I was asked to write about how patience and perseverance paid off as a songwriter to achieve my first #1, “Better with Time”, with a young performing songwriter, Billy Droze. As all overnight success stories begin, mine began in 1961. Don’t worry, I’ll fast forward through most of the fifty six years I’ve been honing my craft. There are many twists, turns, cliffs and curves in my intriguing adventure of a lifetime so please take the time to read the full story. It’s about patience and perseverance.
1963: In my home town of Amarillo, TX. my first group, The Illusions, got a record deal with Dot Records and had moderate regional success with two of my songs. I had written a few songs and was surprised how easy it was to get a record deal. Beginner’s luck!
1966: The Illusions changed their name and moved to LA where we signed with Lee Hazelwood’s label, LHI. Our album, “Everything But The Kitchen Cinq”, had regional success on the East Cost. I thought we were on our way to the “Big Time”. Wrong once again! We broke up and I joined two more bands, Armageddon and Them (post Van Morrison) from 1968-1971 and struck out two more times. I was the writer and or co-writer of a large majority of the songs. I started thinking it wasn’t as easy as I thought and I was questioning my songwriting talents.
1972: I became insecure when we had so little to brag about and frustrated with the whole band scene. I decided to move to Northern California where it was more solo performing songwriter friendly, folk clubs and listening rooms. When I saw John Prine with an acoustic guitar singing “Daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County down by the green river where Paradise lays” and “Sam Stone” I knew I was home. I discovered some things about me when I focused on making a living as solo, performing, Songwriter. 1.) I didn’t like living in poverty like I was with multiple member bands and all of the multiple personalities you have to deal with on a daily basis. (I’m better at dealing with my own multiple personalities) 2.) I was happy and challenged to figure out all of the parts of my songs. Not just the chords, harmony parts, parts of the lyrics and small lead parts. 3.) I was terribly green but relied on my own skills and talents to succeed or fail and not because my band member was in jail, cussed the manager, fought on the break or missed the audition or gigs. Sound familiar?
1973: I got a break opening for a Rock ‘n Roll group out of Texas called “Baby” who was working the Midwest opening for REO, Aerosmith, Black Oak, Exile and many more. We were playing for thousands of people and I was writing with one of the members that led to a Rock n Roll cut on a nationally distributed album. The song is called “LA Lady” on “Where Did All The Money Go” but no awards.
1975: The baby tour was over so I moved to Nashville where songwriting is King and my ultimate challenge and dream! I was working at the Country Music Association for the late, great Jo Walker Meador as the mail room guy when my barber introduced me to John Anderson. Immediate chemistry was evident so we wrote and fished for several years building out catalogue and songwriting chops. We also worked together at Danny’s Market making hotdogs and change. It has changed names since then but it’s still there. We had our first Top 20 in 1978 while there called “I’ve Got A Feelin”, co-written with the great Michael Garvin. We topped that with our first Top 10 at #8 with the classic “Chicken Truck” in 1981 co-written with the late Monroe Fields. I’ve had many album cuts by John since then when it paid to have an album cut.
1979 - 1984: I received my Real Estate license just in case my career went south because I had family now. It was a good match. I began showing musical folks houses and one of my first transactions was a big one. It bought a zero lot line house in Percy Priest and an 83 Volvo. I’m still selling to keep myself in strings and beautiful instruments. In 1980 I went on the road with “Dave and Sugar” playing all over the country and at the famous Billy Bob’s twice. It was pinnacle of a country performers dream at the time. Dave decided to go Sugarless around that time and reorganized the band so I went south with my Real Estate license to Madison, Alabama.
1985: Songwriting had to take a back seat to survival after relocation and starting my own business, “Parker Realty Group”. It consumed me and I didn’t write for a miserable two years. That’s when I knew I had this terminal genetic disorder call creativity. I found myself with tears in my eyes standing in front of my beautiful wife telling her I had to restart my songwriting career. She tried to soften the blow of potential failure by saying; “If it doesn’t happen the way you want it to don’t be disappointed”. I was confident and said. “I know how to do it. I’ve done it before and I can do it again”.
I started songwriter open mics and a Network Workshop I facilitated for over 18 years. During that time I passed the baton to friends to run the open mics and workshop while I moved into Pro Songwriters in the round at various restaurants every Thursday for years building my network of pros from Muscle Shoals, Nashville, Canada and LA. Some invited me to co-write and that continues today.
2001: I was playing the Bluebird where Steve Maples, COO of The Von Braun Center Huntsville, invited me to bring “Jim Parker’s Songwriters Series” to the VBC City facilities after my performance. It’s a 300 seat theater fully equipped for my show. It’s been successful venture for 13 years and allowed me to sit with hundreds of #1 Hit Writers, Hall of Famers and Grammy winners. Life is so good! Sit was 2001 when Billy Droze was only 14 when his sister, Linda and fellow Realtor, ask me if I’d be interested in writing with him. She was driving him to Nashville on the weekends and she was aware of my work. I passed up the opportunity then but fast forward to 2011.
2011-2017: Billy Droze personally called me to co-write and we have been writing ever since. He’s been in the music business for 16 years and is 30 years old. We wrote “Better With Time” in less than two hours because he was mixing his last song for his current album “To Whom It May Concern”. Billy’s co-producer, Ronnie Bowman a Bluegrass Legend, heard “Better With Time”, tweaked it and it was added to the project the next day! Another song Billy and I wrote, “Home In Hell”, was bumped as the single. It’s another first for me. I’ve never bumped myself in favor of myself for a single. As of this writing we’ve been on the Bluegrass Today charts 4 weeks at #1 with a current video being viewed on several sites to include YouTube. Google it!
“Chicken Truck” was #8 in 1981. My math tells me it took 36 years since I’ve had a significant chart position. I’ve always had my goal set for a #1 from the time John and I came so close. I finally made it with a Bluegrass cut! Who could have predicted this old rocker, country writer, folk singer would find the diamond in Bluegrass. Although, 53 years of believing in yourself, taking chances, honing your craft, consistent live solo performances and jumping off cliffs can eventually teach you to fly like and eagle.
This blog post was contributed by songwriter and NSAI Member, Jim Parker.
This blog post was contributed by songwriter and NSAI Member, Jim Parker.