Vol. 1, Issue #22 Nov. 24th - Dec. 7th, 2006

Tiger Beat From Hell
By: Wilhelm Murg

The Red Hot Rockabilly Sound of Brian Parton

I first encountered Brian Parton when he and his band at the time, The Nashville Rebels, appeared on a short lived local TV program broadcast out of Tulsa in the mid-1990s, “The Sam Jones Show.” The show was a noble, yet failed, left-wing attempt to create an antidote to the then popular “Rush Limbaugh Show.” Of course, it’s now obvious why the show failed; whatever Sam was on wasn’t nearly as powerful as the pills Rush was popping. I remember being stunned that there was a rockabilly band in Tulsa, no less, with so much talent to burn. I thought, “I’d like to meet those guys.”

I later got to know Brian and the band during that first blast of Tulsa’s Brady District boom in the early days of the 21st century. Every weekend was a non-stop party of custom cars, cowboy hats, hot women, and usually Brian and the Rebels packing one of the clubs and playing what seemed like the entire catalogue of Johnny Burnette & the Rock’n’Roll trio, as the ghost of Bob Wills stood in the corner and tapped his foot in approval. The sheer stamina of playing rockabilly for five hours straight – and keep in mind, when we’re talking about three minute songs, so that came to seventy or eighty song a night – was amazing. Sometimes I ended up going home before the final set was over due to pure exhaustion, and that was just from listening to them.

The Rebels were something of a glitch in the matrix at the time. While other bands were going for a strict, 1958, orthodox style of rockabilly, The Rebels worshiped the early-seventies style of Jerry Lee Lewis, the sound The Killer came up with after he had a chance to catch his breath and perfected his classic style. In talking to them it became obvious they had the history of rock’n’roll in their fingertips and despite their “ah shucks” attitude, they had totally deconstructed a fifty-year-old art form into something fresh and intricate.

Brain has gone solo since then. He occasionally works with a trio, but he’s perfected his own style of solo guitar playing to the point that a band is hardly missed. He released a solo album last year, “Unbridled,” which is a brilliant, unplugged mix of fan favorites and new songs. He’s currently putting the final touches a new solo album, “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning Blues” which will be released this December.

Brian’s major influence was his father, who was a country picker from Tennessee. Brian took up the guitar and learned everything he could about classic country music, but his life took a change of direction when he went to buy a record and, because the store was out of whatever he was looking for, he ended up with a copy of The Rolling Stones’ first album, “England’s Newest Hitmakers.”

“Man, that record got some spin!” Brain said in an interview for NONzine. “My dad loved it! My sister would crank it and it rubbed you just the right way! And then you flip it over and all their pictures were on the backside! And they looked like the bad guys on ‘The Avengers!’ And there’s Jagger, which is like ‘dagger’ mixed with ‘jagged,’ and his voice is like that, and the harp playing, whether it was him or Brian Jones, the way they’re doin’ it was like jagged and dangerous. He had those giant lips and that attitude like he didn’t give a fuck. I knew this was something very wrong, but I had to know more. At the same time we had The Beatles’ cartoon going on and we were totally digging that, but we never saw any of them on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’ Ed Sullivan was a total cornball in our house, my parents never got that shit at all.”

While being under the dark musical spell of The Stones, Brian was still watching all the country music shows that played on Saturday Afternoons and was taken by the legendary Wanda Jackson, who was in her country phase, but she still tended to kicked it up a notch. “She would give her hips a shake and then kind of look embarrassed, but man!” The die was cast.

“We didn’t start seeing The Rolling Stones until they got busted in 1967; it came as no surprise that the first fatality in a wild, psychedelic rock band would be in the Rolling Stones,” Brian said. “My father thought The Monkees were just a lot of adolescent B.S. but he liked good music, and guys like him didn’t mind telling you that The Beatles or The Stone were good.”

The turn from country music to rock started in the mid-seventies for Brian, when Elvis released “Moody Blue” and then his most underrated single, “Way Down.”

“I had a job at the back of the Broken Arrow Ledger, in the print shop. That was when I got to hang out with dudes who listened to KMOD (Tulsa’s classic rock station). The radio stations were playing things like ZZ Top’s ‘La Grange’ and ‘Tush.’ There were a lot of good pop and country songs at that time, it was a great time to listen to popular music, Steve Miller, Eric Clapton, Heart, and Bob Seger. But what really did it for me was, like a lot of people got it from seeing The Beatles on ‘Ed Sullivan,’ for me it was from seeing The Sex Pistols on ‘The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.’ That’s when I went completely overboard into rock’n’roll and there was no lookin’ back. It was like ‘Dad, I’m goin’ be out of your house in a year anyway, man, and I just can’t say no and play the game this time.’ He didn’t bad mouth them, so he must have thought they were pretty good.”

Brian gigged around Tulsa as a hired gun, even backing a professional wrestler at a strip joint in Tulsa’s notorious Sin City center, but regardless of how hard the music rocked, he always got a little of the Don Rich (Of Buck Owens’ Buckaroos) big guitar sound into the mix.

After all the years it’s like Brian has come back home with his new CD, with just the guitar playing all the parts in a beautifully crafted mixture of rock, country, and rockabilly that blurs the lines between the genres. He’ll be going out of state for the first part of December, but he will be playing in Norman on January 20th at Pepe Delgado’s. To keep up with Brian visit his MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/brianparton1.

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©2006 NONCO Media, L.L.C.