‘Kentucky Thunder guitarist Dennis Parker is happy with the victory he’s been given through Jesus
Second of two parts.
By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
RENFRO VALLEY, Ky. — Dennis Parker knows he’s seeing faith in action every time he takes the stage as a member of Ricky Skaggs’ band, Kentucky Thunder.
“He only gets better,” Parker says of Skaggs, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2018. “Since the time I have been with him, he’s grown and that extends from his relationship with the Lord. God has done a real work in his life and if we allow Him, He will work in ours.”
Parker knows quite a bit about God working. In the previous article of this two-part series, Dennis recounted his battle with alcoholism that ended with him in jail after a fifth DUI conviction. While in jail, a friend shared that God still loved him and Dennis was where he needed to be.
“I thought that was the biggest nonsense I have ever heard in my life,” Dennis said. But after starting to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in jail, Dennis’ life began to change and God changed him spiritually and physically. Now, Dennis shares his story whenever he can.
“He’s got a great testimony,” Skaggs said to me during a post-concert meet-and-greet at Renfro Valley on July 20.
Indeed. And Parker knows he’s fortunate to be around Skaggs. In fact, it might have been a coincidence, but most likely it was God working. ““The truth is, he had no idea about the mess I had gotten into,” Parker said in part one of this series. “I was coming out of an AA meeting and getting on a bicycle when I got a text from him in 2015. I hadn’t talked to him in about 20 years. I had tried to get in touch with him a few months after I had gotten sober.”
Parker had played in Skaggs’ band before, but when Skaggs committed to playing bluegrass in the late 1990s, Parker ventured to the country realm. Now he’s back with probably the most recognized bluegrass musician on the planet.
“I was raised up playing bluegrass,” Parker says with a smile, “but it’s not necessarily my bigger forte. I was into James Taylor, you know, the singer-songwriter thing. I guess it shows God has a sense of humor.”
Parker has played in small venues and he’s played with some symphony orchestras as Skaggs has been involved in several projects to combine the styles and take bluegrass to the masses. “To hear a whole symphony behind you, playing this intricate bluegrass, is just something,” he says. “This group of guys (in Kentucky Thunder) is incredibly versatile.”
Parker, who plays guitar, mandolin and fiddle and also sings harmony vocals for Kentucky Thunder, says that is a reflection of his boss. “Ricky is one of those guys who is multifaceted. He’s not only a great instrumentalist, he’s also an unbelievable arranger and he’s a great band leader. … He’s got a cool presence about him because he knows what he wants and he knows what he likes. He listens for everything and he expects it to be there, but he’s not in any way not nice to you.
“He’s the total package and there ain’t many of them around like that.”
Parke says working with Ricky Skaggs is, in a way, like being in a ministry. “He’s a beautiful human being. Every show we play, he goes out front and signs autographs after the show. As long as people will be here, he will stay.”
That was apparent at Renfro Valley when a large group waited to have Skaggs sign CDs, mandolins, tickets or anything else. A young man told Skaggs his name was Silas. “Have you been in prison with Paul,” Skaggs grinned as he was talking with the young man about pursuing dreams and being serious about school work and letting God lead his life.
“It’s become like a ministry to him,” Parker says. “I remember walking out there one time and there was a lady out there in a wheelchair. Ricky had his hands on her and was praying for her.
“I have seen prayer meetings at The Opry. Christ really is first and foremost and that’s the way it should be.”
A typical Ricky Skaggs concert will continue a large number of gospel songs and the star freely talks about his faith. “Ricky has gotten so much glory but it’s because he’s given his life to the Lord,” Parker says. “I think it’s a beautiful thing, man. It’s a real testimony of what God calls us to do. I am not ashamed of the gospel. I am not ashamed of what God did in my life.”
When he’s not on the road, Parker often presents his story and some music at local churches. After all, he can’t hold in what God has done in his life.
“Jesus is real. He’s alive! He has done a work in me. How can you not be fanatical about that?” he asks.
But Dennis has a bit of self-deprecating humor and laughs at his verbosity. “That’s why I get in some trouble when I go into churches,” he says. “I have songs I want to sing, then all this talking in the middle.
“It doesn’t matter about the numbers. The message is the same if there’s 10 people there or 10 thousand. I’d like to see more people come out and see what God is doing but the day we live in is so distracted.”
And Dennis Parker is ecstatic about the victory he has claimed through Jesus.
“I remember in jail one time that I knew I would have to do something (to address his alcoholism), so I thought I would switch over to weed,” he says with a look of amazement. “The devil will use those things to tear your witness away and destroy your life. He doesn’t want to defeat you just a little bit. He wants to kill you.”
Now, Dennis Parker knows God has made him into something new.
He’s asked if he has a favorite verse of scripture.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” he smiles. “It makes you realize God is the beginning of everything. If you don’t believe that, you don’t believe anything.”