Who was/is Billy Parker ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
Billy Parker was born on July 19, 1937 in the small town of Tuskegee, Oklahoma. (Today the town does not even exist.) He had two older brothers and one older sister, and his father worked for the WPA highway program. When he was about four years old the family moved to Tulsa and his dad went to work for what they used to call the Douglas bomber plant, but is now known as McDonald Douglas Aircraft. His life was stable until his parents' divorce when he was fourteen, after which time he was more or less on his own. He was still a young teenager when he went to live temprorarily with his sister and her family in McAllister, Oklahoma, about 150 miles outside of Tulsa, and landed his first radio spot as the guitar player for a singer by the name of Carl Garnand. Their show was on every after-noon from 4:30-4:45. Billy had gotten the job by hanging around the radio station until he met Carl and "they just kind of got acquainted and started working together."
Carl Garnand did not continue in the music business, but that early association permanently sparked Billy Parker's interest in all aspects of Country Music and especially in the far-reaching field of radio communication. His first full-time job in radio was with Tulsa station KFMJ in 1959. This position provided him the opportunity to plug his own personal appearances at clubs, ballrooms, and events while on the air, therefore spreading his reputation rapidly throughout eastern Ok-lahoma. TV appearances on a local Tulsa show, the 'Big Red Jamboree,' in the mid-'50s, plus a four month tour with Red Foley and Bill Wemberley and the Country Rhythm Boys in '57 helped polish his performing style and also broadened his exposure out into the Mid- and Southwest. In 1959, Parker recorded Thanks A Lot (on the Cimarron label), a song written by Eddie Miller and Don Sessions, at Oral Roberts' studio in Tulsa. It was a big song for Billy and was played all across the nation on both the 'Country' and 'Pop' radio stations, a phenomenon referred to at the time as 'C & W (Country & Western) breaking pop.'
After the song was covered by Ernest Tubb in the country field and Brenda Lee in the pop field (both produced by Owen Bradley of Decca Records), Parker's version sort of faded away. "Nevertheless," he recalls, "the song has still been very good for me because it really put me in touch with Ernest Tubb." Whenever Tubb and his Texas Troubadours were passing through Tulsa, Billy Parker took advantage of the opportunity to visit and talk with them. In early 1968, when Troubadour Cal Smith decided to leave the band to pursue a solo career and was given the task of finding his own replacement, he called Parker and asked if he'd like to become a Texas Troubadour. Billy and his wife talked it over and decided that if they were ever going to make the move to Nashville, this was the time to do it. "I'll never forget the first time I worked the Grand Ole Opty with E. T. and the Ernest Tubb Record Shop afterwards," Parker reminisces.
"We left right after that show on our first trip - to Eau Claire, Wisconsin - and I was nervous all the way there. I had second thoughts on that long bus trip - I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, what have I gotten into just for the sake of being in the business/ Here my wife is with a new baby at home and here I am hitting the road.' And when you hit the road with Ernest, you just didn't go out one or two days and run on back home. I've been gone as high as thirty-six days and come home for two and gone twelve more -this type of thing. It was more than I had bargained for I thought, but I sure wouldn't take a million dollars now for what I learned from those years working with Ernest Tubb...