Monday, November 25, 2013

Desert Oddity - Joshua Tree

How do the following four photos relate to each other?

Room #8 

 at the Joshua Tree Inn in the Village of Joshua Tree (outside the park)

Gram Parsons (photo Wikipedia)

Cap Rock

Well, let me tell you...

On September 19, 1973
In room #8
At the Joshua Tree Inn
In Joshua Tree Village
Gram Parsons overdosed
On morphine and alcohol
He was 26 years old
His friend, Phil Kaufman
Ditched his drug stash in the desert 
And later with a friend
Stole his body from 
The airport
They took it back to Joshua Tree
To Cap Rock
That's where they cremated him
Tried to cremate him anyway
A match thrown 
On five gallons of gasoline
Dumped in a coffin 
Didn't do much cremating
It did however
Create a fireball big enough
To Light up the desert night
At Cap Rock
Gram Parsons
Rolling Stone magazine rated Gram Parsons #87 on their "100 Greatest Artists of All Time." That probably makes him the most famous musician you've never heard of. He is one of the people most responsible for blending rock and country music. This music is known today as "Country Rock." Although he played in several bands, the two you may know best are the Byrds (replacing David Crosby) and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was one of Parsons closest friends. I'm sure there was some influences (good and bad) flying back and forth in that friendship. Parsons was the creative force behind the Rolling Stones huge hit "Wild Horses." 

He was clearly the driving force behind the Byrd's 1968 meg-hit album "Sweethearts of the Rodeo." This was the first mainstream country rock album and is still considered one of the most influential and best albums of all time.

Parsons wanted to visit his favorite spot in the world, Joshua Tree Monument (not a national park yet) before going on tour. He checked into the Joshua Tree Inn, but never checked out. 

Phil Kaufman
Other than stealing Gram Parson's corpse, this guy is most known for producing Charles Manson's "LIE" record album from prison. He also lived with the Manson family and was later quoted as saying that he "had sex with more serial killers than anyone else in show business." I'm not sure if that is true or not, but either way it's just plain old creepy. Kaufman also said they stole Gram Parson's body because he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread at Cap Rock, in Joshua Tree. Despite this request, Parson's brother was going to have the body buried back east. 

Cap Rock
Joshua Tree is said to be one of the earth's power spots. Indians thought so in antiquity and still do today. If you ever go there, get to a silent spot, clear your mind and open your senses. You just might feel it. I certainly do. Many artists and musicians (many famous) live, have lived, or frequent the area on a regular basis because of the creative "force" they feel there. 

Although the Cap Rock trail might be the shortest and easiest in the area, it is very beautiful and anyone passing through the area, should stop there and walk it.  Every year, on Gram Parson's birthday, people flock to Cap Rock and create a memorial there. Every year the park rangers have to clean it all up afterwards.

Here are some more photos from Cap Rock.

Cap Rock is also popular for climbing (or in this case bouldering)

 Part of the VERY easy, but awesome walking trail (notice I said walk and not hike)

A different view of the "cap."  Hey isn't that a giant rock bicycle seat next to it?

4247 feet above sea level and it is PURE desert



  1. Wow..amazing and interesting information!

    I've never heard of Gram Parsons before and now going to check out that song on Youtube :-)

    Your photos of Cap Rock are fantastic.

  2. We have GOT to get over to Joshua Tree soon! Haven't visited Cap Rock yet...I'll have to find its exact location. Not that I'm interested in Parsons, but it looks like a neat location there in the park!
    Cheryl Ann

  3. those boulders are nature's work of art

  4. Amazing photos. And quite a story behind that rock. Overdosed at twenty-six. How sad. And yes, Kaufman was just plain creepy.

  5. He was unknown to me. And the weathered and worn beauty and mystery of Joshua Tree was as well. I pinned it to my adventures board so I'll remember to visit someday.

  6. This is a fascinating bit of history, yet spine-tingling and creepy at the same time!
    Love your photos, Pat and the connection between Rock (n Roll) and Nature :-)

  7. That's quite an interesting story, I recognized the name, but was unaware of the history. I should book a trip now, I could use some creative force.

