Whenever Lynda Kay Parker dons a Glenn Palmer suit and picks up a Gretsch guitar, she is country & western incarnate, especially with the blood of ancestors Bonnie Parker, the Marlboro Man and the last of the Comanche Chiefs coursing through her veins.

Parker's breakthrough was recent, but her journey has been the thing of which legends are made.

She saved her pennies bartending at Stubbs BBQ in Austin, Texas, eventually making her way to Los Angeles in 1997 with about $1,000 in her pocket. She rented a room in West Hollywood, and her savings dwindled to 32 cents by the end of the first month. She sustained on change she found on the streets, Carl Buddug's pressed meats, and taking any odd job that was offered. As a result, she can be seen in John Ritter's final film playing a schoolteacher murdered by a killer granny, and in an episode of JAG delivering the moving line, “Here are your super hi-res blowups, sir.”

Eventually Parker opted to focus on music. She assembled a group of musicians and dancers for an act called “Lynda Kay,” an absurd show that played at the Atlas Supper Club. Every night she layered eight costumes held on with Velcro. Each outfit was torn off during the show to reveal tacky ensemble after tacky ensemble. One costume required a mustache.

“I was singing and changing costumes, oh, and tap dancing,” Parker says.

After the show closed, she disbanded the group and started performing as a one-woman band on the Venice boardwalk. She stationed herself between a tarot reader and a masseuse, neither of whom seemed to appreciate her classic voice, simple country-guitar parts and trusty tap-dance beats.

As the show evolved, the tap dancing was replaced with a kick-drum pedal attached to an old hard-shell suitcase. She added a second guitar player, the duo became the Lonesome Spurs, and they no longer just played the boardwalk. Over the next couple years they performed 800-900 shows around the world.

Parker abandoned the suitcase kick drum after it started giving her leg cramps that caused her to walk like John Wayne. At that point, she decided to give it a go with a full band, and last year she released her first album. Dream My Darling is a stunning work, with guest vocals from Billy Bob Thornton on the track “All I Ever Wanted.”

The album has such grace and charm it seems impossible to pull it off live, but Parker kills it. She always appears in one of her many over-the-top Western suits and flawless wigs, with exaggerated graceful movements typical of a 1950s country & western songbird.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about Lynda Kay Parker is that she is doing it the way it used to be done; over time, sometimes a damned long time, with dedication.

Her past seems too cockamamie to be true. The Gretsch poster-girl insists that every word is fact.

“How could I pretend to be this ridiculous?”

Read the rest of L.A. Weekly's People Issue 2010 profiles here.

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