Travis Parkin

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Travis Parkin
Born Mark William Viola
(1949-07-31) July 31, 1949 (age 70)
Gloversville, New York
Nationality American
Occupation music programmer, public radio personality, artist, graphic designer, entrepreneur

Travis John Parkin (born Mark William Viola, July 30, 1949) is a music programmer, public radio personality, artist, graphic designer, and progressive-minded entrepreneur most recognized as the alternating-Thursdays host of Afternoon Freeform, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 89.9-FM (KUNM), and as the founder of Guerrilla Graphix, an original-art and political T-shirt retail operation. He is known for his encyclopedic knowledge of recorded music, his cataloged collection of recordings spanning nearly all genres, and his theme-driven radio programs, peppered with Parkin’s wry brand of sarcasm and political satire. For a brief period, he hosted a nationally syndicated music program, The Beat Goes On, which featured one-hour, theme-based radio shows that were available to public radio stations around the world.

Early years

(NOTE: Much of this history was compiled from interviews with the subject by J.A. Montalbano, a freelance journalist in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who wrote extensively about film and music for The Albuquerque Tribune.)

Parkin was born in Gloversville, New York, and raised in neighboring Johnstown (city), New York, the son of Italian-immigrant glove factory workers. He grew up listening to his father playing harmonica with a local 1950s Country & Western band. Gloversville, a small town of 10,000, boasted a single radio station, WENT (1340-AM), which gave Parkin exposure to Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb and other country artists of the day.

In the early 1960s, Parkin's family moved 50 miles south to New York’s capital, Albany, where he attended inner-city junior and senior high schools, both with large African-American student populations. It was during this time that he discovered R&B, soul, jazz and gospel. Pee Wee Harris, the father of Parkin's close friend Eddie Harris, was the owner of Albany's only jazz-and-soul record shop, Ten Eyck Records. Parkin's first DJ experience came at age 16 when he cajoled Pee Wee Harris into sponsoring a weekly Friday night soul program on Albany's WABY (1160-AM). Travis and Eddie co-hosted the show for nearly two years.

A standout student and athlete, Parkin was awarded a State Regents Scholarship and went on to study journalism at the State University of New York at Albany.

1970s: New York City

In 1970, Parkin was hired by Trans World Airlines as an International Flight Purser, where he worked onboard Boeing 707 and 747 aircraft between New York and European destinations. Two years after joining the company, he successfully challenged TWA's hiring practices which prohibited the employment of male stewards and became, effectively, the U.S.'s first modern-day male flight attendant.

In 1973, Parkin moved to New York's East Village. To fill his time when he was not en route to and from Europe, he took a side job as a cabdriver. He hotwired an 8-track cassette player under the dash of his taxi and arguably became the first NYC cabbie to offer "music on demand" to his passengers. While living in New York, he caught the tail end of the folk music explosion and could frequently be found in folk and jazz clubs in the West Village and Harlem. During his six-year tenure with the airlines, Parkin used his destination layovers in Europe to expand both his awareness and collection of international music.

1980s: West Coast

In 1980, Parkin moved to San Francisco, where he quickly found a home in the emerging punk rock community which was centered in the city's Mission District. In 1981, he opened Dead End Fashions, the West Coast's first punk clothing store. (One of his early employees, Billy Gould, went on to co-found and play bass for the experimental alternative rock group Faith No More.) During that time, Parkin also published a weekly Bay Area guide to punk music performances at both underground and established venues.

In 1984, Parkin opened his first nightclub, The 16th Note, in a vacant San Francisco firehouse on 16th Street in the Mission District. It became the city's first hip-hop and world music night spot. (The Secret History of World Music by Charlie Gillett credits Parkin, along with World Music DJ Jonathan E., with coining the genre term, Worldbeat.) The Mission was also the home to a large Central- and Latin-American population, which provided Parkin with exposure to many types of Latin music and associated dance forms.

Late 1980s/1990s: New Mexico

Parkin moved to Taos, New Mexico, in 1986 where he and his former wife operated an 11-room bohemian lodging establishment, The Laughing Horse Inn. Described in the New York Times travel section as "a hotel like no other in Taos or anywhere else," the inn's regular guests included experimental composer and musician Laurie Anderson and actress Goldie Hawn.

During his time in Taos, he operated Seven Arrows Music, the nation’s first retail mail-order Native American music catalog. While living in northern New Mexico, Parkin was also reintroduced to Country, Alt Country, Western and traditional New Mexican music and from 1991 to 1992 hosted a weekly alternative-country program, “The Radio Ranch,” on KAFR-FM (99.1) in Angel Fire, New Mexico.

In 1992, he was the key founder and General Partner of Ramona's Dance Hall, a popular, albeit short-lived, Taos nightclub that hosted a number of national acts including Etta James, Asleep at the Wheel, Townes Van Zandt, Sheryl Crow, Eddie Harris, the Glenn Miller Orchestra and J.J. Cale. In 1991, Parkin teamed up with fellow Taos resident and internationally known songwriter and producer, Mentor Williams (Drift Away), to write “The Last Time,” a contemporary country ballad purchased by Warner Bros. for a Vince Gill and Patty Loveless duet album that was later scrapped.

1993 - Present: Albuquerque

Parkin moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1993 and launched Guerrilla Graphix, a small, independent graphic design firm specializing in logo and print media design for small businesses and not-for-profit organizations. In 2008, he opened a retail store of the same name in the neighborhood of the University of New Mexico. The Guerrilla Graphix store offers New Mexico’s largest selection of political and original-art T-shirts as well as stickers, postcards and art prints. In 2011, Guerrilla Graphix launched it's nationwide wholesale operation offering its products to retailers around the US and Canada.

In 2004, Parkin joined the volunteer staff at KUNM, New Mexico's largest public radio station. He served as the local host for NPR's nightly news program, All Things Considered, for nine months before he landed one of the station's coveted DJ positions as a regular host of Afternoon Freeform. Parkin’s program airs on alternating Thursday afternoons from 1:30 to 4 PM Mountain Time. His programs typically feature theme-based musical excursions and are laced with political commentary and satire. Parkin has also served as a substitute host for KUNM's Hot Lixx, All That Jazz, The Blues Show, The Children's Hour, Folk Routes and Overnight Freeform.

Family

Parkin has three children: Lorrie, a state legislative aide in New York State; Nicolas, a Los Angeles-based photographer; and Ramona, a working artist, muralist and graphic designer in Albuquerque [www.ramonateo.com].

External links