Lost Classics! Leftover Burritos


The Flying Burrito Brothers, 1975

The Flying Burrito Brothers were, of course, the pioneering country rock band that made a few landmark albums then broke up, spawning dozens of imitators in the 1970s.  The original lineup of the Burritos (formed 1968) is the most famous, with a lineup featuring singer Gram Parsons, multi-instrumentalist Chris Hillman and steel guitar virtuoso “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow.  Although all of the original members left the Burritos by 1972, the band – sometimes literally in name only – soldiered on for decades.

Hillman was the only original member left by the time red_hotof the live album Last Of The Red Hot Burritos (1972); the band included lead singer Rick Roberts (later of Firefall) and ex-Byrds drummer Michael Clarke.  Hillman left the band right about the time this album was released.  Roberts augmented the Burritos with fiddles and steel and continued playing live shows; one of the showcases was his signature song “Colorado,” which appeared on the Burritos’ third studio LP (1970).

Gram Parsons died of an overdose in 1974 and re-kindled interest in the band.  Sneaky Pete Kleinow and original bassist Chris Ethridge came back and enlisted latter-day Byrds drummer Gene Parsons (no relation to Gram) and fiddler Floyd “Gib” Guilbeau along with Joel Scott Hill, formerly of Canned Heat.  They cut two studio albums, Flying Again (1975) and Airborne (1976), which were critically derided and slickly produced.  Neither album failed to make a spark, and the band broke up – again.

Guilbeau and Kleinow came back in a band called Sierra, which differed from the Burritos in that it tried to be a pop-blues-rock band.  Even though the Tower of Power horns chip in on their self-titled album (1977), it had very few highlights and this band quickly disappeared.  Meanwhile interest in the Flying Burrito Brothers continued unabated in Europe, and small European labels slapped the Burrito name on anything they could find in the can and put it out.

bornpostA couple of examples of this shady marketing is Flyin’ High and Burrito Country (both from 1978), which in truth were not Flying Burritos Brothers recordings – they were actually Gib Guilbeau solo cuts.  In 1979, Kleinow and Guilbeau reconvened the band under the name Burrito Brothers – and enlisted long-time California country rocker John Beland.  This lineup would cut a couple of albums for the country music market in the early 1980s and actually scored a couple of Top 20 country chart hits.

During ensuing years a number of different lineups would appear onstage but most had the core trio of Kleinow, Beland and Guilbeau – at times it also featured another ex-Byrd, bass player Skip Battin.  Most of the records released during this period were live albums from the mid-1970s lineup and studio leftovers.

Finally in 1997 new Flying Burrito Brothers material appeared.  California Jukebox featured guest performances by Waylon Jennings and guitarist Sonny Landreth; it also tackled some songs by boys influenced by the original Burritos: “Two Angels” by the Jayhawks and “Windfall” by Son Volt.  Beland’s title song was his first of a few attempts to mythologize the Burrito history (and carve a comfortable place for himself in that legend).  But that song, and “Down At The Palomino” also served as an elegaic look back on the country rock heyday.  In 1999 Sons Of The Golden West apparently marked the end of the long Flying Burrito Brothers trail – until someone decides to pick up the mantle again.

One footnote: in 2001 Kleinow organized a band around himself called Burrito Deluxe.  It had a morphing lineup, but it featured Garth Hudson (from the Band) and singer Carlton Moody, among others.  In 2005 this lineup played SXSW as the last band in a lineup of country rockers; they followed the sensational Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash.  Maybe it was the late hour, because it seemed Burrito Deluxe really sucked down the energy in the club – their stuff was OK and professionally played, but their music seemed stuck in a long-gone time and place.  It was a sad end to a long, vital legend.  Sneaky Pete Kleinow died in 2007 of Alzheimer’s disease and if you thought that was the end (particularly of Burrito Deluxe), look again: they’ve already put out another album without Kleinow (and with lead singer Walter Egan!).  The legend continues, I suppose.

Thanks to Rarebird’s Rock and Rarity Reviews, for the great background info.

MP3: “Losing Game” (live) from Last of The Red Hot Burritos

MP3: “Colorado” (live) from Live In Amsterdam

MP3: “White Line Fever” (live) from Close Encounters To The West Coast

MP3: “Home Of The Blues” from Flyin’ High

MP3: “Farmer’s Daughter” from Sierra

MP3: “Does She Wish She Was Single Again” by the Burrito Brothers

MP3: “California Jukebox” from California Jukebox

MP3: “G.P.” by Burrito Deluxe

MP3: “Sister” by Burrito Deluxe

MP3: “Down At The Palomino” from Sons Of The Golden West

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