About Duane Parks
About Duane Parks' Beginning
Duane was born in Lubbock TX, June 14th 1956. He was at the time the first and only child of Jack and Ann Parks. Jack was in the Air Force, which is why they were in Lubbock, both Jack and Ann were from Knoxville TN. They finally moved back to Knoxville a year or so later. Knoxville is where all their family lived, and having family close was a great help. Duane was already showing signs of a showman once he started walking. He loved to be funny and be entertaining. But he also loved music at an early age, Mom loved classical music and loved playing it on the piano. Dad loved playing the ukulele, and in those times, that was a more common way of self-entertainment. So, Duane come by it naturally.
It wasn’t long after they moved back to Knoxville, Duane started to love the piano. By the time he was 4 years old, the Beatles came into the scene. Duane loved their music and stayed glued to it all the time. In 1961, Alvin and the Chipmunks came out on television. The hip style and of course the unique singing was a great thrill to Duane. Both of these phenomena became a strong influence to Duane’s talents.He got his silly showmanship qualities from Alvin and the Chipmunks and learned to sing from the Beatles. Of course, the Beatles were not always serious, so that stoked Duane into the persona as well. Duane would run around making what we called the “Habby Voice.” He could mimic the chipmunks to a degree and used that silly voice up till he died.
It was in Duane’s blood to perform, I think it was before he was even a teen, him and a few friends formed a band named, “The Boothill Express.” That was in Nashville another lifetime ago. I know Larry Park and Gene Miller were in the band, but I am thing there was Ron Withers and possibly Mike Dodson as well.
Later on, Duane and our cousins Larry and Steve Collins formed their own band called Parcol. The managed to get a radio and TV spot. I always thought and still do, think that their music was great. It was fun and no way to be depressed listening to it. A little later, their friend Rass Treadway joined the group and they changed their names to, “The Merceys.” As the Merceys, they traveled around parts of the US in a big white step van, playing their gigs. The Merceys took place around in the mid 70’s.
The 70's and 80's
Duane’s will to play started in Nashville and kept going through the move back to Knoxville. After the Merceys Duane was with many other bands, too many to keep up with. In fact I do remember him being with two bands at the same time at one point. I think his next band was Flight, it was a local Knoxville band. So, from the end of the 70’s into the 80’s, Duane played with Flight, Lynxx and the Tyrant’s.
In one of his groups he met a girl named Dawn Skiles. She was from California, her father was part of a popular act, Skiles and Henderson. Dawn lived with us for a while and then Duane and Dawn went to California in hopes her dad’s Hollywood connections could put Duane on the map. Duane started working at Disneyland. There he shared billings with Shalamar, Peaches and Herb, Cool and the Gang, and Paul Revere and the Raiders.
Unfortunately, the Hollywood map just didn’t pan out. Duane came back to Knoxville and joined a new Band called the Fanatiks. Duane and Fred Weisgarber, along with Gregg Huffman and one other became a really popular local band in Knoxville. The Fanatiks fronted Survivor and The Guess Who. They also recorded tracks with Waylon Jennings and Jennifer Colter, Jessie Colter’s daughter.
Into the 90's to the End
Starting at the beginning of the 90’s, Duane joined up with Randy Parton’s band at Dollywood. He really enjoyed playing Randy and the Dollywood atmosphere. Playing at Dollywood lead Duane into recoding tracks with Lee Greenwood. Later on, Duane played with more local bands such as Jacqui & The Tumblekings, Hip-Twangers and the Invisible Mind Circus. It was at these last three bands he built a great friendship with Rick Vance. Rick put together the local band, “Kitty Wampus.” Duane was with them for 12 years until he passed.
Many people in Knoxville TN, love Kitty Wampus. They have backed up some big names in their time. Clifford Curry, Jimmy Gilmer, Buzz Casen, The Box Tops, Gary Talley and Billy Swan. Duane passed away April 2nd 2018, cause was COPD. He smoked for over 48 years, how he could still perform and sing like he did towards the end is a mystery. He is missed by family and friends deeply.