The Flying Burrito Brothers

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The Flying Burrito Brothers
The Flying Burrito Brothers.png
The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1971
Background information
Origin United States
Genres Country rock
Years active

1968–1972, 1975-1980, 1985-2001, 2013-Present
1980–1987 (as The Burrito Brothers)
2002-2009 (as Burrito Deluxe)
2009-2012 (As The Burritos)

Labels A&M, Columbia, Curb
Associated acts International Submarine Band, The Byrds, The Desert Rose Band, Burrito Deluxe, Firefall, Eagles, Manassas
Past members Chris Hillman
Sneaky Pete Kleinow
Gram Parsons
Chris Ethridge
Eddie Hoh
Jon Corneal
Michael Clarke
Bernie Leadon
Rick Roberts
Al Perkins
Kenny Wertz
Roger Bush
Byron Berline
Don Beck
Floyd "Gib" Guilbeau
Joel Scott Hill
Gene Parsons
Bobby Cochran
Robb Strandlund
Thad Maxwell
David Vaught
Larry Patton
Eric Dalton
Rick Lonow
George Grantham
Gary Kubal
Skip Battin
Mickey McGee
Greg Harris
Ed Ponder
John Beland
Jim Goodall
Brian Cadd
Wayne Bridge
Flying Burrito Brothers (Amsterdam, 1970). Left to right: 'Sneaky' Pete Kleinow, Rick Roberts, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke & Bernie Leadon

The Flying Burrito Brothers were an American country rock band, best known for their influential 1969 debut album, The Gilded Palace of Sin.[1] Although the group is perhaps best known for its connection to band founders Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, the group underwent many personnel changes and has existed in various incarnations to the present day.

Original line-up and members until 1972[edit]

The Flying Burrito Brothers were founded in 1968 on the West Coast of the United States by former Byrds members Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman,[2] as well as pianist and bassist Chris Ethridge and pedal steel guitarist Sneaky Pete Kleinow. The group borrowed their name from an East Coast-based group of the same name who had been colleagues of Parsons' first band, the International Submarine Band, but had never recorded. Though Hillman and Roger McGuinn had fired Parsons from The Byrds in July, 1968, Hillman and Parsons reconciled later that year after Hillman himself left The Byrds. Parsons had refused to join his Byrds bandmates for a tour of South Africa, citing his disapproval of that nation's Apartheid regime; Hillman doubted the sincerity of Parsons' gesture, believing instead that the singer merely wanted to remain in England with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, whom he had recently befriended.[3]

The Flying Burrito Brothers recorded their debut album The Gilded Palace of Sin without a regular drummer, although "Fast" Eddie Hoh and Jon Corneal both appear on the album. The album contains originals by Parsons and Hillman, and two covers by soul music writers Dan Penn and Chips Moman. After firing Corneal the band needed a permanent drummer for touring purposes; they hired another ex-Byrd, Michael Clarke, who had recently been working with the Dillard and Clark Expedition. Clarke remained the band's permanent drummer from 1969 to 1973.

Although critically well received, The Gilded Palace of Sin did not sell well.[4] The band had been invited to perform at the August 1969 Woodstock festival but declined, instead electing to embark on a train tour of the United States which ultimately ended in disaster due to drug and alcohol use.[5] Bassist Ethridge soon departed the group, with Hillman moving to bass as the band hired singer and guitarist Bernie Leadon. The band performed at the ill-fated Altamont Free Concert in December 1969, and, as documented in the film Gimme Shelter, the crowd remained largely peaceful throughout their performance.

Parsons, the band's de facto leader and creative principal, was fired from the group in May 1970, shortly after the release of the sophomore Burrito Deluxe album.[6] According to Hillman, Parsons showed up for a band performance only minutes before they were to take the stage. Visibly intoxicated, he began singing songs which differed from what the rest of the band were performing. A furious Hillman fired him immediately after the show, to which Parsons responded "You can't fire me, I'm Gram!". This incident was merely the final straw, according to Hillman. Parsons' desire to hang out with the Rolling Stones rather than focus on his own band's career was also a significant factor, mirroring his 1968 dismissal from The Byrds. [5]

A third album featuring Parsons was recorded in 1970 but never released in its entirety. Several of the tracks from these sessions eventually saw the light of day in 1976 on the album Sleepless Nights. These tracks were intended for a traditional country album and featured country standards such as "Green, Green Grass of Home" and "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down".[7]

A version of the group without Parsons appeared in June–July 1970 on the Festival Express tour of Canada, documented in the film of the same name. Gram was later replaced by Rick Roberts, with the new line-up releasing the self-titled album, The Flying Burrito Bros, in 1971. Kleinow then left to become a session musician, and Leadon departed to create the Eagles.[8] Al Perkins and Kenny Wertz replaced them, and Roger Bush and Byron Berline participated as guests in live performances, with the band releasing a live album, Last of the Red Hot Burritos, in 1972.

