Greenwood County
by C Carson Parks

When we put together the early Greenwood County Singers, there had just been released a Liz Taylor movie called “Raintree County”, probably set in the Louisiana bayous. I never saw the flick, but the title intrigued me. I then realized that I might get into some copyright infringement tangles, and discarded the notion. I liked the idea of using “county” in the name, as I had lived a year or so in rural South Carolina as a kid. Although I was born in Philadelphia when my Dad was in medical school (Jefferson, where his father had gone.) After his residency or internship (whatever those terms mean), he did private practice in Cross Hill (near Cross Anchor), S.C. For delivering babies and stuff, I recall his being paid in figs or chickens from poor folks. Just weeks before he was due to retire from his time in the Army Reserve, Pearl Harbor befell us, and all bets were off! So, Dad went to Hattiesburg, MS and Camp Shelby, where he tried to teach our war-bound troops what to expect from “battle fatigue” or “shell shock.” My paternal grandmother was Eliza Zoe Van Dyke. Before the U.S. was totally involved, my Dad’s cousin, David Van Dyke, serving with the R.A.F. as a volunteer fighter pilot, was shot down over the English Channel, so that’s why my brother, Van Dyke Parks, is so named. So, after maybe three years in Hattiesburg, MS and perhaps a year in Alexandria, LA, and D-Day, they sent Dad to Europe, where he got in The Battle Of The Bulge. He was the Division Psychiatrist for the 84th “Railsplitters.” I still have one of his sleeve patches, but some years ago, while Mom and Dad were living in Hialeah, FL., thieves broke in the patio screen and, among other things, stole the Bronze Star. As the documents and family oral history seem to reveal, the story goes like this:
Major Richard Hill Parks (#O-355549), had a large canvas psychiatric tent in a Catholic schoolyard in an almost invisible little town in Holland called, perhaps, Niewenhagen. The tent was filled with canvass cots, and most of Dad’s staff, except for radio guys, cooks, some guards, etc., were musicians. They probably thought they’d have it easy, being in the division band, little expecting, I suspect, that they would become stretcher bearers who would risk enemy gunfire to go gather up the wounded and dying to get them back to our Medical Corps. I can just picture two guys carrying a stretcher out through the gunfire, and one turns to the other and says: “Hey, Man, this ain’t cool, and I’m a sax player, and it ain’t in Bb!!” (Side note: One of the guys assigned to Dad, Phil Ford, was a fabulous piano and accordion player. - Many years later, he and his wife, Mimi Hines, played a supper club in our hometown of McKeesport, PA, and Phil kept calling Dad “Major Parks”, which was probably automatic, but sounded strange to me as a teenager, and probably embarrassed Dad.) The only Majors I knew were Hoople and Major Look! Dad was a Clarinette player and had a college danceband at W&J, so perhaps he and Phil Ford could entertain the guys in their trust. By the time I learned enough chords on the guitar, 20 years later, he had lost most of his earlier ability. Also, there weren’t the tranquilizers in the early 40s, as there are today. I think Dad said that Miltown had not even been invented at that time. There might have been something called “Indian Snake Root,”or maybe Reserpine, but I’m not sure what those are/ were, nor if they were readily available. So, years later, Dad told me that, as the ranking officer, he would requisition the booze rations of his subordinates, fill his canteen, and walk from cot to cot, talking softly to the guys, and try to keep them drunk for two or three days. Then, if they were still too nuts to return to the front, he’d ship them back to a “hard-wall” facility somewhere like Amsterdam. In the middle of the night one time, the phone rang and Headquarters called and told Dad that the enemy had broken through, and he needed to skedaddle out of there! So they folded the tents and cots, got the patients in a truck and took off in the dark, of course with no lights that would alert the enemy that a convoy was coming. Finally, they came to a lonely farmhouse. Dad and a couple guards went to the door. With Dad’s eight years of Latin and 4 years of German (so he could read Freud and Jung, I guess) he was able to communicate with the farmer and found out that they had, in fact, penetrated the enemy lines and were surrounded. Through country lanes and farm roads and a helluva lot of luck, they finally got back safely. All this time, Mom would listen to the radio, “The Hit Parade” and “Lucky Strike Extras”, which is where I learned probably half my repertoire. I suppose, if someone asked me what era influenced my writing the most, I’d have to say “the early 40s.” One Christmas, Mom bought “all 4 boys” navy and red bathrobes from Sears, and had letters of our names ironed on the back and told us that Dad had sent them from Paris. We didn’t know this fraud for many years thereafter, nor did we even know what or where “Paris” was, but it seemed good enough for us, and Mom made a big deal of it, and we knew Dad loved us! Mimi Hines was probably considered a soprano, and she could do a “mouse voice” imitation, that would tear down the house! Very talented duo! Anyway, enough historical rambling and back to the song: Although I think we lived in Pickens County, S.C., perhaps the next county over was called “Greenwood”, which sounded better than Pickens. I’m sure there are many fine folks named Pickens, including Slim, whom I loved in “Dr. Stangelove!” I still love “We’ll Meet Again - - Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When” and sing it often in shows. Anyway, “Pickens County Singers” didn’t sound too cool, so I picked “Greenwood County,” That’s the reason we had The Greenwood County Singers, Greenwood Music Co., Greenwood Records, etc. Some years ago, Lee Greenwood expressed an interest in buying the name from me, but I was already 20-some years in the publishing racket, and it would have been a real hassle changing names, notifying vendors, and all that crap, so I