“Walter Parks is an extraordinary singer whose songs can break your heart as well as get you dancing. Lyrical and political, personal and otherworldly at the same time, transcendent as well as down to earth, Walter is a musical treasure, an artist of the highest caliber. To hear him is to be lifted into a mystical sphere. I adore him.” – Judy Collins
“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
Born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida at a time when classical music was offered in public schools, Parks studied the Viola in the sixth grade. Succumbing to his parent’s advice that he lay the foundation for a more stable career, Parks enrolled in business school at the University of Georgia in Athens. Parks recalls “Unfortunately the fall-back strategy ultimately backfired as I became disillusioned with the mentality of making important decisions only in allegiance to the bottom line. I withdrew one year short of graduation. The best thing about college was serving in the Student Union organization that promoted big concerts. Our budget was astronomical, our allegiance was to quality and most shows made money. I was fascinated by concert booking and production and I stayed beyond the end of every show to help the roadies. I learned that great reward could follow extra effort. After a Dixie Dregs show I was given the opportunity to play Duane Allman’s 1959 Sunburst Gibson Les Paul, which at the time was in possession of The 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 1991, Parks formed an acoustic duo called The Nudes in New York City with cellist Stephanie Winters. The Nudes recorded three albums and enjoyed a successful career touring U.S. colleges and folk festivals, serving occasionally as Richie Havens’ opening act. When The Nudes stopped touring in 1998, road-weary and in search of a new perspective, Parks spent a summer at Plum Village, Tich Nat Han’s Buddhist monastery in France. “I told no one that I was a musician in order to find out what was left of me, without the guitar as my identity.”
In 2000 Parks returned to New York with a re-ignited urge to perform and he was asked to join Richie Havens’ trio. “Accompanying Richie from 2001-2011 and hearing his wonderful voice at his side on stages all over the world was an incomparable honor. The grandest shows were at Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, The Cannes Film Festival in France and the WOMAD fests in New Zealand/Australia.”
Walter gradually began to embrace the swampy North Florida roots that he had obscured when he first came to New York. Fondly recalling his Boy Scout camping days in Southeast Georgia’s Okefinokee Swamp, Walter wondered if music had ever been made by the “cracker folk” who homesteaded there. In Library of Congress Archives, Walter found a small trove of hollers, reels, shaped-note singing, hymns that had been recorded in the early 1940’s, that he began to re-arrange.
Swamp By Chandelier, Walter’s current solo show, is an entertaining and historical presentation of such European and Appalachian rooted music as well as the slave spirituals, work songs and hymns that were sung in the Southeast Georgia area during our country’s transition from The Civil War to
industrialization. In the show Walter also performs originals and a few Richie Havens classics.
With his wife Margo, Walter resides in Jersey City, where the couple promotes The Vault Allure Concert Series that presents artists from all over the world.