The original band dissolved after the last founding member, Chris Hillman, took Perkins with him to join Manassas. Berline, Bush and Wertz continued with their own band, Country Gazette. Roberts assembled a makeshift Flying Burrito Bros group to fulfill contractual commitments for some 1973 European live shows, then initiated a solo career before forming Firefall with Michael Clarke.

Later configurations[edit]

As Gram Parsons' influence and fame grew, so did interest in the Flying Burrito Brothers. This new-found popularity led to the release of Close Up the Honky Tonks in 1974, a double-LP compilation of album tracks, B-sides, and out-takes. Soon after in 1975, Kleinow and Ethridge put together a new incarnation of the band. Parsons, for his part, had been asked in 1972 about the band continuing without him and remarked "The idea'll keep going on. It's not like it's dead or anything. Whether I do it or anybody else does it, it's got to keep going."[9] Floyd "Gib" Gilbeau, Joel Scott Hill, and Gene Parsons (no relation to Gram) also joined the group, and the band released Flying Again that year. Ethridge was then replaced by Skip Battin for 1976's Airborne. The lineup continued to evolve for the rest of the 1970s with the band even releasing an album under the name Sierra while continuing to play shows as The Flying Burrito Brothers. In 1980, they had a country hit with a version of Merle Haggard's "White Line Fever" from their Live in Tokyo live album of the previous year.

The early 1980s were a period of commercial success for the band that coincided with the band being known simply as "The Burrito Brothers." Headed by songwriter and guitarist John Beland, Gib Guilbeau, and initially Sneaky Pete, the Burrito Brothers scored well on the country charts. Skip Battin had remained with the band up until this point but left shortly before the release of 1981's Hearts on the Line. This marked the first significant commercial chart success the band ever had. In 1981 they received the Billboard award for "Best New Crossover Group" from pop to country. The Burrito Brothers continued to work with the top session players in Nashville and Los Angeles, logging up an impressive list of hit singles for Curb Records. In the 80's they toured Europe and were featured at the Albi Nashville Festival in Albi, France, and performed with Emmylou Harris, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Tammy Wynette at London's Wembley Stadium. Also in the early 1980s, the Burrito Brothers were responsible for a campaign that finally saw their idol, Lefty Frizzell, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1982, Sneaky Pete, the sole original member, departed prior to the release of Sunset Sundown. In 1984, Beland and Guilbeau retired the Burritos and afforded Sneaky Pete the chance to reform essentially the late 70's lineup with Skip Battin and Greg Harris that continued to tour and release live albums for the rest of the '80s.

In 1991 a lineup consisting of Beland, Guilbeau, Ethridge, Sneaky Pete, and Australian singer Brian Cadd began work on a new album, Eye of a Hurricane. The band went without a regular drummer and used session drummer Ron Tutt who had previously played with Elvis Presley. The band soon parted ways with Ethridge for a third time and Cadd as well. Ethridge was replaced by Larry Patton and Gary Kubal was added as a full-time drummer. This lineup released California Jukebox in 1997. At this time Gib Guilbeau and Sneaky Pete stopped working with the group due to health concerns. Sneaky Pete was replaced by Wayne Bridge and the band released 1999's Sons of the Golden West which, while receiving solid critical reviews, would prove to be the final album by the Flying Burrito Brothers as John Beland decided to end the band shortly after the turn of the millennium.

Sneaky Pete then created a new Burrito project in 2002. This band was called Burrito Deluxe due to John Beland still having rights to the original name. This band featured Carlton Moody on lead vocals and Garth Hudson from The Band on keyboards. The first album of this incarnation, Georgia Peach was conceived as a tribute to Gram Parsons. Sneaky Pete left the band due to illness in 2005, leaving no direct lineage to any of the original 1969–1972 lineup. His final recordings do appear, however, on their 2007 album Disciples of Truth. In 2010, an English record label owner named Del Taylor attempted to reactivate the band using any and all previous members he could find. Bernie Leadon, Chris Ethridge, Al Perkins, and Gene Parsons all agreed if Chris Hillman would join. Hillman was not interested in the project and instead took steps to acquire the rights to the "The Flying Burrito Brothers" so that he could retire the band once and for all. His efforts were in vain, however. As recently as 2011, a still-further evolution of the band, led by Walter Egan from Burrito Deluxe, released an album under the name "The Burritos" called Sound as Ever. Beginning in 2012, that band began playing shows under the name "The Burrito Brothers".[10]


Parsons died on September 19, 1973. Clarke died in 1993, Battin died in 2003, Kleinow died in 2007, and Ethridge died in 2012.