  8. well, the area is beautiful. and i'd certainly enjoy the peacefulness and spirituality. the oding and the subsequent burning...i'll just pass on that bit of history. :)

  9. An incredibly beautiful place, a very sad story and a terrific post for the day, Pat, as always! Thank you for sharing!

  10. Wow! I knew of Gram Parsons and his music, but I did not know about this Joshua Tree connection. That's one wild story. Phil Kaufman's story is too creepy for words. Yikes.

    Cap Rock looks so perfectly beautiful, like a dream of high desert splendors.

  11. I didn't know that. Except for the part about the park being a special place -- I knew that.

  12. I am familiar with Gram Parsons, but not familiar with that story. I'm going to have to mention this one to hubby!

  13. Amazing landscapes. I love the shapes of the rocks. Greetings.

  14. What a great bit of nostalgia for us old people :-)

  15. Some interesting musical history, and beautiful photos (as always).

  16. (Apologies if you get this twice but I'm having trouble posting comments for some reason today)

    Actually the whole reason I first ever heard of Joshua Tree was through the Gram Parsons connection - when we were teens my sister and I were fond of listening to late sixties and seventies music and Gram was a big favourite. Hot Burrito #1 is one of my favourites ever (strictly Flying Burrito Brothers but still) So there! Everytime I hear Joshua Tree mentioned I think of him. Of course he was already long dead by the time we discovered him.

    The area just looks amazing and I love to see a Joshua Tree. They're so unique.

  17. Well, I did not expect to be introduced to Gram Parsons today. Beautiful photos.

    That elevation is slightly higher than ours. We're about 3300 feet in town. and we have no Joshua trees this far north. We get snow though.

  18. Awesome post Pat! Love the story of Gram Parsons and his posthumous story is kind of funny, even though it isn't funny really. At least they tried to honor his wishes! Thanks for the lesson and pictures.

  19. The weekend I stayed here I got word that my offer on the home I lived in was accepted, the way was cleared to swing by San Diego and purchase my kitty Tovah (which I did the next day) and I purchased a used computer. No drugs were involved

    Funny with the Manson connection - I'm going to eventually get around to doing a blog spot on "the family"

    ....and I am familiar with Gram Parsons who was familiar with Emmy Lou Harris who is up there with Joni Mitchel in my book

    Cap Rock? nope

  20. What a story! They should have went to idiot rock instead!

  21. Wow. What a sad story!! Beautiful place, though.

  22. Wowowow- I learn so much with each post of yours. Amazing!

  23. Wow...amazing vignette and an amazing place. I'm so glad you shared it with us here!

    I'll never understand the connection between heavy drug use and music - or, more broadly, the arts. I'm as far from being a musical genius as anyone on this planet, but in my own little creative world, I worry that having something as seemingly innocuous as one drink could throw me off the creative path.

    How so many people can continue to function while they're flying higher than the Rockies is astounding to me. It's so sad that so many brilliant lights have to burn out before their time. I often imagine what might have been...

  24. Icy BC - Thanks! If you Google his name, you'll come up with a lot of great songs.

    trav4adventures - I hope you do get there soon! If you get the little handout map at the gate, cap rock is easy to find. If you can do some easy-ish hiking I can give you some suggestions. I'm going back next week (I hope)

    DEZMOND - They sure are! It's a different world. They call the part with the formations "The Wonderland of Rocks." It's huge and amazing.

    Alex - Thanks Alex! This kid didn't have a chance. His family was also all jacked up. Having Keith Richards for a close friend? Geez! Hard drugs...

    Sharon - I hope you get there someday. It's jaw dropping gorgeous.

    Nat - Thanks Nat! Music has a much bigger connection to Joshua Tree than just him. Artists and musicians flock to the place. So many artists.

  25. Wayne - It sure is! I could use some inspiration also.

    TexWisGirl - I agree about the beauty and peacefulness. Overdosing in a motel room flies in the face of those things.

    Sylvia - Thanks so much Sylvia! My pleasure.

    Robin Andrea - I was pretty sure you would know about him. It is a wild story for sure.

    Sallie - Well, you knew about the important part!

