|Ken Parker and Parker Fly|
Ken Parker built his first archtop guitar in 1974. This was long before he rose to fame with his well known electric guitar; The Parker Fly.
In regard to the origin of the Parker Fly, Parker, in his own words states, "Larry Fishman and I met in 1984 and began a playful but productive design partnership.
|1993 Parker Fly Guitar|
In doing so, Ken created a modern ultra-light guitar, and made use of some unusual materials. Official sales of the Parker Fly began around 1993.
|1992 Parker Fly|
|Parker Fly - custom marbled colour|
The fretboard was also made of a composite material and the frets were made of stainless steel. The design process has given Parker Fly guitars the reputation of having the “fastest neck in the business”.
Due to their durability, these materials will pretty much last for the lifetime of the owner.
The electronics used in the instruments were very unique as well. The guitar used either coil split humbucking pickups or single coil pickups. Both had active circuitry. The Fly also had a piezo pickup for acoustic sounds.
|Original Parker backside|
The structure of the neck was unique since it used multiple finger joints for stability.
The tension is controlled by a balance wheel. (The guitars manual cautions not to set it too tight as this could cause the spring to break). The vibrato was engineered in a way to bring the strings back to pitch. Sperzel locking tuners aided in maintaining the instruments pitch and eliminated the need for string trees.
Ken Parker and Larry Fisher set up their business and manufacturing facility in Wilmington, Massachusetts.
|2002 Parker Fly Bass|
In 2003 Ken Parker sold his stake in the company to the U.S. Music Corporation.
|2003 Redesigned Parker Mojo Flame|
Creating the Parker Fly, Nightfly, and the Fly Bass was a labor of love. I had a lot of fun designing them and then devising and building the production tooling to make them. These instruments have worn well, and now the product line has been expanded by the new owners."
|U.S. Music Corporation Home Page|
The U.S. Music Corporation is a distributor of multiple products, including Parker guitars. This organization manufactured the guitars from their Illinois based factory. They developed the line and changed up a few things.
|2003 Parker Fly Classic|
U.S. Music took a different approach to Parker Guitars. Some Parker guitars were no longer made with the original composite finish, but were now made of wooden bodies. To be fair, by 2001, Ken Parker had offered some models with wooden bodies.
Also some of the new models appeared to be Parker guitars that had morphed with other popular guitar designs.
For instance, the Single Cutaway Fly Mojo may have been a wonderful guitar, but the Les Paul influence is obvious.
|Parker Single Cutawy Fly Mojo Flame|
Tuners were still made by Sperzel.
|Fly Mojo Flame|
This guitar came with a mahogany neck topped with the Parker headstock and included one Duncan Jazz and one Duncan JB humbucking pickup. Once again the fretboard was ebony with no position markers.
The Fly Mojo Flame also had the Parker Fly vibrato, sans the adjustment wheel. U.S. Music eliminated the vibrato adjustment wheel on all models that they produced.
|2006 Fly Mojo|
The Fly Mojo was similar in all aspects of the previous guitar, but the body was made of natural unstained mahogany.
U.S. Music continued to build The Parker Fly guitar, but changes were made from the original design to correspond with their vision of this instrument.
|2005 Parker Fly Classic|
The U.S. Music Parker Fly came with two Seymour Duncan humbucking pickups and included the Parker vibrato. The guitar was available with three colour options.
|2005 Parker Fly Deluxe Ice Blue Burst|
The Fly Deluxe was a similar instrument that apparently was voiced differently than the original. It came in different six different colour schemes.
The Parker Nitefly Series included two guitars with features in the same shape as the original Parker Fly model. However these both had solid mahogany bodies and bolt on mahogany necks.
|NiteFly Mojo Flame|
The NiteFly Mojo guitar had the same accouterments however the pickups lacked the chrome covers and there was not a flame veneer topping the mahogany body. It was bare wood and available in a natural finish, a transparent cherry finish, or a dusky black finish.
What set this apart from a Telecaster was the Parker Fly body, and the Parker headstock. The chrome control plate featured a third knob for the piezo volume. Above it was a second toggle switch to activate the piezo pickup. It was available with blonde, butterscotch, or transparent red finish options.
There were other variants that U.S. Music came up with for their Parker guitars.
The Parker Nite Fly was one of the models designed by Ken Parker in the late 1990’s. The U.S. Music version of this guitar, called the NiteFly M, had a solid mahogany body and was topped with two humbucking pickups. The bolt-on neck was also made of mahogany. This instrument was offered with a natural oil and wax finish or a similar finish in black. It had the Parker vibrato.
The NiteFly SA was based on the original Parker model. It had the typical Parker shape, but was topped with a white plastic pickguard that contained the electronics, including two single coil pickups and a humbucking pickup in the bridge position. A slider switch acted as a pickup selector. The guitars body was made of swamp ash and the neck was maple. It came complete with the Parker vibrato and was available in transparent red or blue.
|Parker PM and Parker P Series|
U.S. Music Parker guitars included in its line up a series four solid body Parker Fly basses, in addition to their hollow-body PAB 40.
The PB61SP featured neck-thru construction of a spalted maple top and mahogany neck with an ebony fretboard and a spalted maple headstock veneer. The tuners and adjustable bridge/saddle were gold-plated. The body was in the Parker Fly Bass shape. This bass, like all Parker basses, featured twin EMG 35CS active bass pickups.
The PB51TR (Transparent Red) was very similar, except the body and neck were made of mahogany and it was finished in transparent red. The tuners and adjustable tailpiece were in a black gun metal finish.
