On September 19, 1973, 26-year-old musician Gram Parsons dies of “multiple drug use” (morphine and tequila) in a California motel area. His death inspired an individual of the much more bizarre automobile-related crimes on record: Two of his buddies stashed his physique in a borrowed hearse and drove it in to the middle of the Joshua Tree National Park, wherever they doused it with gasoline and set it burning.
Parsons’ music helped define the country-rock sound, and his records have influenced everybody from the Rolling Stones to Wilco. But like numerous musicians of his generation, Parsons struggled with alcohol and drugs. His childhood was unhappy: His father committed suicide when he was 12, on your day he graduated from higher college and his mother died of alcohol poisoning. He dropped out of Harvard and moved to California, where he used bands just like the Byrds (on the seminal album Sweetheart of the Rodeo) and the Flying Burrito Brothers and released two celebrated solo albums with the then-unknown Emmylou Harris singing backup.
At a friend’s funeral two months before he died, Parsons produced a drunken pact along with his road manager Phil Kaufman: If anything must happen to one of these, another would take his physique to Joshua Tree and cremate it. And so, immediately after Parsons’ overdose, Kaufman and a roadie named Michael Martin met his coffin at the Los Angeles airport (for complex factors involving a disputed inheritance, his stepfather had arranged for this to be flown to Louisiana for an exclusive funeral) in a borrowed hearse with broken windows no license plates. (The hearse belonged to Martin’s girlfriend, who employed it to transport tents along with other gear on camping trips.) They convinced the airport employees that the Parsons family members had changed its thoughts concerning the flight, loaded the coffin in to the automobile, and drove 200 miles to the Mojave Desert, stopping on the way to fill a 5-gallon tin can with gasoline. They drove into Joshua Tree and dragged the coffin to the base of the majestic Cap Rock, wherever they doused it with the gas and tossed on a match.
Kaufman and Martin have already been arrested, but because stealing bodies had not been actually a crime in California, these were fined $300 every single, plus $750 for the ruined coffin. (They raised the money by holding a “Kaper Koncert” starring Bobby Pickett & the Cryptkeepers, who played their hit “Monster Mash” a lot more than and much more than.) Parsons’ remains are buried in New Orleans.