By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – As a child of the 1970s, Rudy Parris remembers tuning his TV to TNN to watch reruns of one of his favorite shows Hee Haw. The rural-based variety show offered laughs, good looking women, and, more importantly for Parris, quality country music the Visalia native could relate to. The co-host of the show was Buck Owens, the founding father of the “Bakersfield sound” of country music, and his band of Buckaroos.
“Those guys were my heroes,” the 53-year-old singer-songwriter said of the Buckaroos, widely considered the best country music band of all time. “I would dream of playing with them on television.”
Parris’ musical career did land him on national TV when he appeared on Season 3 of NBC’s “The Voice.” But next month, the other half of his dream will come true when Parris will take over as frontman for the Buckaroos in the house that Buck built – Owens’ Crystal Palace in Bakersfield. Owens was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996 and was ranked No. 12 in CMT’s 40 greatest men of country music in 2003. The Buckaroos ranked No. 2 in CMT’s 20 greatest bands in 2005.
“He wanted to play his kind of music and do it right here in the Valley,” Parris said. “Everyone’s moving to L.A. or Nashville, but what he did is a testament to the Valley guys who stayed here. I want to do that. Do my thing, and if you like it, that’s wonderful. But I’m not going to move somewhere and try to be someone else.”
Parris said he got the call from the Buckaroos a month ago to take over for Monty Byrom, whose collaborations include Eddie Money, The Stray Cats, David Lee Roth, George Thorogood, and Barbara Streisand. Byom, who had the difficult task of replacing a legend when Owens died in 2006, wanted to pursue other opportunities after leading the Buckaroos for 13 years. Parris said he will begin performing with the band one weekend each month beginning on March 1.
While fronting his childhood dream band is a first, playing the Crystal Palace is nothing new for Parris. Long before his TV debut, Parris spent 10 years working at the Crystal Palace and has fond memories of meeting great country artists from the past and present such as Merle Haggard, George Jones, Brad Pasley, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, and Tracy Byrd as well as rockabilly pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis, blues king B.B. King, guitar great Bo Diddley. Parris said he was grateful that Owens took him under his wing, taught him about music, and life.
“Getting to know Buck Owens and being on his radar was very special to me,” Parris said. “I never bothered him or tried to get him to do things for me. He showed an interest in me and what I was doing. I was so proud the first time he saw me play in his house, so to speak, the Crystal Palace.”
If you’re not up for the trip to Bakersfield beginning next month, you can catch Parris and his new band in Visalia this Friday. Parris’ band the Latin Troubadours will headline “A tribute to the King of Blues B.B. King” on Feb. 15 at the Cellar Door. Doors open at 8 p.m. with showtime at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at snvfoundation.org or at the door, 101 W. Main St. in Visalia.
“I don’t like being stuck in one genre,” said Parris, who has also shared the stage with metal bands Judas Priest and Pantera. “Why can’t I just be a musician, an entertainer. I’d love to become the Native America-Hispanic Wayne Newton and just do my thing is Vegas.”
The hits keep coming for Parris whose Latin Troubadours are recording their first album with Rocky Boosalis at his Sound Garden recording studio in Porterville. Boosalis has recently worked with another Valley product, Pixley’s Tony Rambo, who produced Pete Anderson’s album Birds Above Guitarland (2013) on his label Little Dog Records. Anderson is best known as the critically acclaimed guitarist of country legend Dwight Yoakam. Parris said the new album will have 10 tracks featuring Latin licks, boot-stompin’ bluegrass, hillbilly honky tonk, and of course a little of that Bakersfield Sound.