Artist and Musician Biographies


Here is a YouTube Mix of music by Emmylou Harris.

Helping to bridge the gap between country music and rock and roll, the artist Emmylou Harris has let her music branch out to touch many styles of music.  Her music can fall under a large assortment of genres including folk, pop, country and, yes, even alternative.  Starting her professional music career in the early 1970's, Harris is still producing today and her latest work can be seen on the 2000 album, "Red Dirt Girl."

Born in 1947, Emmylou spent her childhood first in Birmingham, Alabama, and then near Washington, D.C.  Some time was also spent in North Carolina, as Harris was part of a military family that had to move about several times.  Harris started taking music seriously after she graduated from high school as her class valedictorian and received a scholarship to the University of North Carolina.

She began her studies in music there and soon formed a folk duet with another student, Mike Williams.  The singer never finished her college degree, however, and instead opted to venture out to New York City to pursue a career in professional music in the late 1960's.  While she did get some work in clubs in Greenwich Village, she found that the folk music era had been engulfed by the psychedelic age.

Her first marriage came in 1969 to Tom Slocum, a songwriter.  Shortly after in 1970, Emmylou got her first record deal and released "Gliding Bird."  Her luck took a downturn after the record's release, though, and her label went bankrupt as well as her turning marriage sour.  Pregnant with her first child, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee and divorced Slocum.  Unable to support herself and her daughter, Hallie, Harris was forced to return to D.C. and live with her parents.

While in D.C. she formed a trio with Gerry Mule and Tom Guidera.  During a gig at a club called Clyde's in 1971, she was spotted by some members of the rock/country legend, The Flying Burrito Brothers.  The band had just had an integral member quit, Gram Parsons, and was being headed up by Chris Hillman, a former Byrds member.  Hillman almost asked Harris to join the group, but instead he recommended her to Gram Parsons.

Parsons called his recipe for country and rock "Cosmic American Music" and he wanted Harris to be a part of it.  Harris sang backup harmony for Parsons and began touring with him.  Together they produced his album, "Grievous Angel" in 1973.

Parsons was involved habit of drug and alcohol abuse and only weeks after the album's release, he was found dead due to a drug overdose in a hotel room in California.  At the time, Harris was readying her daughter for a move to California, but with Parson's death, her plans were changed and she remained in D.C.

Still doggedly pursuing her dreams, she reunited with Tom Guidera, a past bandmate, and formed Angel Band.  A move to Los Angeles was finally made after the band was signed to Reprise and Emmylou began work on her first solo effort.  In 1975 she released "Pieces of the Sky" that contained many covers, even some from the Beatles.  She gained her first hit from this album in "If Only I Could Win Your Love" that held the number five spot on the charts.  Brian Ahern had produced the album and also ended up becoming her second husband.

Ahern would produce her next ten albums beginning with her follow up to "Pieces of the Sky," "Elite Hotel" in 1976. Harris reaped in a couple of number one songs from this album; "Together Again" and Sweet Dreams."  "Elite Hotel" featured a new backup band called the Hot Band, which included James Burton and Glen D. Hardin; former supporting musicians for Elvis Presley.  Rodney Crowell, a young songwriter, also provided backup vocals and guitar.  The album, which had folk, country and rock influences, was a success with two number 1 hits and she won a Grammy for Best Country Female Performance.

A number of albums were produced with the new band, including "Quarter Moon In a Ten Cent Town" (1978), "Profile" (1978) and "Blue Kentucky Girl" (1979).  The latter record contained the hits "Beneath Still Waters" and "Save the Last Dance for Me" as well as winning a Grammy.

In 1979, "Light of the Stable" was released as a Christmas collaboration with Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Neil Young.  1980 brought about the release of "Roses in the Snow," which was completely devoted to Harris's exploration of Bluegrass music.  By the summer of 1980, Harris was engaging in a duet with Roy Orbison that produced the hit "That Lovin' You Feelin' Again."  At this time, Harris took a break from her touring schedule to take care of her second daughter, Meghann.

By 1982, the last member of the Hot Band had departed and Harris was once again experiencing marital stress.   She still remained with Ahern just long enough to produce the last album with the Hot Band, "Last Date," and her solo album, "White Shoes."  This album contained more covers such as Donna Summer's "On the Radio" and Sandy Denny's "Old-fashioned Waltz."

Shortly after her break with Ahern, Harris returned to Nashville and met Paul Kennerly, a singer/song writer who would become her partner in music as well as her third husband.  A commercially unsuccessful but personally valuable album, "The Ballad of Sally Rose" came from this union in 1985.  1987 saw the release of two more albums, "Angel Band" and "Thirteen by Harris."  But a long over due collaboration was also to come in 1987 when Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt produced "Trio" with Harris.  Such hit singles would sprout from this record as "To Know Him is to Love Him" and "Telling Me Lies."

Several more solo records and collaborations were released until Harris made a label change from Warner Bros. to Asylum in 1993.  Once again, she separated from her husband and just after, released the album "Cowgirl's Prayer."  In 1995 she released "Wrecking Ball," a groundbreaking album for Harris that was produced by Daniel Lanois, who often works with U2 and Peter Gabriel.  Neil Young lent a hand to "Wrecking Ball," writing the title track and providing backup vocals on a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "May This Be Love?"

Emmylou Harris continues to be very influential and was on the 1997 and 1998 Lilith Fair tours.

Page author: N.G.