gram, Emmylou, and Linda [Ronstadt]. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. I knew Emmylou from a little-known album, and Linda was always a fave. She was in town opening for Neil Young, and he came down later in the show. So here I am, onstage in Houston with my consortium of San Antonio buds and our dyed-in-the-wool heroes. The place went wild.

"The next day Gram's band learned 'Sin City,' and [his playing with us] never happened again. We didn't have two words between us after that."

  • More of the Story

  • Do Right Woman

    Polly Parsons, only child of Gram Parsons, comes full circle in Austin with the Hickory Wind Ranch, sober living for women

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