Jeff Parker has become a larger than life figure in bluegrass music. He’s a big man, with a huge voice, a heart as wide as all outdoors, and a sense of humor sure to tickle the coldest soul.
This past 12 years he’s been a staple of the Dailey & Vincent show, holding down the mandolin spot, adding his voice to one of the finest singing groups bluegrass has ever seen, and providing stage antics that are a highlight of every D&V performance. Even if you’ve seen him work the audience a dozen times, it’s still hilarious on the thirteenth.
Like so many bluegrass artists, Jeff started young, singing with his family’s Gospel group as a teen. He played with a number of regional bands in his native Kentucky, before singing on at Refro Valley in 1986. After 8 years in the park, he and his brother Mike formed their own group, Wilderness Trail.
In 2001, Lonesome River Band came calling, and Parker was introduced to the wider world of bluegrass. His five years with the band established him as one of the most dynamic singers in the business, and when Dailey & Vincent were forming in 2007, they reached out and made him one of the first members of their new act.
He told us yesterday that while he has very much enjoyed his time with Jamie and Darrin, he feels like he is ready to strike out on his own.
“I’m 57 years old, and I can do this a few more years, but I want to do it under my own name.
I feel like it’s time. I’ve been contemplating this for a long time. My dad and I had talked about this a lot, and I guess it’s now or never. I’m excited about it.”
Parker lost his dad, Vester, in February of this year. He was an important figure in the Kentucky bluegrass scene, a fine banjo player and a very influential figure in the music. Losing a parent is always a difficult transition, but perhaps this has helped Jeff realize that we are never promised more time on earth to do the things we want to do.
So after this last season with Dailey & Vincent, he will leave the nest and fly solo as the leader of Jeff Parker & Company. Since announcing his intentions recently, Parker has been aggressively working the phones, and reports that the initial reaction from show promoters has been quite positive.
“Bookings are coming in. Norman Adams booked me on three of his gigs, and Milton Harkey booked me for Bluegrass First Class. Plus it looks like Joe Mullins will have me up for his Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival. As of right now, it’s looking like at least 40 dates for 2019.
Even though I’ve been out there 20 years, you still have to go after it when you do your own thing.”
A new solo record, My Home Town, is in the works for late this summer, and will form the basis for the new band’s show, along with Parker’s four other solo projects. Like the others, this one will be self-produced.
A new touring band is also being pieced together, with some members who will be leaving other prominent acts.
“I’m in the process of assembling my band now. Can’t mention names yet, but it will be a five piece, high energy band with emotion. Bluegrass primarily, but with some classic country like I like to do.
I hope to get back in the studio before the end of the year with the band for a new album. It will be recorded live in the studio, to capture the live energy and enthusiasm. I want to make it real, so we can go on stage and deliver the exact same sound.”
And he says that he is very appreciative of the support he has gotten from Dailey & Vincent.
“12 years with them, it’s given me a great platform. This is one of the best gigs a bluegrass musician can have.”
So come 2019, be on the lookout for Jeff Parker & Company rolling your way.
“Our first booking is January 4, 2019 at the Jekyll Island festival. We won’t have a bus – a nice leisure van. I’ll be keeping the overhead low, and the quality of music high!”
More details about 2019 dates and band members will be posted later this year at goparkermusic.com.
Here’s a hearty Bluegrass Today welcome to Jeff Parker & Company. Come on down!