Kirby Parker, a two-time president of the Alabama Bluegrass Music Association and widely known ambassador of bluegrass music, died Monday after suffering from ALS.
Parker led the Log Cabin Band, named after his home in Leeds, AL, where he hosted a monthly jam called Parker Pickin’ that hundreds of bluegrassers attended. His hospitality extended to festivals around the region, with his camper serving as a central gathering point. Attendees came for the music, of course, but also for the mountains of food that Parker supplied. Beans and cornbread were the staples, but the lucky jammers also got to sample the fruit cobbler, which he cooked in a Dutch oven in the campfire.
“As a newcomer to Alabama, having moved from ‘up north,’ I was touched by Kirby’s efforts to make me welcome,” said Cliff Abbott, a songwriting bass player who graciously supplied the background for this article. “I have jammed at his home, performed in his loft, and played bass for his band when a substitute was needed. I was overwhelmed by his encouragement, but then I discovered that it was simply the way Kirby treated everyone…Kirby touched so many in the Alabama bluegrass community, He will be missed but never forgotten.”
Abbott called Parker a “friend, mentor, adviser and ambassador.”
At his death, Parker was vice president of the ABMA. He chaired and emceed the association’s annual Showcase of Bands and co-hosted its suite each year at the annual SPBGMA conference in Nashville.
Parker was especially supportive of new bands, sometimes travelling for hours to see them and to offer praise and encouragement when they came off the stage.
Away from the festival circuit, Parker managed the vehicle maintenance facility for the city of Vestavia Hills, AL, before his retirement. He also raced dune buggies in his younger years and opened a Volkswagen repair shop. In addition to bluegrass, VWs were his other passion.
Funeral arrangements are being made. A final Parker Pickin’ will be held after the first of the year, serving as a memorial service. Parker will be cremated and, per his wishes, his ashes will be released in a creek that flows through his property.
RIP, Kirby Parker.