    Ms A - A sad ending for such a talented guy.

  26. Japy - Thanks so much Japy!

    tapirgal - HA! You are right about that. However, today's music has a lot of his influence in it.

    Al - Thanks Al! I always have to dig up at least one oddity wherever I go.

    The Vegetable Assassin - I really liked the Flying Burrito Brothers. I saw them a few times live. Hot Burrito #1 is great! I hope you get to this magical place sometime.

    M Pax - Better late than never! He's probably the most famous musician nobody today has heard of. Joshua Tree is amazing with snow! Thanks Mary...

    Bouncin Barb - I hear you! It's humorous in a tragic kind of way. Odd, to be sure.

  27. Pasadena Adjacent - HA! I'm glad you know the place. With or without the involvement of drugs! Yep, the Manson family has some history in our local deserts. I didn't say anything about the Emmy Lou Harris connection because I didn't want it to get too long.

    Brian - That's funny Brian! Hey, they weren't too stupid, they used a hearse to to steal the body.

    Baby Sister - Yep, it's sad and interesting. Seriously, how many talented musicians have to OD in hotel/motel rooms?

    Shelly - I'm happy to be of service! Thanks Shelly.

    Carmi - Hey there! My pleasure to share it. I do understand the connection, but morphine and heroin? I totally agree with your last sentence. The list of those who OD'd is tragically long.

  28. What a coincidence. It was just last Thanksgiving Day that someone told me the Gram Parsons/Joshua Tree story! Then later, I watched the movie on Netflix. What a wild story.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  29. Stickup Artist - That is a coincidence! I didn't tell the entire story because the post would have been too long. I haven't seen the movie, but when I have the time, I'm going to find it.

  30. I would like to go on record as saying that I think it would be hilarious if someone were to kidnap my dead body and try to cremate it. Maybe that ought to be my last wish on earth.

  31. what an interesting and amazing info along with gorgeous photos!

    i want to wish you a very happy and family filled thanksgiving!!

  32. I like how you made this a puzzle-like post, Pat. It's an amazing (and dark) story, with eerie twists and turns. The truth is stranger than fiction.

    Plus, I see a lot of faces in those rocks.

    Blessings for a warm-loving Thanksgiving.

  33. I like how you made this a puzzle-like post, Pat. It's an amazing (and dark) story, with eerie twists and turns. The truth is stranger than fiction.

    Plus, I see a lot of faces in those rocks.

    Blessings for a warm-loving Thanksgiving.

  34. - I was thinking the same thing Jhon! I don't think there would be a gathering of people to make me a memorial every year.

    Betty M - Thanks Betty! I wish you the same.

    Rawknrobyn - Thanks Robyn! At first I was going to go totally Tarantino on it, but I realized early on that it would take way too many words.

  35. What a beautiful place! I love these photos! Gram Parsons was a little before my time, I was in 1st grade when he died but it's an interesting story.

  36. Laura - Thanks Laura! It's easy to see why he liked it there so much.

    James - I'm sorry to say that he wasn't before my time. I take that back! I'm really happy to have experienced the 60's and 70's.

  37. Great, these pictures are gorgeous! I love the music of Gram Parsons !

  38. I don't know much about this place and this place is fantastic to be and enjoy it. And discover so many interesting things.

    You always take amazing pictures, Pat.

    And I have to find the music of Gram Parsons.

  39. Thanks for the history lesson, Pat. My one and only visit to Joshua Tree Park was so short and sweet, all I saw was one beautiful vista/one good photo op-end of story. Sounds like there is much more to it than what I witnesses.

  40. History remains in this awesomeness. Great pics Pat.
    Happy hiking :)

  41. Leovi - Thanks so much Leovi! Me too.

    Kaya - Thanks so much for the nice words Kaya. I appreciate them.

    Rosemary - You are welcome! Odd history, but history none the less. Just driving through Joshua Tree is beautiful, but there is so much more. I've spent 6 full days in the park and almost 4 weeks in the area lately and I can't wait to get back.

    Pam - Yep! I love the history of the places we go to and see. Thanks Pam! Same to you!

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