Friday, November 23, 2007

It Was A $1,000 Wedding ...

Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris Sing $1000 Wedding

One of my biggest musical heroes is Gram Parsons. Like Hank Williams before him, Parsons made a ton of incredible music before dying tragically young. Read AMG bio here. I’m not going to get into his life story or his musical feats here. Someday I’ll do a bigger post about Gram Parsons, the artist. Right now I just want to focus on my all-time favorite Gram Parsons song: $1000 Wedding (buy album).

I’m not exactly sure what the song is about. Seems to be about a groom jilted at the alter followed by a drinking spree, a betrayal, and then some mysterious religious stuff. (See here for some theories). Whatever it’s about, it became an obsession of mine in the early 1990’s. I played it over and over again on the guitar but never to my complete satisfaction. Gram’s version was just too perfect. (Plus, I didn’t have the amazing Emmylou Harris singing over my shoulder.) It’s been fifteen years since I fell in love with this song, but it still moves me. The coolest part is how it builds from verse to verse. Check it out and let me know what you think.

In case you are new to Gram (and your lucky day has finally arrived) here is one more song to enjoy. It’s a version of The New Soft Shoe - Live (buy album) recorded March 13, 1973 at WLIR in New York, six months before his death. There is some interesting banter afterwards, particularly the bus story. Take special note of Emmylou’s “yeah” at the 7:44 mark. (You’ll know why when you hear the story).

One of the better cover versions of $1000 wedding comes from a Detroit-born songwriter known as Paul K. Check out: Thousand Dollar Wedding - Paul K. AMG reports about Paul K: “Unlike the overwhelming majority of songwriters, who get next to the darker side of life but never quite break the door down, Paul Kopasz has lived as part of the fringe element, and his career has evoked comparisons to Townes Van Zandt, Lou Reed and Merle Haggard, three artists known for drawing from their own shady experiences for song material.” Read the rest of his bio here.

The Paul K track comes from the album, “The Big Nowhere,” which I believe is out of print. Here’s another pretty good one from that album: Nashville, Tennessee.

Gram Parsons At Joshua Tree


Terence said...

Excellent post. Right back at you.

Anonymous said...

Explanation of $1000 Wedding from

What starts as a mournful wedding progresses toward the climax of a joyful funeral. For both events there should be flowers but they aren't. What happens in between is cryptic: Did the bride die, or just ditch the groom? Did his buddies "do him in"? And if so, was it out of compassion or malice? The secrets at the heart of the story are never divulged, but the narrator(s) assumes we already know them. We're simultaneously winked at and shoved aside with inscrutable clues: "people passing notes," "he told them everything there was to tell," "old lies still on their faces." The implication is that if we can't read the notes, don't already know all there is to tell, and aren't privy to the old lies, then we're not really supposed to be hearing this story. We're eavesdroppers on a juicy tale.

Parsons biographer Ben Fong-Torres offers little information on "$1000 Wedding," except that an early draft lasted nine minutes (twice as long as the version that appeared on Grievous Angel in 1974; Dando and Hatfield reduce it by another minute) and was rejected by The Flying Burrito Brothers and producer Jim Dickson in 1969. [2] This fact suggests that the final version of the song resulted from considerable editing and revising, a period of incubation that intensifies expression. The longer version probably had very little of the mystery that distinguishes the surviving version. Fong-Torres links the lyrics of the song to a specific biographical circumstance: Parsons was engaged to Nancy Marthai Ross and took her to his favorite couturier--Nudie Cohen of Nudie's Rodeo Tailors--to have a dress made, but Ross had reservations about and never paid for the $1000 wedding dress.


Paul said...


That's great stuff. Thanks for sharing it!


paul said...

Here is a hot link to the website Peggy mentioned: Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

in an earlier demo (1969) gram sings "...the young bride passed away..."

so i think we can conclude his orig. sentiment was that she dies.

check out: