During his senior year of high school in Amarillo, Texas, in 1961, Jim Parker met his future.
Jerry Gilmer, who led the band Fireballs in that era, was trying to teach Parker’s sister how to play the theme from the television show “Peter Gunn” on the guitar. Gilmer gave her brother a guitar.
“I bought some Black Diamond strings and played until my fingers bled,’’ Parker said. “I haven’t stopped.’’
Songwriter enthusiasts will want to circle this Saturday, Dec. 21, on their holiday calendar.
Parker, one of Huntsville’s most influential musicians, will be celebrated at Hobbs Island Pit Stop on what owner Pat Nickel has dubbed “Jim Parker Day.’’ From noon until 4 p.m., other area musicians will pay tribute to Parker, who will also play and sing. Nickel, also a longtime figure on the local music scene, will also perform.
Nickel called the event a “meet and greet.’’
“Jim will play for at least an hour,’’ Nickel said. “His friends will play and I’ll likely play, too.’’
Parker was part of 1960s’ bands The Illusions and The Kitchen Cinq. He transitioned into country music and co-wrote songs recorded by John Anderson, including the award-winning “I’ve Got a Feeling’’ as well as “Chicken Truck.’’
He moved to Alabama in 1985 when his uncle, the late Charles Pierce, said he’d build a house for Parker and his wife of now 43 years, Lisa. Parker entered the real estate business but never left music behind.
“(Anderson) got real successful,’’ Parker said, “and I got into real estate.’’
The Pit Stop is an eclectic convenience store on Hobbs Island. In addition to assorted food, soft drink, beer, fishing tackle and the like, the store offers pool, darts, live music, music lessons and sells local art.
Parker, who will turn 77 Saturday, lives in Madison. He founded the Huntsville sub-chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association International and has hosted the dinner theater-style “Jim Parker’s Songwriters Series’’ at the Von Braun Center Playhouse for 15 years.
The Series’ first 2020 show will feature Ricky Ray, Alan Rhody, and Dark Waters Project on Jan. 10.
“He’s been an influence here, Nashville, Muscle Shoals and the area for a long time,’’ Nickel said. “I think we’ll have a big turnout. We hope to have a lot of influential musicians.’’
Local renowned artist Don Howard will be among the special guests.
Following the singer/songwriter event and as darkness closes in, there will be a bonfire and “drum circle’’ in the Pit Stop’s courtyard behind the store. The circle, a hands, drum and percussion jam session of sorts, will be led by another former 1960s local icon — Ivy Joe Milan of Ivy Joe and The Snowballs fame.
As for his birthday celebration at the Pit Stop, Parker said, “I always enjoy another year (on earth) moving around the sun.’’