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 Walter Parks Photo Credit: Chris Brinlee
Walter Parks swamp – blues guitarist, form—
Veteran blues guitarist Walter Parks has built an international career as the lead guitarist for Woodstock legend Richie Havens, half of the folk-duo the Nudes, and leader of the southern swamp-blues group Swamp Cabbage. After  thirty years in the music industry, he marked his debut as a solo  artist with the release of his self-titled album in December 2011.

Inspired  by the swampy gospel blues that wails from storefront churches and  roadhouses in and around the southeast Georgia low country, Parks‘ album  is full of boot-stomping, guitar-strumming tunes that explore matters of the soul and spirit, built upon a foundation of jazz and folk.

“A  listen to Parks‘ soulful Americana rock is to be immersed in warm  guitar melodies, smoky vocals and troubadour narratives that gather  strength with age.” ‘ WNYC

In  addition to his recent solo effort, Parks remains the driving force  behind Swamp Cabbage, the group he formed in 2001 as a means of  exploring his southern musical influences. Parks, along with band mates  Matt Lindsey (bass) and Jagoda (drums), have released two CDs, Honk (2006 independent) and Squeal (2008 on ZOHO Roots).

Born  and raised in Jacksonville, Florida at a time when classical music was  offered in public schools, Parks began his music career studying the  viola in the sixth through eighth grades. After transitioning to the  guitar, in 1973 he formed his first group, The Parental Tears Band (an  ode to their parents’ shared dread that their offspring would pursue  music careers).

At  the insistence of his parents that he have a more stable career to fall  back on, he later moved to Athens, GA to study Business Management at  the University of Georgia. During summers off from school, he played  with a jazz trio called Cloudburst, influenced by John McLaughlin’s  Mahavishnu Orchestra and The Tony Williams Lifetime.

Parks  withdrew from business school in 1979, one year short of graduation,  but the time he spent there both inspired and solidified his decision to  pursue a career as a guitarist. ‘As a college student I had the  opportunity to play Duane Allman’s 1959 sunburst Gibson Les Paul, which  at the time was in possession of Dixie Dregs road manager Twiggs Lyndon.  I still feel the power and magic of that cherished guitar, which is now  on display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.’

In  the early 1980’s, Parks returned to his hometown, forming and performing  in bands, while opening a clothing store in Neptune Beach, Florida —  which required quarterly buying trips to New York. He became magnetized  by New York’s pace and serious music scene, aspiring to someday live  there and showcase his own material. Then, in 1989, with his electric  rock trio Dear John, he made the move to New York.

By  1991, he switched gears, forming an acoustic duo called The Nudes with  cellist Stephanie Winters. They enjoyed a successful career touring U.S.  colleges and folk festivals, and for a time, served as Richie Havens  support act.

Searching  for a new perspective, in 1999 Parks traveled to Plum Village, Tich Nat  Han’s Buddhist monastery in southwest France. Allowing himself time to  reboot and reflect, he reverently refers to the adventure as ‘the best  vacation I’ve ever taken. I was living amidst unparalleled beauty, in  complete tranquility, with plenty of time to listen to my life.’

With a renewed  appreciation for his own line of work, Parks returned to New York in  2000 and the following year was asked to join Richie Havens’ trio. ‘To  have accompanied Richie Havens from 2001-2011 and hear his wonderful  voice by his side on stages all over the world was incomparable honor,’  said Parks.
Concurrently —  because Havens performed mostly on the weekends — Parks formed Swamp  Cabbage in New York, with ample time during days off to develop their  sound and repertoire. ‘During our first eight years, I turned down many  festival offers because I gladly prioritized my work as Richie’s  sideman,’ said Parks. ‘Whereas, Swamp Cabbage is only now just beginning  to tour extensively, and I’m proud to say that we used the first ten  years wisely and meticulously crafted two fine analog recordings’Honk and Squeal.”

Weaving  a range of influences — from folk to blues to rock — Parks‘ various  music projects express both his diverse background as a musician and  balance distinct parts of his personality. “I’m as comfortable with  rural culture as I am with so called ‘high society.’ I enjoy doing  construction, chatting with locals and driving my Ford F-150 through the  Georgia back woods, but I also frequent New York art museums,’ he said.

The  underlying theme in all of Parks‘ work is his dedication to the songs  and to the instruments he plays; something that’s palpable in every  track on Walter Parks. Recorded  at Kaleidoscope Sound — a former sewing factory turned recording  studio in New Jersey — by Salvatore Mormando (Richie Havens, Patti  Smith), and mixed by James DeVito (JJ Grey/MOFRO, Donovan Frankenreiter)  at Retrophonics in St. Augustine, FL, Walter Parks is  an exquisite Americana soundtrack that explores the frontier of the  modern human spirit in search of a place where it can flourish.

Parks is currently touring in support of his release with Swamp Cabbage. His acclaimed debut solo record is now available