Parsons says her mother "crumbled" after Gram's death, leaving her 7-year-old daughter in the care of friends. Polly grew up in a Santa Barbara commune, then with friends there until she graduated from high school.
She moved to Los Angeles at 17 and found work in a doctor's office, eventually becoming a surgical nurse. Feeling a creative urge, she abruptly left that field to work as a film and television makeup artist.
"Then about three or four years ago I realized that I had a responsibility ... to my father to do the best that I could to keep his memory alive," she says. That meant traveling to Winter Haven, Fla., to see his old haunts and meet members of his family.
Her reconciliation with her history was also inspired by the return of Parsons' musical rights to his heirs 28 years after his death, in accordance with U.S. copyright law. Polly shares those rights with Parsons' widow, Gretchen. The singer never married Ross, who is now an artist in Santa Barbara and is expected to attend Friday's concert there, which is dedicated to her.
Polly's goal now is to bring Parsons' name to the forefront, not just with the two high-profile concerts but also by licensing his music aggressively and establishing a foundation in his name to work with music business charities. Her Sin City marketing company and record label aim to proselytize for L.A.'s roots-music scene with a zeal she thinks her father would understand.
"I love how fearless he was," she says. "I love how unapologetic he was about his vision and his passion and his truth. I love that he dragged a little record player around and he would sit in front of Keith Richards and go, 'You've got to hear Merle Haggard and George Jones.'
"I love that he had so much conviction. It's almost like he was a messenger. It was almost evangelical what he did, and he did what he needed to do and he took off when he needed to take off."
Return to Sin City: A Tribute to Gram Parsons
* 7 p.m. Friday: Santa Barbara Bowl, 1122 N. Milpas St., Santa Barbara. $47-$107. (805) 962-7411.
* 7:30 p.m. Saturday: Universal Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. $40-$150. (818) 622-4440.