Lee Roy Parnell
Lee Roy Parnell is among the elite few who can be identified as a triple threat: an ace guitarist as well as a distinctive singer and songwriter. Parnell has garnered the respect of fans and industry veterans alike with his soulful vocals and award-winning slide guitar playing. His music runs the gamut of diversity: blue-eyed soul, Delta-blues, road house rock, Southern boogie, Texas swing, and gospel, defying conventional classification. He draws from a broad range of music sources and combines them with seamless dexterity.
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Born December 21, 1956, in Abilene, Texas, and raised on a ranch near Stephenville, Texas, Lee Roy's exposure to music came early on, literally at the knee of "Uncle Bob" Wills. His father Roy grew up with Bob in west Texas and remained life long friends. Both traveled in their teens performing "Black face" in medicine shows. Bob would regale young Lee Roy with tunes, tales and records from his collection during the Parnells' frequent visits to Wills' home in nearby Fort Worth. In fact, Lee Roy's singing debut came at the age of six with Bob and the Texas Playboys on radio station KFJZ. By the age of 14, he was playing Texas dance halls and clubs with his own band. In his later teens he was a member of Kinky Friedman's Texas Jewboys. By then he'd become a dedicated student of a number of musical styles. Western swing was almost a birthright, but Lee Roy also immersed himself in the history of other styles, most notably blues and country.
"Blues touched me from the first moment I heard it. It overshadowed everything else somehow. Then I heard the Allman Brothers, and I couldn't believe it. Here were six guys from the South infusing jazz, country and blues, all the same elements I'd grown up with, but they were playing it in a rock and roll way."
By the time Lee Roy moved to Austin in 1974, his vocal, instrumental, and compositional styles were well formed. He spent time playing with Texas legends Joe Ely, Delbert McClinton and Stevie Ray Vaughn and also worked the clubs in Austin, Houston and Dallas with his own band developing a sound that was unequivocally his own. Wanting to expand his musical horizons, Lee Roy packed up and moved to Nashville in 1987 on the recommendations of cousin Robert Earl Keen and friend Lyle Lovett.
Within six months of his arrival in Nashville, Lee Roy had a publishing contract with Polygram and was a regular artist at the Bluebird Cafe. In 1989, he became the second artist to sign with Clive Davis' Arista Records' new Nashville division. His eleven years with Arista resulted in six albums, garnering eleven top ten single, with four making it to number one.
Parnell was awarded the Orville H. Gibson Award for best Country Male Guitarist in 1998. He has had two Grammy nominations, three CMA award nominations, earned two BMI millionaire songwriting awards, and received the Star of Texas award for preservation of Texas music.
In 1998, Lee Roy participated in the monumental event "Music Bridges Over Troubled Waters" in Havana, Cuba. He joined performers Bonnie Raitt, Lisa Loeb, Gladys Knight, Burt Bacharach, Joan Osborne, Mick Fleetwood and others for an incredible nine day long songwriters' summit and concert.
In addition to his own recording career, Parnell has lent his distinctive slide guitar to records by Trisha Yearwood, Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Delbert McClinton, Bob Seger and CoCo Montoya among others. Today, Lee Roy's music is rooted in the works of many past masters, but he has one foot anchored firmly in the here-and-now and the other itching to step ahead. A constant flood of newly written songs keeps his eyes on the horizon. "I'm grateful for what I've accomplished, but I'm ready to move ahead. I have a fire inside me that drives me to do better. So now with no chains to bind me and no fences to hold me back, I'm able to musically go wherever my heart tells me. The best is yet to come."
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