For our weekend in the desert for Orville Peck’s Rodeo, Patrick and I stayed at my favorite place in the high desert, the Joshua Tree Inn. Long time readers may be familiar with the small motel, as I’ve featured it several times. But this stay was extra special because we stayed in Room 2, which is actually two rooms, the original Room 1, and Room 2, which have a connection to my favorite musician, Gram Parsons.
For those unfamiliar with Gram, he was a pioneer in the music world, at the forefront of merging rock ‘n roll with country music and forging the country rock genre as we know it. Although he hated the term. After his band the International Submarine Band broke up, he linked up with The Byrds for all of one album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, before quitting. Shortly thereafter he formed The Flying Burrito Brothers with another former Byrd, Chris Hillman. But when he was kicked out of his own band, he went solo. Then shortly before his second solo album was released, he died of an overdose at the Joshua Tree Inn in Room 8.
Gram was staying at the Inn with several friends, including an old girlfriend he had recently reconnected with (despite still being married to Gretchen Berrill), Margaret Fisher. After hanging out at a bar, the group returned to the Inn and Gram expressed wanting heroin. While Gram had been doing drugs off and on, and still consuming pills and booze, it had been some time since he had done heroin. A woman at the Inn was able to get someone who could provide drugs.
While Gram and Margaret were staying in Room 8, they went to Room 1 (now known as Room 2, the Inn Keeper’s Suite) to meet their drug connection, who, unable to provide heroin, gave them morphine. A tall, thin, blond woman arrived, with her two year old child in tow. “She brought everything with her. She brought the works,” Margaret recalled. The woman injected both Gram and Margaret with morphine she had swiped from Camp Pendleton. Gram expressed wanting to do more, but Margaret protested, and said she couldn’t. Gram’s previous experience with heroin, which is stronger than morphine, made him overconfident in his ability to handle more morphine. “She hit Gram again and he was in trouble almost immediately,” Margaret shared, “She saw what was happening before I did and she was gone. She took the morphine and the works and her baby and she vanished. She was gone before I even realized Gram was in trouble.” Gram was on the verge of passing out, and Margaret was unable to move Gram herself. She went to get Dale McElroy, a member of the group Gram was with at the Inn, and the two women moved the virtually unconscious Gram back to Room 8.
Today what was once Room 1 has been absorbed by Room 2, and the two doors read “2” on them. Inside the two rooms share a short hallway and a bathroom. Two beds offer spacious sleeping conditions and there is also a large, private patio.
I will say, while I liked the size of this room, it was a bit on the louder side, as it’s the only room that faces the highway. Additionally, this is the only ADA room, and people without disabilities are only able to get it when it is the last room available, which it was during our weekend. The Inn also offers an indoor common area where there are books that people have written their thoughts on Gram, and is decorated with a variety of posters and artwork, many of course featuring Gram. Surrounding the pool are several common areas, many of which are shaded from the desert sun, although in the fall and winter, it’s nice to soak up the rays.
As for what happened to Gram after he was helped back to Room 8…well I’ve shared that before, but why not again for the new folks? The pair of women managed to wake up Gram, and Margaret left for food and caffeine, but failed to tell Dale how important it was to keep Gram awake. Gram drifted in and out of conciseness, and was unresponsive when Margaret returned, and the two women finally decided to call an ambulance. Gram was taken away to the local hospital where he was declared dead on arrival at 12:15, September 19th. He was 26.
Gram’s story didn’t end there, his manager, Phil Kaufman, had remembered Gram’s desire to be “burned in the desert” and borrowed a hearse and intercepted Gram’s coffin at LAX, where it was en route to Louisiana to be buried. Kaufman returned to Joshua Tree National Park (although at the time it was Joshua Tree Monument) and went to Cap Rock, said to be one of Gram’s favorite places, and, with beer and gasoline, set Gram’s body ablaze. The “cremation” was unsuccessful, and his charred remains were later found, and buried at the Garden of Memories in Metairie, outside of New Orleans.
The Joshua Tree Inn is located at 61259 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree. You can book your stay via their website, as well as shop their online store. The office keeps hours 3 pm to 9 pm, where you can shop in person.
You can check out previous stays at the Joshua Tree Inn (including Room 8) here and visits to Joshua Tree National Park (including Cap Rock) here.
Hat: I can’t remember!
Jacket: Buffalo Exchange, with patches from Chris Hillman (sadly it appears the “Sin City” patch is no longer available)
Tee: Worn Free. No longer available.
Pants: Wrangler. No longer available.
Bronco Belt Buckle: Was part of a VIP package from a previous Orville Peck concert
Boots: I think Buffalo Exchange
Jewelry: Here and there…
Meyer, David N. Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music. Villard, 2007. Print.