Walter Parks

Walter Parks

Apr 30, 2015 |  0 comments
Date: Apr 30, 2015 Time: 8:00 pm Price: $12 advance/$15 day of show Type: swamp guitar/Blues/Folk/Jazz

Veteran blues and jazz guitarist Walter Parks has built an international career as the lead guitarist for Woodstock legend Richie
Havens,as half of the folk-duo The Nudes, and as leader of the neo-southern rock group Swamp Cabbage. Just as Georgia’s
Okefenokee Swamp has served as the headwaters of Florida’s Suwanee River, so has it served as the inspirational headwaters
for Walter’s unique guitar concept – a banjo-esque fingerpicking style that toggles between expressing the swamp’s foggy, ambient
underbelly and it’s eminent danger via the use of a modicum of pleasant distortion. Inspired by the sultry black gospel that wails
from storefront churches and roadhouses in the American southeast, Parks’s raspy vocal lows and soaring operatic falsetto explore
the frontier of the modern human spirit in search of a place where it can flourish.
Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida at a time when classical music was offered in public schools, Parks began his music career
studying the viola in the sixth through eighth grades. After a transition to the guitar in 1973 he formed his first group, The Parental
Tears Band (an ode to their parents’ shared dread that their offspring would pursue music careers). Succumbing to his parent’s
advice that he lay the foundation for a more stable career, Parks enrolled in business school at the University of Georgia in Athens.
Parks recalls “Unfortunately the fall-back strategy ultimately backfired as I became disillusioned with the mentality of making important
decisions only in allegiance to the bottom line. I withdrew one year short of graduation. The best the thing about college was serving
in the Student Union organization that promoted big concerts. Our budget was astronomical, our allegiance was to quality and most
shows made money. I was fascinated by concert booking and production and I stayed to the bitter end at every load-out and roadies
loved me. I learned that great reward could follow extra effort, for after a Dixie Dregs show I had the opportunity to play Duane
Allman’s 1959 sunburst Gibson Les Paul, which at the time was in possession of Dregs’
road manager Twiggs Lyndon. I still feel the power and magic of that cherished guitar,
which is now on display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
In the early 1980’s, Parks returned to his hometown to form a fusion jazz band called
Sneakers. “It was an exciting time when we could draw 200 people every Monday night
on instrumental music alone” Parks states. Managing his own clothing store by day,
Walter took quarterly buying trips to New York where he became magnetized by
Manhattan’s pace and serious music scene. To fund his eventual departure from Jacksonville
Walter created a society band called The Wing Tips taking full advantage of the
prosperous Regan years. In 1989, after winning a Tangueray Rocks talent contest
piloted by rock impresario Don Kirschner, he took his first original electric band Dear
John, to New York.
By 1991, burdened by the logistics of running a band in the big city, he simplified and
formed an acoustic duo called The Nudes with cellist Stephanie Winters. The Nudes
recorded three albums and enjoyed a successful career touring U.S. colleges and folk
festivals, serving for a short while as Richie Havens’ support act.
Road-weary and searching for a new perspective, in 1999 Parks traveled to Plum Village,
Tich Nat Han’s Buddhist monastery in southwest France. Allowing himself time to
reboot and reflect, Walter refers to the adventure as “the best vacation I’ve ever taken –
living amidst unparalleled beauty, in complete tranquility, with plenty of time to listen to
my life. Up until my very last day in the monastery, I told no one that I was a musician
just to find out what was left of me, without the guitar as my identity.”
In 2000 Parks returned to New York in a business role as a label manager for indie
MPress Records however in 2001 the New York scene re-ignited Walter’s urge to perform and he was asked to join Richie Havens’
trio. “Accompanying Richie from 2001-2011 and hearing that wonderful voice by his side on stages all over the world was
incomparable honor. The grandest shows were at Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, The Cannes Film Festival in France and
The WOMAD Fests in New Zealand/Australia but nothing compared to the frenzy Richie would incite at The Jazz Cafe in London.”
“My first move to New York, in a sense had been an attempt to shed any influence that my Florida roots might have had on my
playing. I was chasing other styles –mostly European. Hopelessly, everyone seemed to notice the southernness in my music. One
day it hit me that I already had what myself and every other artist comes to New York to find and/or exploit – a unique style. I
therefore accepted that my path would be to develop the swampy North Florida sound rather than to obscure it.” Walter formed
Swamp Cabbage and used any down time in Richie’s schedule to meticulously craft three fine analog recordings–Honk, Squeal
and Drum Roll Please. Since Richie’s retirement in 2010 and passing in 2013, Walter has been focusing on Swamp Cabbage and
solo performances. The band’s fourth CD “Jive” is due out soon.
Parks’ various music projects express both his diverse background as a musician and balance distinct parts of his personality. “I’m
as comfortable with rural culture as I am with so called “high society.” I enjoy doing construction, chatting with locals and driving m

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *