This week's interview is with Jim Parks of Jimbo-Delta. I've decided to mix it up a bit and go to the musical side of the art world.
I have known Jim for over 10 years and accompany him on bass guitar. Jim has played at the on several occasions and most recently at the Open Door Repertory Theater. Jim's style is heartfelt Americana roots music. I guess you would call it blues music but you always leave his performance feeling good. Jim is a consummate professional and will not compromise his musical integrity. This dude rocks!
Who are you? Where are you from?
I'm James Parks...known as Jim or Jimmy by my late Mom and Jimbo by a few over the years...born and raised in Quincy Illinois. Quincy is a Mississippi River town about 20 minutes from Hannibal Missouri and 100 miles northwest of St. Louis. I've been married to my wife Karen since 1978 and I'm the youngest of 2 brothers and one sister.
What brought you to Chicago?
I came to Chicago in 1997 to take a temporary job and to work on a music project with long time friend and drummer Greg Bigger. Bassist Ken Reif came on board this current project about 2001 and has been adding his expertise ever since.
Where did the name Jimbo Delta come from and give us some of its history.
When I came to Chicago, my intentions were not to do what I'm currently doing. I was playing more electric music at the time and circumstances where such that I had to totally re-evaluate what I wanted to do because the original project fell apart.
I had a sort of day dream where I could see the name Jimbo-Delta and it was basically my way of presenting Contemporary Delta Blues. There is also some past history that came into play with the name also. Almost 40 years ago I was playing in a band called Delta Slim.The guitars I use and some similarities in style draw from Delta Blues music.
Explain your style of music.
My style of music developed mostly out of necessity. I was playing solo a lot and liked a bigger sound. Resonator guitars gave a big sound and I just sort of evolved into playing my thumb and two fingers. After that became the normal way I played all the time...all the songs I wrote from that point forward were designed around that format.
Most of my music is rather simple...and without feeling added it really falls flat.
There's something rather magical about performing a song that really clicks. But having it click just right isn't always possible. I can play a song one night and it just sits there and another night it's flying high. It's one of those things tied to how you're feeling, what the instruments are sounding like and what your mood is.
So it really makes the music a thing that reflects the player in more ways than just the physical, technical part. Also, the minute you start writing your own music, you're breaking new ground and really I made a concentrated effort to not just do a bunch of 3-chord progression songs and extended guitar solos.
What drew you to the slide guitar?
Way back in about 1970 I heard Duane Allman and others playing slide guitar on albums. I liked how it sounded and tried to figure out how to do it.
Back then you couldn't buy a slide in a music store so I tried using copper pipe and a socket. I even broke the end of a bottle off like the old timers and tried using that, which was quite dangerous. My band mates used to hide my slide because I sounded so bad. But after many hours of practice they tolerated me.
What kind of guitars do you play?
My main performance guitars are National resonator guitars. One metal and one wooden body. The resonator guitar was developed back in the late 1920's to be a louder almost self-amplifying guitar. There is a metal resonator under the bridge that picks up the string vibrations and projects it back out the sound holes. I've added transducers to the bottom of the resonator so I can plug into an amplifier.
I used to use my old faithful 1930 Style O National but retired it a few years ago and replaced it with a new design called the National Resorocket. The wooden body guitar I play is a National Radiotone which is no longer made.
Do you have any musical influences?
I have many musical influences from listening to the Ink Spots with my Dad to the Allman Brothers to Ry Cooder to Johnny Winter to old blues masters like Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker to the Berlin Philharmonic. I love music that moves the emotions.
As a song writer what are your subjects?
The subjects of my songs are pretty much the same as most musicians...experiences of mine and others put into lyrics. It's about life and the ups and downs we all have. A man once said "being born is like walking into a movie that's half over. You didn't see the beginning and you probably won't see the end."
We all have questions, ideas, thoughts about this life and with good reason.
I've written songs when I went for a walk and by the time I got home I was working on a song. I was sitting in my Mom and Dad's living room playing when I noticed my Dad secretly watching and listening to me play. That song developed into Father's Song. My Mom once washed my mouth out with soap for saying something that would seem pretty mild today...I wrote a song called Keep It Shut. We've all been through tough times when we think we can't make it...so I wrote Hold On because sometimes all you can do is hold on. Goin' Down That Road is really me waking up in a panic, in the middle of the night with worrisome things on my mind but the final conclusion is everything will work out.
Some of my favorite songs to play are instrumentals...and they come to me in various ways. Sometimes it's just built around one line that I like then I can hear places it should go. I experiment until I find the arrangement I like and that's it.
I try to keep a recorder available to capture some line or lick since I don't write down the music. I've lost prospective songs because I didn't get it recorded and saved before I forgot it.
Did you have any formal musical training or are you self-taught?
I really don't have any formal training to speak of. When I was a young boy I took guitar lessons for a couple weeks, and that seemed like a couple years.
I took my Melbay beginners book and went home to teach myself. I play by ear and I know most basic chords and what they're called. I just don't write arrangements down in that way. They're in my head.
Back when I was a teen ager playing in a band I probably practised a minimum of 6 hours a day. I ate drank and slept the guitar. I had what Duane Allman called "The Fever." Learning by ear just amounts to listening and playing and listening and playing over and over again. But really being a technician is knowing the tools and how to use them. Then you have to forget that and play from your heart. All artists are technicians but not all technicians are artists.
Do you have any upcoming performances?
Right now I play two regular monthly jobs and whatever else comes along. I've been a resident at Reggies Music Joint and Rock Club for almost 3 years and I host an open mic at Bernice's Tavern.
Reggies Music Joint is at 2109 South State Street, Chicago and I either do a solo or duo with Ken Reif on the first Friday of each month.
Bernice's Tavern is located at 3238 South Halsted Street, Chicago and I host the open mic on the 3rd Thursday of each month.
Where can we find out more about Jimbo-Delta?
My website is jimbodelta.com and has my current schedule. You can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jimbo-Delta released the cd Hypnotized in 2001 and Beginnings Without Endings in 2008. Both are available from www.cdbaby.com/jimbodelta, at performances or contact via email.