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Nashville West

The genesis of the legendary, short-lived country-rock group Nashville West came in the mid-'60s when multi-instrumentalist Gene Parsons (no relation to Gram) and fiddler Gib Gilbeau, who had been together in a band called the Castaways years earlier, were brought in to do a Gosdin Brothers session. The Byrds' Chris Hillman, who was producing, also brought in guitarist Clarence White, formerly of the Kentucky Colonels, to play on the session. White, Parsons, and Guilbeau would go on to form a core unit that played behind country acts as the house band for Bakersfield International Productions. The three also wrote and performed together in various incarnations before forming Nashville West. Around this time, Parsons and White came up with the mechanism that would give White his trademark sound. The Stringbender allowed him to play licks on his Fender Telecaster that sounded like steel guitar. In 1967, White, Parsons, and Guilbeau brought in bassist Wayne Moore, who had been in the Castaways with Parsons and Guilbeau, and they became an official group. The quartet adopted their moniker from a California club at which they had a residency, the Nashville West. Country-rock notables such as Gram Parsons and future Flying Burrito Brother Sneaky Pete Kleinow would sit in with the group. However, Nashville West came to an end in 1968 when Gram Parsons abruptly left the Byrds and the group asked White to replace him. (White had already guested on three Byrds albums, including his important role on the seminal Sweetheart of the Rodeo.) At White's instigation, Gene Parsons was also brought into the Byrds to replace drummer Kevin Kelley. Hillman, who had pushed to bring in White, quit soon after to form the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons. Reportedly, White and Gene Parsons were asked to join the Burritos, but stayed on with Roger McGuinn in the Byrds. On 1969's Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde album, the Byrds recorded White's signature instrumental, "Nashville West," named after the group in which the song was born. In July 1973, Clarence White was struck and killed by a drunk driver while loading equipment into a car after a gig with the re-formed Kentucky Colonels (which included his brothers) in Palmdale, CA. Guilbeau went on to work with Linda Ronstadt, play in the group Swampwater, and team-up with Sneaky Pete Kleinow in Cold Steel. In 1974, Guilbeau and Gene Parsons joined a latter-day version of the Flying Burrito Brothers. In 1978, ten years after Nashville West's demise, Sierra Records issued the group's only album, a self-titled LP recorded during a gig. The album, which was recorded on a two-track that Gene Parsons had hooked up to the sound system and microphones at the club, represents an important missing link in country-rock history. In 1997, the album was reissued on CD with several bonus tracks. ~ Erik Hage, All Music Guide

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