Biff Parker (1962-2011)

The Reivers' John Croslin remembers Biff Parker

Biff Parker (Steven Stelmach)
Biff Parker (Steven Stelmach) (by Charni Silk)

The Reivers didn't name him Biff Parker. He created that identity himself. I’m not sure why he chose that name, but I think he enjoyed the reaction from people when he introduced himself. I think he liked that people might not be inclined to take a guy named “Biff” seriously. They were disarmed and in a good mood in an instant.

Yes he was stylish, as many have mentioned, but he became a little more dapper over the years. In the years he was our road manager his daily uniform was military jump boots, shorts, and a tee shirt or western shirt. He never wore anything on his feet but those boots. We figured he must have gotten a good deal on a case of them. Biff was all about getting good deals.

It would have to get really cold, below freezing, for him to forgo the shorts for regular pants. But his style wasn't just clothes, his satchel bag, his hair, the notebook he was always writing in; all fit the Biff presentation. Even his choice of pain reliever was a fashion statement. He preferred BC Powders, stylish and old school.

As mentioned, Biff loved striking a bargain. He would always negotiate our rates when we checked into a hotel. He’d get us an amazing price and still the hotel people would love him. He once hid under a blanket when we went on the Vancouver ferry in order to save us a fare. (Maybe $7?) We didn’t ask him to, he enjoyed that kind of thing. It was fun and saved us a little money. Sorry Vancouver Ferry Commission.

He was an avid bicyclist, a shrewd business man. He was very private and hesitant to talk about himself. Even when he was sick with lymphoma, you'd have to pry to get him to say anything about it, and you'd give up after a while because you could tell it was making him uncomfortable. He also diligently wrote in his journal every day. My guess is that's who he talked to about himself. Each entry started with "Dear Babs."

He loved to dance. If we played at a place that had a disco in another room Biff would lead the way there after the show – after all his work was done of course. And it was a blast to watch him dance, and dance with him. One time he and Cindy and Kim van-pooled up to a funeral in Dallas. Everyone was emotionally wrecked afterward. On the drive back Biff decided it would be healing to go dancing. They went to Liberty Lunch and danced to Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens. Biff inspired the entire club into a conga line. Everyone felt better.

He was a big man and incredibly strong. A couple of times I made the mistake of attempting to wrestle with him, a decision no doubt arrived at due to impaired judgment. Well, it was over quick, and it hurt.

The thing I remember most fondly, though, is Biff's sense of humor. When it was 110 degrees outside he would get a big kick out of saying the weather was "mild." He had a brown Chevy van he called “The Log.” I believe he got 300,000 or 400,000 miles out of that thing. He used to drive it all over the country and visit his friends. And he had friends everywhere, hence all the mileage.

When we played a show, usually the venue would provide us with some sort of evening meal. Many times the cuisine was … questionable. I remember one night pointing at some ambiguous clump of something that was part of said meal and asking Biff what it was. He gleefully stated that it was a “flavor nodule” and proceed to eat it with relish. Maybe he ate too many flavor nodules. I hope that's not what killed him.

Two other scenes jump to mind when I think of Biff's sense of humor. One time we played with a band, for now we'll call them "Metro Fissure" in honor of one of our favorite places in Chicago. They were alright, but they had this bass player whose hair looked like a helmet. We dared Biff to touch it (the hair) while they were playing. Of course Biff rose to the occasion.

He not only touched the hair but he did the most exquisite performance-art-like dance as he did it. I just can't describe it. Metro Fissure and their security crew were stunned. I laughed so hard I either threw up or shat myself, I can't remember which.

We toured with many different bands and usually we'd get to know the other bands over the course of three or four weeks and become pals with them. Inevitably when the last show of the tour came around we would want to play some sort of joke on our new friends – give them something to remember us by. The night in question was the last show of our tour with a band called Flight of Mavis.

The place we were playing had a stage that had a curtain behind the band. We discovered that the curtain could be parted and that there was a scaffolding behind it. Upon learning this we all decided it would be funny if Biff got on the scaffolding wearing nothing but his underwear, his boots, and a some wings of some sort.

We quickly crafted some makeshift angel’s wings and we fastened them to his back with duct tape. We also wrote “Mavis” on his chest in lipstick. Finally we decided he should be flanked by Kim and Cindy acting as supplicants. Then, at a dramatic moment in the Flight of Mavis show, Garrett and I would part the curtains to reveal this scene in all its grandeur.

Well reader, I'm happy to tell you it came off without a hitch. It was a thing to behold. I wish you'd been there.

Yes, he was funny and singular, but he was also incredibly professional in an atmosphere that's totally unprofessional. Kim said, “He managed to get chaos to behave itself.” He babysat and protected us. Helped us out of so many tight spots, and got each of us through so many tough times personally I can’t even begin to count them.

We can’t begin to thank you Biff. You were a great man and a great friend. We’ll miss you.

John on behalf of the Reivers,
Cindy, Garrett, Kim, and John.

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Biff Parker, Obituaries, SXSW, Steven Stelmach, The Reivers, Liberty Lunch, Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens

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