The PB41 series offered the same great features, such as EMG pickups, however the body was made of Sitka spruce with a Urethan finish, and the bolt-on the neck was maple. It was available in Silverburst, Black Matte, and Gold Matte. The hardware was also done in a black finish. These basses were available in four or five string models.
In 2006 the company added a line of acoustic-electric and jazz guitars under the Parker brand name. These were manufactured off-shore by Washburn guitars. At that time U.S, Music owned the US distribution rights to the Washburn brand as well.
These acoustic models included the 24 fret Bronze Fly, which was a solid body guitar in the shape of the Parker Fly. It had no magnetic pickup, only a Fishman piezo pickup in the Parker style bridge, however there was no vibrato. Ken Parker had offered this guitar when he owned the company under the name The Fly Concert.
The Nylon Fly was a similar guitar. This model came with the Fishman piezo placed under a handcrafted ebony bridge. Both models were topped with gold-plated Sperzel locking tuner. During the years Ken owned the company this guitar was called The Spanish Fly.
The PJ14N and PJ12 SB were true archtop hollow-body guitars. Both of these guitars had the most unusual body designs as well as unique f-holes.
The PJ12 SB (sunburst) featured two Egnater Humbucker pickups mounted on the guitars body with individual volume and tone controls, a stunning brass tailpiece, and a 5-ply Rock Maple neck with Gold Grover Titan Tuners. This guitar featured a bound ebony fretboard with block position markers. The 3-on-a-side headstock had a large split-diamond inlay and above it the Parker logo all in mother-of-pearl. The PJ12 was the same guitar with a natural finish.
|Parker Event Series|
The P8E guitar was designed with a solid cedar top, with a flamed maple back and sides. The unbound fretboard was made of ebony and had small dot inlaid position markers on the boards bass side The electronics were designed by Larry Fishman and included a piezo unit in the bridge and a Fishman magnetic pickup just under the neck. The master volume control is on the guitars top and on the upper side bout are the controls for treble, bass, and pickup balance.
The P9E was very similar, except for the choice of wood. For this guitar, the top was solid cedar, but the back and sides were made of Indian rosewood The neck was made of mahogany.
The P10E came with all the features of the P9E, however the neck had an ivoroid fretboard with dark dot position markers. The bridge was made of this same material.
|Parker P6E Event Series|
This guitar had a solid Sitka spruce top with single ply binding. The accouterments were similar to th aforementioned mode, with biggest difference being the depth of the body.
The other difference was the necks which were made of 5-ply mahogany and maple. The body on the P6E models were made with mahogany back and sides. Once again the fretboard Is made of ebony with microdot inlays, The electronics were designed by Larry Fisher. These guitars were available in white, black, and transparent red.
The P7EQS had the same accouterments, but had a fancy quilted sapele top.
|Parker Intrique Series acoustic|
The Parker Intrigue Series, were acoustic guitar, with no electronic features. The unique body shape on these instruments was much different as there is no cutaway section.
|Parker Intrique Series acoustic|
Also it 2006 Parker also came out with a unique acoustic bass guitar to match up with their Event Series guitars.
|Parker PAB 40|
This company has acquired many smaller distribution companies and owns the distribution rights to quite a few well know brands including Digitech, Washburn, Marshall, Hagstrom, Randall, Oscar Schmidt, and Korg.
|2010 Parker Maxxfly|
Standardized pickup cavities were set up to aid in manufacturing. The frets were reduced from 24 to 22, and the body became slightly thicker and heavier.
In 2015 the JAM Corporation announced that Parker's US production had ceased and a search for a new off-shore facility was underway.
|Fly Mojo Snakeskin|
Parker did create several special edition models after the 2015 announcement including the Fly Mojo Snakeskin model, the Koa Fly Mojo model, and the Four Season Fly Mojo guitar, which was offered in differing finishes corresponding to the seasons.
|Parker Guitars US Music page|
|Ken in 2013 Holding his archtop|
So what is Ken Parker doing these days? He has returned to his first love, which is building archtop guitars. He started doing this in the 1970’s, long before he became preoccupied with the Parker Fly guitar. During these years he was able to strike up a friendship and get advice from Jimmy D’Aquisto.
|1991 model |
much different Parker
After selling his stake in Parker Fly Guitars in 2003, Ken began experimenting with the archtop guitar neck attachment. He felt that one of the pitfalls of the archtop acoustic was the bridge.
|Parker Archtop "Grace"|
The bridges on his instruments need no adjusting.
|Parker archtop neck and post|
This allows the player to not only adjust the neck, but to play in upper registers without being impeded by the instruments body or neck heel, as there is no neck heel. Another advantage to the removable neck is that the instrument can be dismantled and placed in travel size containers for safe travel on airlines. Parker can even build an instrument available with a variety of differing necks for the same body, such as a 25.5” scale or a 30” baritone scale, even six or seven string necks that would fit the same body.
|Parker neck, bridge, fretboard|
Parker’s fretboard design involves an altered conical parabolic curve that is based on the players preference for string gauge and action. He suggests using 12 gauge string sets for his instrument, preferably made of phosphor bronze material, since he uses Fishman Rare Earth SA220 humbucking pickups on his instruments.
|Fishman Rare Earth pickup |
top and side view
|Parker Archtop headstock & tuners|
Ken Parker archtop guitars have a base price of $30,000.
Click on the links under the pictures for the sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.
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