Alabama born country star Emmylou Harris is a true survivor in a career that starred as a solo artist in the mid-sixties.

She grew up near Washington, DC, and began playing folk clubs as a student before moving to Greenwich Village.

Emmylou shared stages with artists diverse as Jerry Jeff Walker and Dave Bromberg and cut her debut disc Gliding Bird in 1968.

Chris Hillman discovered her in 1971 and brought Gram Parsons to hear her sing in a small club in the Washington area.

In 1972, she answered the call from Gram to join him in Los Angeles to work on his first solo album, GP.

After Gram died in 1973, Emmylou went back to the D.C. area and formed a country band.

She played with them until her 1975 major label debut, Pieces of the Sky, when she formed the first version of the legendary Hot Band.

The Hot Band included a galaxy of musicians including Albert Lee, Rodney Crowell, Hank DeVito, Emory Gordy Jr, Ricky Skaggs, James Burton and Glenn Hardin.

Emmylou scored a brace of hits and embraced all sub genres of country on albums that have stood the test of time.

She also cut her first live disc in 1992 at the Ryman Auditorium - mother ship of the Grand Ole Opry with her Nash City Ramblers.

Harris has won 12 Grammys in a career embracing more than 30 studio and live discs, DVDS and two albums with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton as The Trio.

Third husband Paul Kennerley produced her revered concept album The Ballad of Sally Rose in 1985.

The prominent social activist has also been honoured with many compilation discs including the excellent duets pair on Australian label Raven.

I have interviewed Emmylou several times including her 1984 tour for the expatriate Australasian promoter and Nashville superstar manager and publisher Barry Coburn.

I also interviewed her famed tour manager and infamous Gram Parsons body snatcher Phil Kaufman who chronicled his adventures in the book Road Mangler Deluxe.

Kaufman re-enacted the body snatch with his Aussie partner in crime Michael Martin outside the Sebel Town House Hotel in Elizabeth Bay for the Sydney Daily Telegraph and now defunct Daily Mirror.

Here is my latest Emmylou Harris interview when she was promoting recent discs.



Emmylou Harris vividly recalls a night she voted for a transvestite in a bizarre beauty contest in Nashville and inspired two smash hits by the late Playboy cartoonist, singer and author Shel Silverstein.

Silverstein, who died on May, 9, 1999 at 67, penned Queen Of The Silver Dollar and Boy Named Sue about the tiara toting transvestite.

"I thought it was only appropriate that I chose a drag queen," Emmylou, now 56, told Nu Country TV in a call from her Nashville home, "but my decision was overturned."

Emmylou Linda Ronstadt, Dr Hook and Doyle Holly recorded Queen Of The Silver Dollar but it was Tulsa Queen - a Harris-Rodney Crowell tune - that embroidered her 25th album Spyboy on Festival.

The thrice-wed Alabama born singer, whose recording career started with Gliding Bird in 1968, also included Crowell tune Ain't Living Long Like This - once a hit for Waylon Jennings.

Another live album, cut at Albert Hall in London during that tour, hasn't surfaced.

But Spyboy - named after the leader of the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade - earned one of three recent Grammy nominations.

Harris was secretive about the locale of Spyboy, recorded in Europe in 1997, and featuring the band - Buddy Miller, Daryl Johnson and Brady Blade - who toured Australia with her.

"That's my little secret," Harris teased.

"What I would like is for anyone who came to any show was a part of the making of the record. I didn't want to get specific about the actual place - I wanted it to be a more spiritual realm.

"I still love the old material and you want to keep that while adding new songs to the old songs."


Emmylou cut David Olney tune Deeper Well - part of a sequence that also features her solo version of her original tune Prayer In Open D and acapella version of Calling My Children Home, originally cut by bluegrass group The Country Gentlemen.

The album finale is a cover of Wrecking Ball producer Daniel Lanois tune The Maker - the only song she hadn't previously recorded.

"The Maker is the main reason I decided to make a live record in the first place," says Emmylou, "I started singing it when Daniel and I were on a short tour. I performed it each night with him. I really loved it and knew I wanted it on record.

But there was no way I could compete with his studio version so I thought I would record our shows to get a live version of it to put on a studio record. This album is representative of where I was during those two years of my life, which is what a record should be."

Emmylou initially planned to include more songs from Wrecking Ball but Asylum records vetoed that so she cut Jesse Winchester tune My Songbird, the late Boudleaux Bryant's Love Hurts, Julie Miller's All My Tears, Green Pastures and her third ex-husband Paul Kennerley's tune Born To Run.

"My audience wants me to try things that are different," Emmylou revealed.

"I might have alienated a few people with Wrecking Ball. There's certain part of my audience that thinks I stopped making records in 1980. I can't be responsible for that. I have to find things to keep myself excited, otherwise I would just quit."


She also included Gram Parsons-Chris Hillman tune Wheels and Boulder To Birmingham - the ode to Gram she wrote with Bill Danoff (who penned late John Denver hit Take Me Home, Country Road.)

"I went back to the drawing board and listened to some of the older material we'd been doing just out of necessity," Emmylou recalled.

"Ultimately, I think, that made for a better record."

She's also devoting her energies to a tribute album to former singing partner Gram who died at 26 on September 19, 1973, from a heroin and booze overdose.

