Marching to his own beat

Jay Parks plays Cool and The Gang on his drum set inside his van at Walmart.

Jay Parks can be found jamming inside his van at the Walmart on Missouri Boulevard in Jefferson City at just about any time of day.

His music has filled the parking lot for the last few years.

"I started playing here because it was a place where I could actually go to when everything seemed to shut down around me," said Parks.

Parks, who's niche is repairing organs and vintage electronics, caught the music bug as a child in church, and it's gotten him through some rough patches in his life.

He's persevered through the loss of a daughter, health problems that forced him to cut back work, and the loss of two homes to weather and fire.

Drumming became his therapy, and helped him get healthy physically and emotionally.

Much of his inspiration comes from songs he and his daughter used to listen to.

"'Somewhere out there'...I played it the other night and when I was done I was just so done. I sat there and tears were just coming out. I felt like I could here her going 'come on dad, if I was still alive and you were dead what would you want me to do? Get on.' you know? So that's kind of been an encouragement there."

Have a song request? Parks said he'll play any CD he owns or any station on the raido, but favors the unique tunes played at night.

"Lincoln goes off the air at midnight, but they stay up all night...those other ones up in Columbia. They have all kinds of music you don't hear normally that's a lot of fun. Also, here, I can play all night. If I got really, really loud I went all the way to the other end. The first thing a drummer realizes is that they're kind of obnoxious," he said with a sly smile.

Parks has become a fixture in the community, but he said he's just playing from his heart and is grateful for an audience.

"I got so much encouragement when I was getting so much discouragement. You know, and had so much grief with the stuff I was going through. They don't even know my personal story as far as losing a daughter unless we talk...different things, and health things. But they've approved and I get a lot of thumbs up. I've had people donate enough that it's helped me have a little bit to eat and pay for drumsticks."

As for his future?

"I almost thought about cutting the back off of this and putting a box on it and making it big enough for a few more musicians."

Parks has played in all kinds of places across mid-Missouri, including all of the Walmarts in Columbia, and the Fulton store.

He says shoppers can look forward to holiday music in the coming weeks.