Fans and friends of Mike Parks will be gathering to see Willie Phoenix at the A&R Bar Friday, February 2nd. It's a post CBJ show. Details here.
League Bowlers guitarist Mike Parks succumbed to cancer on Sunday, January 7th. I really don't know how old he was and I guess it doesn't matter anyway. Mike was a gentleman and an artist and it was truly an honor to stand next to him onstage and get to listen to all that amazing guitar playing up close. Not that you needed to be close once Mike cranked up those two VOX twins, but you get the point. I'm going to turn it over to Ricki C. and Jim Johnson from here as they knew Mike longer and better than I did. - Colin G.
Jim Johnson - I guess it's time to post my thoughts. I lost one of my best friends yesterday. Mike Parks passed away peacefully yesterday, with his wife, Danya Linehan, and his cats by his side. Mike had a lot of cats. More than one household really needed, but Mike loved his cats. He had this thing, a sort of telepathy with cats. If you know anything about cats, you know cats don't trust anyone. Cats trusted Mike. They knew he was one of them, and they loved him as much as he loved his cats. It really was amazing to see.
I first met Mike, back in the "Sugar Shack" days. I think he was playing in Flasher, and I was playing in Lizzy Borden. I used to watch Mike play, and he would do this thing, with a violin bow and an echoplex. It was amazing. Every bit as good as Jimmy Page, but I didn't have to go to Madison Square Garden to see it. I could stand 5 feet away, at the Shack, and then walk home. Those were amazing days. I thought to myself, "I hope I get to play in a band with this guy someday." My wish came true. Mike and I played in three bands together. The Retreads, Willie Phoenix and the True Soul Rockers, and the League Bowlers. All cool bands, and it was a pleasure to share the stage with Mike. The Retreads used to play at Bernies, and we had a gig the day Mike's first child was born. We weren't sure if he would make it to the gig. After all, his kid was being born. Mike showed up 5 minutes before we were supposed to go on, dressed in full Operating Room scrubs, including surgeon's mask, and played the gig. I wish there were pictures. That's the Mike I remember. There are some tapes of the True Soul Rockers playing the High-Beck, floating around in cyberspace. The band was really at it's best in those days, and if you ever get to hear the tape, you'll hear Mike and Willie Phoenix, tearing it up. Those two together, man, it was magic. That's the Mike I remember.
After the TSR's broke up, Mike quit playing for a while. I used to call him, and he'd say, "Man, I'm retired. I'll do my sculpting. I got other stuff I can do." I said "we'll see." I went on to join the League Bowlers, and when we needed a guitar player, I suggested Mike. I said "Come down & jam, and if you hate it, you can go back to your sculpting." Long story short, Mike had a new rock & roll home. Colin Gawel had some cool songs, and we recorded them with Rick Kinsinger. Some Balls was born. Rick reminded me of a story about Mike not long ago. Mike was having a little trouble coming up with a lead for a song, so I told him, "Play it like Chuck Berry would, if he was in a surf band." Needless to say, Mike NAILED it. He had an amazing amount of Rock & Roll Knowledge. After all, he lived with the MC5 for a while. That's the Mike I remember. Some Balls Deluxe is finished, and Mike left some great guitar playing for us to remember him by. Colin said not long ago, "There are a lot of guitar players that are artists. Mike is an artist that plays guitar." There's a difference. The world lost a gifted human being yesterday. I'm lucky to have known him, to have him in my life, and I have some great memories. That's the Mike I remember. - Jim Johnson
Jim mentioned Bowlers producer and sometime stand-in Rick Kinsinger above, I thought his comments were worth sharing as well:
There are losses that make me sad, not just for the ones who knew and loved the departed, but also for the people who never knew them, because now they never will. Mike Parks is one of those. Whether you knew him or not, your world just got a little less cool, less colorful, less weird, and less kind. Rest In Peace, Mike. - Rick Kinsinger
Along those lines, as Mike was fighting his illness while trying to finish Some Balls Deluxe, Rick would literally take a small recording rig to Mike's bedside so he could record his parts. With the circumstances being what they were, Rick recorded EVERYTHING Mike laid down. The final song on Some Balls is one of those moments of Mike just messing around and having some fun. We thought it was the perfect way to wrap up the record and I think we will wrap this post the same way.