Gram InterNational began in 2008 as an annual event in Nashville in support of the Petition to Induct Gram Parsons Into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The events typically comprise seven bands/artists fit into one night; in effect each is a one-night festival.
While Gram InterNational honors Parsons and spreads the word about the Petition to Induct, I do not consider it a typical “tribute” event (and I don’t call it a tribute). Bands are chosen based on they’re being in the lineage of what Gram began; they are not chosen to necessarily replicate Gram’s songs or the sound of the early seventies. Generally, at least a couple Gram songs are performed by each artist/band however, together with their own material.
At first it was called “Gram Parsons Tribute Night” but I didn’t like that as it sounded too generic and implied to many that bands would play only or mostly Parsons’ material. That is not what happens at GIN. While you will hear plenty of Gram Parsons, I choose bands that are true descendents in some way of Parsons’ legacy, and I want them to play their own material, with a nod to Gram of course.
Sometime that following year, George of the Cosmic American Derelicts, who played the first three GINs, sent me a short email (the only kind he writes), simply asking, “When is Gram National this year?” I loved that, it sounded like a racing event. Thus the name became Gram National, and this year, being in three countries and having petition sigs from around the world, it became Gram InterNational, GIN for short.
The first GIN was held on the 35th anniversay of Parsons’ death in 2008 at in the backroom of the Nashville Palace, the place that gave Randy Travis his start. Anyone familiar with that backroom knows what a great cavernous space it is. Unfortunately, it was also the day of the great Nashville gas panic of ’08; most folks were either in line to get gas or at home. All stations were out of gas by morning.
Nevertheless it was a great night, with bands from L.A., Texas, South Carolina, New Jersey, and of course Nashville.
GIN 2009 was held in East Nashville at The 5 Spot during the AMA national conference. We were chosen over all the AMA showcases that night as a Critic’s Pick by Nashville Scene (as we were again in 2011).
In 2010 I decided to move the event date to Gram’s birthday, Nov 5. GIN 2010 repeated at the same venue in Nashville, but without me, as I was managing the main event that year in Boston at The Precinct over two nights to commemorate Gram’s “country rock” genesis 45 years earlier in that city with the International Submarine Band. A highlight of the show was a (just) 20-year-old singer named Lydia Loveless from rural Ohio I had heard and asked to come to Boston; a few months later she was signed by Bloodshot Records and I would strongly recommend her new album.
And this year, 2011, was perhaps the most successful of all so far. To commemorate Parsons’ 65th birthday, six GIN events were held in three countries. Besides bringing GIN to other parts of the country and world, part of the reason was to limit the expense of the bands traveling so far as well as to front local talent. I was on the ground managing three of them: Toronto at the Silver Dollar Room on Sept 15; Boston at Johnny D’s on Oct 8; and Nashville on the eve of Gram’s birthday Nov 4 at Douglas Corner Cafe, where we all welcomed his birthday at midnight by joining together with a round of “In My Hour of Darkness” to close the show (see top pic). Other GIN events were in Dublin, Ireland; Ottawa, Canada; Cleveland, OH; and Los Angeles where we teamed with Ronnie Mack’s Barn Dance on the following Monday.
2012 Update: The legendary venue Douglas Corner Cafe once again hosted Gram InterNational V, Nashville’s fifth consecutive annual festival commemorating Gram Parsons and the Petition to Induct him into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Bands this year included: James Scott Bullard & the Late Night Sweethearts w/ guest vocalist Rebecca Morning, Harmondale, The Burritos w/ Walter Egan, Casey James Prestwood & the Burning Angels, Donna Frost, The Devious Angels, the Cosmic American Derelicts, The Gram Band, and special guest Bob Kealing, author of “Calling Me Home: Gram Parsons and the Roots of Country Rock,” whose book that drops this fall just before the show. It was an amazing night; video by Kira Meade of much of that night can be found here: http://www.nodepression.com/group/gramparsonsprojectBB/forum/topics/video-clips-from-gram-international-v-nashville-more-to-come
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Cheers, Will James