STEPHENVILLE (January 3, 2016) – Inside a small music store called Fiddlesticks on the South Loop, works one of Stephenville’s hidden musical talents.
Carroll Parham has met and worked with some of the most famous country music artists of the 20th Century throughout his career, which began with his love of music growing up near Chalk Mountain.
“Some of my first memories of life were my mom taking me and my brother’s hands and putting them on the piano,” Parham said. “Mom and Dad were always singing. They’d take us to old Gospel singings. In church, Mother played the piano and Dad led the singing on and off for years.”
After moving to Stephenville, Parham learned to play some on his family’s guitar from his fifth grade music teacher. He really began learning to play when he received his first guitar for Christmas as a teenager. Parham remembers specifically learning the E chord from Johnny Cash one summer near Lubbock.
“My mother had a brother that lived [near Lubbock], and they let me go out there and help him farm one year,” Parham said. “Johnny Cash came to play. [My uncle] let me off to go down [to Texas Tech] Saturday afternoon. [At the concert] Johnny made an E chord. He came off the stage to take a break and I said, ‘What was that chord?’ He said, ‘That was an E chord.’ I said, ‘When you go back up there and do that again turn toward me where I can see that E chord.’ That’s how I learned my E chord.”
Later on, Parham became interested in playing the steel guitar. He drove up to Nashville, Tennessee, to meet with Harold “Shot” Jackson, who built the instruments. That was the day Parham met the “King of Country Music,” Roy Acuff.
“I said, ‘I’m looking for Shot Jackson,'” Parham said. “They started showing me around. In a little bit, somebody was going to do a new song and behind us there was a Dobro and a guitar. Roy Acuff said, ‘You play?’ I said, ‘I play guitar a little bit.’ They went and got me a guitar, and we sat on the floor and jammed there. I thought, a dumb kid from Texas walks up here with all these country music stars – the biggest there were on the Grand Old Opry every Saturday night – and I sat down amongst them and played.”
When Parham was getting ready to leave, Acuff asked him if he had ever been to the Grand Ole Opry, which was Parham’s childhood dream. After responding he had not, Acuff invited Parham to meet them at the back entrance that night and carry Acuff’s fiddle so Parham could come in with them.
“You think I wasn’t there?” Parham said. “I was there. Bill Anderson came in. All the big stars came in. Bill Monroe. They all came in with their instruments before the Opry started. I got to stay backstage that whole night and they introduced me to all these people. Got to sit in the dressing rooms, listen to them play and I thought, ‘How much better can this thing get?’ To me it meant everything. Of course, that only added fuel to the fire. I wanted to play [the steel guitar] so bad.”
Parham received his first “big break” when he was hired as a steel guitar player for Joe Nichols. Parham was the first band member that Nichols hired; playing and traveling with him for seven years.
“All through that time I was doing a little booking myself with Leon Rausch, who worked with Bob Wills and a lot of other artists,” Parham said. “They would call and I would go out and play steel behind them through the years. That’s kind of how I got started.”
Throughout his career, Parham played for many different country artists, including Hank Thompson and Bob Wills. His favorite memory of playing was at the Louisiana Hayride cast reunion of 2003 – One More ‘Ride.’
“They brought back all of the living artists that got their start on the Louisiana Hayride before they went to the Grand Ole Opry,” Parham said. “They called me and wanted me to play staff steel guitar and Dobro. I enjoyed that. [The Louisiana Hayride] is where everything started. I got to meet a lot [of artists] that I’d never met before. That was neat and interesting.”
Besides playing, Parham produced music at the Cross Timbers Country Opry for over 30 years. He also hosted radio shows beginning in the nineties for KCOW in Hamilton and KEQX, which is now based in Dublin.
At KCOW, he ran his own show from 2-5 p.m. every day for several years. He also hosted the noon show, the night shows and the Sunday afternoon shows for KEQX. After KEQX relocated to Dublin, Parham hosted the Sunday morning Gospel show for several years, retiring in 2011.
“I did a lot of live interviews with a lot of your different artists,” Parham said.
These days Parham teaches bluegrass and old time music with Debbie Bridgewater at Fiddlesticks Music Shop, which is located in the building that his parents built in 1952. They teach how to play the fiddle, the banjo, the guitar, the mandolin, dobro, bass, dulcimer, piano, steel guitar and give voice lessons. They also sell these instruments.
“[Music] was always in the back of my mind,” Parham said. “That’s all I wanted to do was play. I had a good career of it.”