Hillman remained a successful singer-songwriter, having been part of the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band and McGuinn-Clark-Hillman, then going on to form the Desert Rose Band (1986–93) with Herb Pedersen. He continued to sing with Pedersen as Chris and Herb, releasing The Other Side in 2005.

Guilbeau retired following heart surgery and moved to Palmdale, California, from where he continued to appear occasionally at local functions in and around the Los Angeles area. Beland continued to produce acts in the US and abroad, achieving hit records in both Australia and Norway, where he also performed as a solo act. Beland moved to Brenham, Texas and has written hits for performers such as The Whites with "Forever You", Mark Farner with "Isn't It Amazing?", and The Bellamy Brothers with "Cowboy Beat", "Hard Way To Make An Easy Living", and "Bound To Explode". His songs have been covered by many acts from Ricky Nelson to Garth Brooks.

A Mexican restaurant in Gainesville, Florida, was named after the band.[11]

A chain of Mexican restaurants in New Zealand was named after the band.

The role-playing game Kingdom of Loathing has a character named after the band.[12]



Studio albums[edit]

The Flying Burrito Brothers[edit]

Year Title Billboard 200 Label
1969 The Gilded Palace of Sin 164 A&M
1970 Burrito Deluxe
1971 The Flying Burrito Bros 176
1975 Flying Again 138 Columbia
1976 Airborne
1994 Eye of a Hurricane Relix
1997 California Jukebox Icehouse
1999 Sons of the Golden West (aka Honky Tonkin') Arista
"—" denotes release did not chart or become certified.


Date Title Label
1977 Sierra Mercury

The Burrito Brothers[edit]

Date Title Label
1981 Hearts on the Line Curb
1982 Sunset Sundown

Burrito Deluxe[edit]

Date Title Label
2002 Georgia Peach Lamon
2004 The Whole Enchilada Corazong
2007 The Disciples of the Truth Luna Chica

The Burritos[edit]

Date Title Label
2011 Sound As Ever Yellow Label

Live albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]


Year Single US Country Album
1979 "White Line Fever" 95 Live from Tokyo
1981 "She's a Friend of a Friend" 67 Hearts on the Line
"Does She Wish She Was Single Again" 20
"She Belongs to Everyone but Me" 16
1982 "If Something Should Come Between Us (Let It Be Love)" 27 Sunset Sundown
"Closer to You" 40
"I'm Drinkin' Canada Dry" 39
"Blue and Broken Hearted Me" 48 singles only
1984 "Almost Saturday Night" 49
"My Kind of Lady" 53


  1. ^ The Flying Burrito Brothers | Music Biography, Credits and Discography. AllMusic (1970-11-07). Retrieved on 2014-04-18.
  2. ^ The Flying Burrito Brothers: 1967 - 1969. (1998-05-13). Retrieved on 2014-04-18.
  3. ^ Rogan, Johnny. (1998). The Byrds: Timeless Flight Revisited (2nd ed.). Rogan House. pp. 262–263. ISBN 0-9529540-1-X. 
  4. ^ Time for a Repress: ‘The Gilded Palace of Sin’. PopMatters. Retrieved on 2014-04-18.
  5. ^ a b Documentary film Fallen Angel, directed by Gandulf Hennig, 2004
  6. ^ Icons of Rock: Elvis Presley ; Ray Charles; Chuck Berry ; Buddy Holly ; The ... - Scott Schinder, Andy Schwartz - Google Books. Retrieved on 2014-04-18.
  7. ^ The Flying Burrito Brothers / Gram Parsons Sleepless Nights
  8. ^ Country - Richard Carlin, Barbara Ching - Google Books. Retrieved on 2014-04-18.
  9. ^ "The Flying Burrito Brothers". The Burrito Brothers. Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  10. ^ Home. (2014-03-08). Retrieved on 2014-04-18.
  11. ^ "Who We Are". Burrito Bros Taco Company. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  12. ^ "Brother Flying Burrito". Retrieved 22 October 2013.