politely declined his kind offer. So, I chose that for the name of the group, thanks to a simple Atlas. Being the fall of the year, and a good trout season, Terry G. and I went north to the Klamath River to investigate some Steelhead Trout on fly rods. Terry had taught me the basics of casting a fly at a shallow pool near the Rose Bowl, and I thought I was “Studley Nudley!” So, I bought a couple old Fenwick experimental rods (maybe 10 or 11 feet long - okay for western rivers but not good for trout steams east of the Mississippi). Terry knew a guy, named Mel Levin, a fellow songwriter and trout fisherman at Disney (Who wrote,.among others, “The Average Giraffe Has A Tongue Twelve Inches Long!,”) So, Mel sold me the rods and we headed north in Terry’s old Citroen (I think) Somewhere along the California-Oregon border flows the Klamath River and there was a highway running East-West, north of Yreka, alongside the river. A wide place in the road had a bar/restaurant on the river side, and across the street was a gas station/bait shop with a few clapboard cottages up the bank behind it. Terry had rented one for us - - two bedrooms/one bath between, with a tin-wall shower and a little functional kitchen that would keep apple juice cool and baloney and stuff okay. Of course, I had to have all the “dress-up” stuff, such as waders and wind breakers and whatever ponchos and flannel shirts fishermen wear, so I had gotten all that crap in L.A. - - Nothing fancy, like L.L.Bean, but I looked “cool”, as might Robt. Mitchum in “The River Of No Return.”, which title song I still love. We would get up early in the morning - - sometimes before daylight - - usually fix some coffee in the little kitchen - - get our waders off the porch, that had been hanging upside down from twisted coat hangers, so they would dry, but they were as cold as a Kool-Aid popsicle. One morning, out on the porch, in my thermal “long-johns”, I looked over my head a couple feet, and on a tree limb, was a huge porcupine, that I knew didn’t like me any more than I liked him! I backed slowly back into the cottage (probably changed my underwear!), and Terry and I went down across the road to the river and fished for a few hours. Then, we could go up to the restaurant and the cook would do our trout with some eggs and toast for breakfast. Talk about GREAT! In the afternoon, when the water got warmer than trout like it, and they settle to the bottom of deep pools, we could nap, or get our guitars and sit around a crummy kitchen table with legal pads and try to write songs together. In the evening, we’d go eat dinner at the bar, put some quarters in the juke box or take our guitars and sing a few tunes, to the questionable enjoyment of a couple other customers, and go home to hit the sack. Little did I know how good the music business would be to me, at that time, but it sure was fun! Thank you, God! Two other times I remember fishing with Terry, this being the middle one. The first was in Malibu, when Bernie Armstrong and I had joined Rich Dehr and Terry in “The Easy Riders.” Terry rented a little seaside motel room, for us to rehearse in. Rich would come down from his restaurant in Topanga Canyon, and Bernie and I would join them for a few hours. Sometimes, if I got there early enough, Terry would be fishing off the balcony. That’s when he taught me the “slide-line” technique, which is: You have a few of those little canvas sacks that have been emptied of tobacco. Then you fill them with sand to get enough weight. Then you under-hand cast from the porch or balcony railing to get outside the rocks that border the ocean. Once you get the bag out there, all you have to do is bait the line. How you do THAT is to tie up some little leaders with clip-hook things you can tie on your line, hook ‘em to an anchovie or something, and slide the thing down the line. The same process works well off public piers and such. At the time, I didn’t own a stout rod and used one of Terry’s. The other fishing deal I remember was several years later. Terry drove up to the Idaho panhandle, and I followed shortly after, flying into Salt Lake, then on to (probably) Pullman, WA. We fished up and down both forks of the Clearwater River and its tributaries, the Salmon and Snake Rivers. That was a blast, too! Two tunes that we wrote together were a medley of “Down In The Valley” and “Red River Valley,” which I wanted set to a soft Bolero tempo, which Terry agreed with. The second was “Greenwood County,” which I think I stole from a Public Domain tune called “I’m Goin’ Back To The Red Clay Country.” There was a bridge at the time, but I don’t remember it right now. The Greenwoods used it as a theme song, and would often play it a little off-stage or in the wings before a show or to get our juices flowing, to let the audience know “here we come!” and to get them ready to listen to the show. It was fun doing! It’s all Nez Perce country, up there in the Bitterroot Mountains. I remember going to buy some locally - tied flies in Orofino, OR I was fairly successful on this trip, getting a few “big buggers”, perhaps 15 inches long. What a ball! When I moved back east, to Nashville, after my twin sons were born. I realized that long rods wouldn’t be any good for fishing Eastern streams, so I left them with my eldest son, Rick. I hope he has had as much fun with them as I did! Up there, somewhere, is a peak known as Bald Mountain. It’s pretty tall (I don’t remember exactly), but I later heard a song called “I Been Driving Up Bald Mountain,” which I changed to “Rock Mountain,” but it was a dog and fell on it’s ass! One time, I went to the Southern Bahamas (probably Exuma or Eleuthera) and took some fly rods along, because I’d heard that one of the great thrills of a fisherman’s life is to catch a bonefish on a fly. Now that I think back, I couldn’t find a guide or a fellow with a boat and pole who could fulfill that dream, and I was just as happy with evening rum, lobster, steel band music and the like, without even sitting in a skiff and sweating! So, the rods were in 3 or 4 inch PVC tubes that I had put together. I looked like I was toting bazookas, but I was “Cool & Studley!”