JIM PARKER: He composes, performs and mentors songwriters in a lifetime of music

By Gregg Parker | Living 50 Plus

Focused on music since the early 1960s, Jim Parker pursued an 8-to-5 career but always cherished the music scene. In fact, Parker’s musical career is still on a high note.

In 2001, he founded “Jim Parker’s Songwriters Series” at Bandito Burrito on Main Street in Madison. By 2005, his gathering of musicians had accepted an invitation for a permanent home at the Von Braun Center Playhouse.

“We’re still going strong after 19 years, bringing hit songwriters to the stage from around the states,” Parker said. “We tell the stories behind our songs that have earned National Chart recognition, Grammies and Gold and Platinum records.” Plus, the series introduces up-and-coming local songwriters.

Jim Parker’s Songwriters Showcase plans seven more shows in 2024.

Composing in 2017, “Billy Droze released our bluegrass hit (written by Billy, Ronnie Bowman and me) called ‘Better With Time.’ It was on the bluegrass charts for eight weeks at No. 1 and gets airplay around the world today,” Parker said.

Also on the “To Whom It May Concern” album, “Home in Hell” released at that same time. Droze and Parker wrote that song.

Parker penned “Back to the Country” in 1969 for release on the mini-series “D.B. Cooper, Where Are You?” The song also had a release in 2022. A live performance of the song is available on YouTube, performed by Baby and videotaped on “The Real Don Steele Show” in Los Angeles in the 1970s.

In addition, “Back to the Country” was licensed on ABC, The CW, TNT Network, ITV Canada, Hallmark and AMC networks.

In January 2022, Billy Droze and John Anderson re-released the classic country song “Chicken Truck” on RBR Entertainment Records; Parker and Anderson wrote the song. In 1981, Anderson originally released “Chicken Truck” as his second single, which reached No. 8 on national country charts.

“I met Mark O’Connor in the early 1980s when he permanently moved to Nashville. I’d been there since 1975 and was established as a songwriter,” Parker said. “Mark had already proven his skill level in the music industry after playing (fiddle at) The Opry at 12 years old. He was 25 when we met and was only doing about four demo sessions a month.”

To supplement his income, Parker was working in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s mailroom, selling “All Food Tabs” (multi-level marketing) and playing guitar on the road with musicians Dave and Sugar. “Mark got involved in marketing to supplement his income, too, and had Jim Ed Norman (producer and arranger of The Eagles strings) purchase the product,” Parker said.

“Jim Ed heard Mark’s fiddle work and invited him to a Master Session on Michael Martin Murphy. Mark took off from there,” Parker said. Along with many Master Sessions and bookings as first-call fiddle, “Mark played on every 1980s country hit coming out of Nashville.”

O’Connor credits Parker for establishing him in Nashville, ironically due to their multi -level marketing.

Forwarding to 2023, Mark completed his autobiography, including a feature for Parker, and messaged Parker for a Nashville meeting. “I drove up the next day and met Mark’s wife Maggie and three couples he’d invited for the evening. Mark and Maggie, also a classically trained violinist, were singing together,” Parker said about first hearing Mark sing.

The O’Connors were writing their own song, so Parker asked if Mark needed “words.” “I went home and forwarded three sets of lyrics. They selected ‘Spice of Life,’” Parker said.

When the O’Connors sang “Spice of Life” at the Opry, Parker’s family visited them backstage. “Before their outstanding performance of ‘Spice of Life’ (our co-write), Mark gave us a shout-out, mentioning our hometown. Life is good!” Parker said.

Meanwhile, Jim Parker’s Songwriters Series has continued. “I’m inspired because I’m helping sustain my songwriter friends in the business. With the current pay scale of .003 per Spotify stream, it takes about 3.7 million streams to make $1,100,” he said.

The series “is mostly joyful but at times stressful. Booking compatible songwriters and coordinating everything over the past 19 years has had its moments,” Parker said.

Parker praised the VBC staff. “We make a good team. It was exceedingly difficult when COVID-19 closed our doors. We survived and plan to continue as long as it’s successful,” he said. Tickets are available at the VBC Box Office.

Parker’s plans include a new song that he’s co-writing with Grammy winner Gary Nichols and Davin McCoy. “I’ve partnered with Don Howard, an incredible artist, who’s illustrating my poems in a book” with completion by year-end.

Parker has worked as Associate Broker with Averbuch Realty, 11 years; RE/MAX, 23 years; Coldwell Banker, two years; and founded Parker Realty Group in Madison in 1985. “I’ve been in the real estate industry for 44 years, earned my Emeritus status and I’m still going strong,” he said.

Lysa, his wife of 45 years, co-authored (with Barbara Nicholson) “Attached at the Heart” and co-founded Attachment Parenting International. (attachmentparenting.org) Lysa teaches yoga online and home-schools granddaughter, Layla.

The Parkers’ sons live in Huntsville. Older son, Jesse, works for the Missile Defense Agency. Jamison owns a clothing business, Huntsville Fresh (Instagram @huntsvillefreshclothing, www.HuntsvilleFreshClothing.com) and works for Lyft and Uber; he has two children.

For more information about Jim Parker’s Songwriters Series, visit jimparkermusic.com or Averbuchrealty.com.