Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Countryrockobit: Sneaky Pete Kleinow

After a period in a nursing home with Alzheimer's Disease, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Flying Burrito Brother, has died.

Born in South Bend, Indiana, in 1934, Pete's original career was working as a visual effects artist - he had a lot of input to Christian kid-and-dog cartoon Davey and Goliath in the 1960s. But while he spent his days helping animate the "I don't know, Davey" hound, at night he would play steel guitar with various bands in the developing country-rock scene.

It was his evening escapades that led him to a meeting with Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons from The Byrds; he provided a vital service helping them recreate their recorded sound in a live environment and, following the demise of band, the pair invited him to be a full-time member of their new group. So started his time as a key part of the Flying Burrito Brothers and a thirteen year long career in music.

He never completely gave up the day job, though - and while you can understand the attraction of an offer from Industrial Light and Magic to help out with the effects on The Empire Strikes Back, you do wonder why he decided to also take small jobs, such as animating the scary glove-with-a-face in the Hamburger Helper ads in the 1970s.

1969's The Gilded Palace of Sin was more influential than a big seller, and after various departures (most notably that of Parsons after the second album) Kleinow quit the Burrito Brothers in 1971. He kept going back for various reunions, regroupings and resurrections, while taking lucrative session jobs with everyone from Joni Mitchell to The Knack.

As the 80s progressed, he started to concentrate more and more on animation work - he provided the robot which built itself from scrap for ZZ Top videos and in 1999 worked on the Master P & Silkk clip for Ghetto Rain. But much of his time was given over to movies, including the Terminator and Robocop franchises.

Pete Kleinow was 72. He died in California.