Chattanooga Now Cleveland's Todd Parks playing with Sam Bush at 3 Sisters Festival

Chattanooga Now Cleveland's Todd Parks playing with Sam Bush at 3 Sisters Festival

October 5th, 2017 by Susan Pierce in Chattnow Music

Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and Todd Parks play at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

The schedule

› 6-6:30 p.m. Dismembered Tennesseans

› 6:50-7:50 p.m. The Stray Birds

› 8:10-9:10 p.m. Jeff Austin Band

› 9:30-11 p.m. Del McCoury Band

› Noon-12:45 p.m. Lone Mountain Band

› 1-1:45 p.m. Bluetastic Fangrass

› 2-2:45 p.m. Hamilton County Ramblers

› 3-3:45 p.m. Berklee College of Music Fiddlers

› 4-5:10 p.m. Molly Tuttle

› 5:30-6:40 p.m. Bryan Sutton

› 7-8:10 p.m. Kruger Brothers

› 8:30-10 p.m. Sam Bush

The 3 Sisters Festival has booked two heavy-hitters for this year's 11th annual festival, which will be held Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7, at the riverfront.

Del McCoury Band, multiple Grammy and International Bluegrass Music Association winner, will headline Friday night's show. Mandolin musician extraordinaire Sam Bush, "The Father of Newgrass," closes out the festival on Saturday.

Backing Sam Bush in Saturday night's finale is a hometown son — or close enough that this city can claim him. Todd Parks, who spent his teen years in Cleveland, Tenn., and is a 1994 graduate of Cleveland High School, has been Bush's bass player for seven years.

In fact, the list of celebrity musicians for whom Parks has played reads like a Who's Who of Music: Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Alison Krauss, Paul Simon, Emmylou Harris, John Oates, Dan Tyminski, Joan Osborne, Jerry Douglas and James Taylor, to name a few. And he was the house bassist for A Prairie Home Companion and Pelicula Films' Transatlantic Sessions 3 and 4.

If you go

› What: 11th annual 3 Sisters Festival of Bluegrass Music

› Where: Ross’s Landing

› When: 6-11 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6; noon-10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7

› Admission: Free

› For more information:

"I've always loved low notes. I loved the sound of bass lines in all kinds of music. I loved the fact it was the tie between the rhythm and the harmony," Parks said in a phone interview. "There are so many things you can do with bass that make a huge impact on a song."

He actually started his musical career in the brass section. He played trumpet, French horn and mellophone in Cleveland's band, serving as band captain two years. He also relaunched CHS's jazz band.

Parks started playing electric bass at age 13, but it wasn't until he was enrolled at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville that he picked up a stand-up bass.

"I studied with Rusty Holloway (who played with Woody Herman's Thundering Herd), and he insisted with my skill set that I should play bass. I decided to be a bass major."

In 2003, after completing two bachelor's degrees and two master's degrees at UTK, he moved to Nashville and established himself as a sideman whose talent soon made him in demand with a variety of artists.

Parks modestly says he was "doing well as a sideman — playing enough gigs to pay the bills, but in the process of running around and talking to people and sitting in, you create a buzz. My name kept coming up to people who knew Jerry Douglas, greatest Dobro player who ever lived."

His named was suggested to Douglas, and when Douglas put a new band together, he gave Parks a call.

"I thought it was a prank," Parks recalls, laughing. But when convinced it was legit, he met with Douglas, played a few songs for him and got the job in 2006.

He joined Sam Bush in May 2010, and for almost two years was playing gigs with both Douglas and Bush.

Parks plays a custom-designed Upton bass as well as an electric bass built in Cleveland by Montgomery Guitars. He says Sam Bush's band usually plays 50 to 60 gigs a year.

"No two shows are ever the same. Sam changes the set list for every show, and there's always something for everybody. Sam loves a lot of different music. He's 65 years old, but has more energy than a room full of 2-year-olds and the Energizer Bunny put together. He has a wide range of music interests so he's well steeped in everything from the classics of Flatt & Scruggs to blues music," Parks says of their shows.

And Saturday, fans can expect "bluegrass, rock 'n' roll, reggae and things that come only from Sam Bush Band. They will have a good time whether they want to or not," he laughs.

Contact Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.