web analytics

Dick Parker

Big Little Show Band (Del Shannon’s band) (Drums) (RIP 10-11-2016) Everyone called him “Parker”

Dick Parker

Part of Del Shannon’s Full Length Biography (aka Charles Westover, Charlie Johnson):

When his army service ended, Charles returned to Michigan with his wife Shirley, settling down in Battle Creek, a town best known for its production of cereals, including Kellogg’s and Post. Westover worked at Brunswick Furniture hammering feet onto chairs as a production line worker. It bored the hell out of him. He soon graduated to lift truck driver but that bored him too. In 1958, he found a job by day selling carpets, working at the Carpet Outlet for a man named Peter Vice. By night, he found a part-time job moonlighting at a dumpy bar called the Hi-Lo Club. He was hired as a guitar player by then front-man Doug DeMott, who had organized a group called the Moonlight Ramblers. DeMott was a heavy drinker who had managed to release two failing singles, I’m Stepping Out Tonight b/w My Lonely Prayer in 1958 for Excellent Records (45rpm #805), followed by Fingers On Fire b/w Upside Down Boogie.

The Moonlight Ramblers consisted of DeMott as lead singer and lead guitarist, Charles Westover as rhythm guitarist, and Loren Dugger as bass player. DeMott was a good mentor for young Westover. He gave him the chance to sing a few songs on stage, play lead, and encouraged him to write songs. DeMott was soon fired by the Hi-Lo Club’s manager, Larry Gilbert, who hired Westover as the new front man of the club band. Westover gave himself the stage name Charlie Johnson and dubbed the new band the Big Little Show Band.

Westover made many friends as a guitarist and drinker at the Hi-Lo Club.  Wes Kilbourne was a club regular and also worked with Westover at Brunswick.  He played guitar also but wasn’t part of the band.  He was part of the crowd however, and they would sing, play, and drink into the wee hours.  Charlie Marsh, Battle Creek disc jockey extraordinaire, attended nights at the Hi-Lo frequently looking for talent.  Marsh became Westover’s first manager.  “I’m forgotten in the Del Shannon history,” says Marsh, “basically because I never did anything for him.  I shopped demo tapes for him just like Ollie (McLaughlin) did, but Ollie was the one that got him the recording contract.”

Charlie Johnson and the Big Little Show Band began in late 1958. He kept Loren Dugger on bass, and hired two more players: Dick Pace on guitar, and Dick Parker on drums. Parker, then just eighteen, was a referral. Pace didn’t stick around long enough; with a large family to support, he left for California to work at Knott’s Berry Farm. Westover was in need of another guitarist, and hired Bob Popenhagen, a local guitarist who could also play left handed and play organ well. Popenhagen was a great addition to the band. He was well liked and in early 1959 he left to front a band at another Battle Creek bar, the El Grotto. This put Westover in need of another player. Drummer Dick Parker suggested that Westover call a man he knew who played accordion and piano. Westover declined. He wanted a guitar player. Parker pushed Westover to at least audition this organist, who had a little organ that made “other worldly sounds.” Enter Max Crook from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who attended college in Kalamazoo. Parker and Crook had met each other at a Battle of the Bands contest at Kalamazoo Armory. Crook arrived one night at the Hi-Lo Club to audition for the part of organist.  He brought a little three-legged synthesizer he dubbed the ‘Musitron.’ Crook and his Musitron blew Westover away. He couldn’t believe the sounds he heard coming out of this little black box machine. “Man, you are hired!” Westover exclaimed.

Dick worked 3rd shift in ITS (Computer Dept.) at Meijer’s for over 40 years.

Dick Parker on right at work at Meijer’s

Richard L. Parker Obituary: http://www.legacy.com/guestbooks/grandrapids/richard-l-parker-condolences/181946438?

Comments are closed.