Tour manager Phil Kaufman and Aussie mate Michael Martin stole Gram's body and coffin from Van Nuys airport, Los Angeles, and burned it at Cap Rock in Joshua Tree national park desert in a bizarre death pact made two months earlier at Byrds guitarist Clarence White's funeral.

Harris and Parsons duetted on his two solo discs and now the belated tribute has been released here by Festival Records and replaced Kinky Friedman tribute disc Pearls In The Snow at No 1 on the prestige Americana charts.

"Lucinda Williams cut Grievous Angel and Steve Earle and Chris Hillman did High Fashion Queen," says the singer.

"They are spirited recordings which capture the essence of Gram's work. It's an amazing project."

Other tracks include She (Emmylou & The Pretenders), Ooh Las Vegas (Cowboy Junkies), Sin City (Emmylou & Beck), $1,000 Wedding (Evan Dando & Juliana Hatfield), Juanita (Emmylou & Sheryl Crow), Sleepless Nights (Elvis Costello), Return Of The Grievous Angel (Lucinda Williams & David Crosby), 100 Years (Wilco), Hickory Wind (Gillian Welch & David Rawlings), In My Hour Of Darkness (The Rolling Creekdippers) and Hot Burrito #1 (The Mavericks).


Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Meanwhile Trio 2, recorded five years ago for Asylum, enjoyed healthy sales despite radio apathy.

It's a fitting entree for her duets album with Ms Ronstadt, mother of two, who quit the bright lights of Los Angeles to return home to Tucson, Arizona.

Harley Allen tune High Sierra, one of the four songs cut by Linda on her solo album Feels Like Going Home, was the first single from the disc which sold 150,000 plus.

The Trio also reprised Olney tune Women Across The River from the same disc for Trio 2 which may not be surpass success of the original Trio, a two million seller, which enjoyed a sales spurt because of publicity for the sequel and the CMT and free TV exposure.

"We're really on our way," says Emmylou of the duets disc which is due in July, "we're on the road in August-September to promote it and hope to include Australia."

Harris also harmonised with Shotgun Willie Nelson on The Maker from his solo disc, Teatro, filmed by Wim Wenders during a live gig at the old Teatro Mexican theatre where his album was recorded in Oxnard, California.

Tribute discs are a bonus for fans of Emmylou who cut Golden Ring with Linda and Anna and Kate McGarrigle on Tammy Wynette Remembered and Love Still Remains on Treasures Left Behind - the Kate Wolf eulogy produced by Nina Gerber who toured here as Mollie O'Brien's guitarist.

She also shared a Grammy with an even dozen peers for Same Old Train on Tribute To Tradition.

And, of course, Emmylou, daughter Meghann and Linda were in the large choir on the Roy Huskey Jr tribute, The Pilgrim, on Earle's 10th album The Mountain, with the Del McCoury Band.


Despite the longevity of her career Emmylou is not keen to talk about a short stanza in her life, vividly described in a long chapter in Laurence Leamer book, Three Chords And The Truth.

Harris, shunned by American radio and undertaking gruelling European tour in 1995, reportedly told Leamer "I'm a hard woman, a hard woman. And I'm at the bottom of the fucking heap."

The singer, whose serenity was shattered by an uncustomary dose of red wine, uttered home truths she didn't expect to be repeated.

Emmylou & Gram Parsons

"I didn't think it was accurate and don't want to discuss it," she said.

"I had bronchitis and I was very sick on that tour. I was disappointed and let him know what I felt about it."

Emmylou is a grass roots artist with no superstar aspirations at the peak of a 38 year recording career.

"I've basically made my living in the trenches and I probably always will," Harris admits,
"I think it's always going to be uphill. I don't think I'm ever going to be at the top of the charts."

The eight time Grammy winner and most in demand harmony singer and duet partner in Nashville is eager to discuss the future, not that savage snapshot of her tear stained past.

Harris's star is burning brightly again after a visit with her mother to Vietnam and Cambodia to study the impact of land mines.


Stamina is a forte for the daughter of decorated Marine Pilot and Major Walter Harris who spent 16 months as a POW during the Korean conflict.

"Land mines are wrong and need to be got out of the ground if people are to live some normal kind of life where they're not subjected to terrorism in their life every day when they're supposed to be living in peace time," Harris says, "it's civilians who are the casualties. The people working there are trying to raise the standard of medical facilities and schools. It's very inspiring to know there are still people in the world trying to help other people.

< Emmylou Harris & Buddy Miller

Bobby Muller, the Vietnam veteran who went back there and started the campaign to end land mines was one of the co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. He saw the devastation and set up a clinic outside Phnom Penn and provides free artificial limbs and rehab for victims of land mines."

Harris's pro-active role prompted her guitarist and prolific singer songwriter Buddy Miller to include his tune 100 Million Little Bombs on his second disc Poison Love and perform land mine eradication benefit concerts with Lucinda, Willie, Steve and Sheryl.

The singer is a free spirit like her namesake paddle steamer at Echuca on the Murray River.

"I have no idea where I'm going but I'm enjoying the trip," says Emmylou, "as long as I feel excited about music, I won't have to worry about what will be next."

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