Little Scene: R.I.P. Kelly Parker

Originally posted on Facebook 06/21/2010

I remember as if it were yesterday. New Years Eve 1994. Our friend Harlyn had made it back from Colorado just in time for the evening. We had watched the Toadies demolish the Bomb Factory like no-one’s business. Thanks to them, we all had green room perks and a place to hang out away from everyone else. The Reverend Horton Heat had taken the stage to the delight of the crowd, including my very inebriated friends, counted down the New Year, and 1995 was off with a bang. A couple of my inebriated friends were Fort Worth club owners, and had taken the rare night off, especially NYE in the nightclub business (their new venture, The Engine Room, would make its main opening the following weekend) to see The Rev, whom they hadn’t seen in quite some time. I realized this as a celebrating Kelly Parker decided to dry hump me from behind while smacking me in the back of the head. He found this most amusing.

Kelly Parker made quite an impression on the Fort Worth music scene during his tenure. From 1989 to 1998, his clubs, The Axis, Mad Hatter’s, The Engine Room and finally The Impala served as a backdrop of local and touring music for Fort Worth. When there was little other opportunities or alternatives in the Fort, Kelly was there with a room and a calendar. He gave the before mentioned Toadies their first ever gig at the Axis, 4/25/89, and they would go on to play each of his clubs. He brought in touring acts that might never have seen the light of day in Fort Worth, acts such as Fugazi, The Lemonheads, Tad, Nirvana, Boss Hog, Pussy Galore, D.O.A., Pennywise, NoMeansNo. Through his booking, he turned club regulars on to Neurosis, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Skankin’ Pickle, Five-Eight, Godplow, Geezer Lake, Hoover, June of ’44, and literally hundreds more.

Prior to his days as a “nightclub impresario”, Kelly played keyboards in League of None, a psychedelic punk band in the late 80’s with his brother, Michael Parker. While getting Mad Hatter’s up and running, he manned Last Wax, the first indie record store in FW I had ever gone to. This would later factor into my decision to open Slacker Kingdom right down the block from Mad Hatter’s. “it’s easy” he said.

Along with partner and girlfriend Melissa Kirkendall, they put Mad Hatter’s and The Engine Room on the map with their hospitality. Many a touring act spent the night free of charge in the other side of their duplex they shared behind Mad Hatters. Not only did Mad Hatter’s have great shows, but was also a vegetarian diner. There are many a day I still crave their Mexican pizza with the corn salsa and sour cream topping. And touring bands were treated to hot meals as well. Some bands started coming to town for a few days thanks to their hospitality, this is how we became such good friends with Minneapolis’ Godplow. The Engine Room, whereas it didn’t have the diner offering, made up for in size. I moved Slacker Kingdom and renamed it Record Lounge to the Engine Room building. Kelly taught me how to tape & bed the walls & ceiling, and we also put a new roof over my section too.

His final nightspot, The Impala, with its 2 rooms, smaller front and larger back nurtured a concept born at the Engine Room, but only much larger: The Fort Worth 500. These were quarterly shows done between both rooms with 10-12 acts per bill, an indoor mini-festival of sorts. Another concept he developed was a highly popular Goth/Industial night we fondly called Christine. Christine played host to many of the genres top acts, Christian Death, Switchblade Symphony, Mentallo & The Fixer, Lycia, Boyd Rice to name a few, while nurturing a scene with nowhere to go but The Church. Fort Worth finally had something to do on Wednesdays.

I spent a lot of time with Kelly from 1992-1997. I only went to the Axis once, but made sure to be a fixture at the rest of his clubs. I relied on Mad Hatter’s and Engine Room to bring customers to my record stores. I booked the Impala near the end of its run, only to leave over a dispute we had. I saw him only a couple of other times, the last time being at The Wreck Room for one of his favorite local acts, Slow Roosevelt in 1999. We chatted and joked around a bit, just like old times. It was nice. We traded a few messages over MySpace in the past few years, but never anything significant.

I got a huge kick seeing him on the DVD of Nirvana’s <i>With The Lights Out</i> box, walking up with what I believe was a bag of Esperanza’s burrito’s. Thanks to Kelly, most of what I have done in the past 18 years is largely due to him. The majority of the people I have met are because of him. In a way, I have always looked upon him as a mentor of sorts, as he taught me so much.

I would be lying if I said his passing this past Friday, 6/18 wasn’t hitting me harder than I thought. Memories have flooded back, all good, of the fun we had whether it was smoking roaches (chasing waterbugs outside Mad Hatter’s with lighters and an aerosol can), watching movies on his home made movie projector on the Mad Hatters/Impala walls, remembering the story of Jasun Lee’s 21st birthday, when Kelly, as bartender, exclaimed “You just turned 21??!!” after serving him for probably way too long, and yes, even getting humped from behind and having the back of my head slapped whilst The Rev ripped though their set. These are just 4 things I can think of in literally thousands of memories.

Kelly, Fort Worth owes you a great deal of thanks. And I do too.

So long my old friend. So long.

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~ by thesynaptic on August 8, 2010.

One Response to “Little Scene: R.I.P. Kelly Parker”

  1. […] the FW scene’s most important figures of the past, Axis/Mad Hatters/Engine Room/Impala co-owner Kelly Parker, who for the most part kept Fort Worth alive throughout 1989-1998, but his ripple effect lives on. […]

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