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Chris Ethridge, Flying Burrito Brothers Member, Dies at 65

Flying Burrito Brothers album cover P

A key player in two Gram Parsons bands, the bassist and singer helped define the West Coast country-rock sound of the late 1960s and early '70s and spent eight years on the road with Willie Nelson.

Bassist and singer Chris Ethridge, best known as a member of country-rock acts the Flying Burrito Brothers and International Submarine Band, both featuring the late Gram Parsons, has died at the age of 65 of pancreatic cancer.

A native of Mississippi, Ethridge moved to Los Angeles in 1964 while still a teenager where a burgeoning rock scene was still forming. He met Parsons, a trust fund kid-turned-aspiring rock star with dashing good looks who was enamored with traditional western music and bluegrass, and the two formed the International Submarine Band. The group only released one album, 1968’s Safe at Home, before Parsons jumped ship to become a part-time member of the Byrds.

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A year later, Parsons, Ethridge, guitarist Chris Hillman (a founding member of the Byrds) and pedal steel player Sneaky Pete Kleinow went on to form the Flying Burrito Brothers and help define the West Coast sound.

Parsons died of a drug overdose in 1973, but before his tragic end, the Burritos released three albums, 1969’s The Gilded Palace of Sin, 1970’s Burrito Deluxe and 1971’s The Flying Burrito Bros, which yielded several songs considered classics of the “cosmic-American” genre, including “Sin City,” “Christine’s Tune,” “She” and “Hot Burrito #1” and “#2,” the latter three which Ethrdige co-wrote with Parsons (Ethridge only appeared on Gilded Palace).

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In later years, Ethridge played with many music luminaries, including Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and Ry Cooder, both as a session musician and touring player. He spent eight years on the road with Willie Nelson and can be heard on the country legend’s anthemic “Whiskey River.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Hillman called Ethridge over the weekend at his Meridian, Miss., home, but Ethridge was “unable to talk.” Ethridge's daughter Necia said her father had been hospitalized with pneumonia following a round of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, which had been diagnosed in September.

Watch an early music video for Flying Burrito Brothers' "Christine's Tune" below: