Grand Theft Parsons

Phil Kaufman, Gram, Emmylou …

September 20, 1973 ~

The body of Gram Parsons is stolen and taken to Joshua Tree National Park, where it is set on fire.

Parsons died the previous day after a visit to Joshua Tree when he took an overdose of alcohol and morphine. His body is at Los Angeles International Airport, scheduled to be flown to his family in New Orleans, but his friends Phil Kaufman and Michael Martin have other ideas: Showing up at the airport in Kaufman’s hearse (his everyday vehicle), they claim the body, signing the release forms as “Jeremy Nobody.”

They head to Joshua Tree, about 200 miles away, stopping at a bar along the way where they drink a toast to Parsons. Arriving at the Cap Rock landmark in the park, they unload Parsons’ casket, douse it with gas and set it on fire. Cap Rock has special significance, as it’s where Parsons enjoyed an evening with Keith Richards doing peyote.

The following day, authorities find the body, and Kaufman and Martin are later arrested, fined, and given suspended sentences. Kaufman claims that Parsons had asked for the desert consecration, and that he was simply carrying out his wishes.

The incident becomes legend and provides Parsons with a far more elegant coda than his hotel room overdose.

Credit: Songfacts