The Flying Burrito Brothers were founded in 1968 on the West Coast of the United States by former Byrds members Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, as well as pianist and bassist Chris Ethridge and pedal steel guitarist Sneaky Pete Kleinow.
The group borrowed their name from an East Coast-based group of the same name who had been colleagues of Parsons’ previous band, the International Submarine Band.
The group recorded their debut album The Gilded Palace of Sin without a regular drummer, although “Fast” Eddie Hoh and Jon Corneal were both occasional full-time members during the early days of the band and both are featured on this album.
The album contains originals by Parsons and Hillman, and two covers by soul music writers Dan Penn and Chips Moman. Owing to disagreements between Parsons and Hillman, the band’s next album, Burrito Deluxe, included few collaborations between the pair.
Parsons left the group after its release in May 1970.
A version of the group without Parsons appeared in June–July 1970 on the Festival Express tour of Canada, documented in the film of the same name.
Gram was later replaced by Rick Roberts, with the new line-up releasing the self-titled album, The Flying Burrito Bros, in 1971.
Kleinow then left to become a session musician, and Leadon departed to create the Eagles.
Al Perkins and Kenny Wertz replaced them, and Roger Bush and Byron Berline participated as guests in live performances, with the band releasing a live album, Last of the Red Hot Burritos, in 1972.
The early 1980s were a period of commercial success for the band that coincided with the band being known simply as “The Burrito Brothers.”
Headed by songwriter and guitarist John Beland, Gib Guilbeau, and initially Sneaky Pete, the Burrito Brothers scored well on the country charts.
Skip Battin had remained with the band up until this point but left shortly before the release of 1981’s Hearts On The Line This marked the first significant commercial chart success the band ever had.
In 1981 they received the Billboard Magazine award for “Best New Crossover Group” from pop to country.
The Burrito Brothers continued to work with the top session players in Nashville and Los Angeles, logging up an impressive list of hit singles for Curb Records.
In the 80’s they toured Europe and were featured at the Albi Nashville Festival in Albi, France, and performed with Emmylou Harris, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Tammy Wynette at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Also in the early 1980s, the Burrito Brothers were responsible for a campaign that finally saw their idol, Lefty Frizzell, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In the decades that followed, the Burritos appeared in a variety of incarnations, many of which included second- or third-generation members.
Kleinow reformed the band in 1985 and stayed with it for three years touring America and Europe. Even as late as 1998 the band regrouped yet again and toured Spain.
Live albums, compilations, and tributes to Gram Parsons comprised the bulk of their recordings.
While there was no shortage of records released, the constantly changing cast of musicians that contributed makes it difficult to consider them the work of one band.