Mobile percussionist brings new sound to downtown Columbia

Thursday, August 28, 2014 | 8:24 p.m. CDT; updated 10:00 p.m. CDT, Saturday, August 30, 2014
Jay Parks has played the drums for more than 60 years, traveling between Columbia and Jefferson City.

COLUMBIA — A new musical act has joined the usual symphonic performances of downtown Columbia. Jay Parks produces the new beat from the back of his white 1985 Dodge Ram.

Parks pulls into a parking spot and checks with nearby store managers to ask if they mind if he plays his music. With their approval, he opens his van doors. Soon, the pounding of drums echoes from inside the vehicle onto the streets.

Besides a drum set, Parks uses anything he can find to make his music, from a margarita shaker to an ashtray.

Parks is based mainly in his van and drives around to nearby areas to play. Usually, he can be found playing in a Walmart parking lot in Jefferson City. He also enjoys playing in front of the Missouri Capitol, which he said reminds him of France. He said it makes him feel closer to his daughter, who died in France.

Parks first showed an interest in the drums after he heard "The Star-Spangled Banner" in grade school after World War II ended.

"I don't know if it was patriotism in my heart, but when we won the war and I heard that sound, I wanted to play," he said.

He has played for about 60 years. Parks also plays for the Second Baptist Church in Jefferson City, where he used to prepare and sell organs.

Parks has lost feeling in three of his fingers due to carpal tunnel syndrome but that has not stopped him from doing what he loves.

"I couldn't work, so all I do is play and play and play, and now I'm healthier than I've ever been," Parks said.

Supervising editor is Bailey Otto.

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