MEET THE PARRISHES
The Parrishes are Catherine and Ted Parrish, an acoustic duo from Viroqua Wisconsin. They write original songs that cross the bridge between folk and blues, using musical knowledge honed through decades of performing, recording, and teaching. Catherine’s soaring vocals are the focal point of all the songs, with their multi-instrumental skills deployed on whichever instruments each song requires, whether guitar, ukulele, mandolin, banjo, or flute.
Catherine Hall-Parrish has a long eclectic history in music making! Singing from a very young age at church and harmonizing with her older sister at home, music has always been her passion. When it came time for college, music was the only option. Catherine was a voice major at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, her hometown, but it was really outside of the classroom that influences, inspiration and experience began to mold the emerging artist.
At 18 years old, the gigging began, singing and playing flute in some local, working bands…Eddie and the Sensations, Threshold, Houndog Moses and finally the band that had the most significant musical impact for the next six years…the eight piece jazz fusion group, Mosaic. Mosaic performed all over the midwest, opening for Herbie Hancock as well as headlining their own shows in clubs and auditoriums. Their music was all original, mostly instrumental, with the exception of a handful of songs written to feature Catherine’s vocals. The first album was recorded in the mid-seventies and is sought after to this day by jazz-fusion enthusiasts around the world. In 2022, two of the songs were released as a 7 inch vinyl in London by Dynamite Cuts.
In 1980, Catherine chose a more singular path and left the band to explore new musical pathways. Until the mid-eighties, she was living in Berkeley, California, studying the Indian bansuri bamboo flute with bansuri master, G.S. Sachdev. While in California, Catherine also began writing songs and recorded her first two solo albums in San Fransisco. Indian music had a profound influence on Catherine’s music but the time in California came to an end. Returning home, an interest in traditional Irish Music became the focus. This led ultimately to Chicago to be close to the Irish music scene there and to employment at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music as a flute and voice teacher. Making a living as a performing solo artist, Catherine was hired to play with some of the premier Irish players in the City, including Liz Carrol and John Williams. In Chicago she opened shows for Gordon Bok, Ossian, Art Thieme and Bob Gibson and sang on stage with Emmy Lou Harris, John Hartford and Pete Seeger. During this time in Chicago, the next two solo albums were recorded…Catherine Hall and Friends and When You Wish, which won a Parent’s Choice Award. When You Wish featured some Chicago’s finest musicians…Steve Rashid, (who also produced), Don Stiernberg, David Onderdonk and Ted Parrish. Right before the CD release show at the Old Town School, in 1993, Ted and Catherine were married. The following year they were blessed with the adoption of their amazing son, Julius Trees Parrish.
Ted and Catherine met at the OTSFM where they both were teachers and Ted ran the school’s music store. In 1996 they adopted their second, equally amazing child, Jaali Rose Parrish. At this time, raising these two beautiful children became their priority. At age 2, Julius was diagnosed with Autism and almost every ounce of creative juice went into helping Julius find his way in the world. There were home programs and home schooling and lots of trips to therapies and doctors. Still, during this time, Catherine created and managed her own children’s music classes and performed and recorded with Ella Jenkins, a Chicago treasure and grammy winning children’s recording artist. Jaali even joined in on one the recording sessions and the whole family performed at Ella’s 80th birthday celebration. Jaali was the star of that show…just 8 years old and singing solo for a packed house of 400 people!
Ted Parrish grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 60’s and 70’s. As a child, he was exposed to some world class live music including Pavarotti, Segovia and Count Basie. This made a deep and lasting impression and cultivated at the very least, an appreciation of great music. Although he did not receive any formal musical training, as a teenager he became interested in the guitar. Once Ted got his hands on a guitar, and with no lessons to speak of, he began listening to and learning from guitarists he wished to emulate and spent countless hours honing his skills. He soon began playing with friends and continued this process in the trenches of high school rock bands. Then, one fateful summer, Ted attended a concert that would change things forever: Son Seals and Koko Taylor. After this show, the blues took over! He was hooked!
Although at college Ted studied English and Latin American studies, he spent just as much time studying Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and BB King. He learned slide guitar and started a jam band called Pie. Groups like Grateful Dead may have been a major influence on this group, but Ted brought the blues. Once he graduated, the next move seemed inevitable…move to Chicago with the goal of learning all that he could about the blues.
In Chicago, Ted took a job at Motown Records, eventually Uni Distribution, handling sales for Chess, Impulse, GRP, Classical, and other small labels. The great thing about the record company gig was that he got to meet a lot of musicians and hang out backstage, as well as hear them perform. Some of the luminaries Ted rubbed elbows with were Smokey Robinson, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Willie Dixon, and many more. Meanwhile, he was going to blues clubs: listening and playing open stages. After only a couple of years he was teaching blues guitar and slide guitar at the Old Town School of Folk Music. He formed a successful jug band, the Bucktown Barbeque Boys, and focused on acoustic blues. This band inaugurated the Friday night acoustic blues set at Buddy Guy’s Legends club and played there for 10 years. Buddy once called the Barbeque Boys his favorite acoustic blues band! In various configurations, Ted opened for Buddy Guy, including the Buddy and Junior Well’s acoustic reunion concert. He also opened shows for Ali Farka Toure, and Corky Siegal and during this time, created and hosted Blue Wednesday, Chicago’s only all acoustic blues open stage which ran for ten years.
At the Old Town School of Folk Music, where they both taught and performed, Ted met his future wife and partner, Catherine Hall. A mutual appreciation of talent brought them together and they married in 1993. Although they wouldn’t really collaborate and work together until 2007 they fully supported and encouraged each other’s musical endeavors. At the time they adopted their first child, Julius, Ted was listening to Hawaiian Slack Key guitar. His love for the music he heard and appreciation of the masters who played it lead him to finding a mentor and friend in Lanialoha Lee. He immersed himself in Hawaiian music and by the time they adopted their second child, Jaali, he had joined her band on slack key guitar and ukulele. Also, perhaps influenced by the music scene at OTSFM, Ted learned clawhammer banjo and successfully managed the music store there for fifteen years.
In 2007 the Parrishes moved to Viroqua WI. While working full time as a chef, Ted established Parrish Music, and both Ted and Catherine started teaching. They moved their little store operation to the main street in 2009, and run the store together still. The store features a broad range of acoustic instruments, and they have taught thousands of lessons to all sorts of budding musicians. Ted and Catherine started playing together with the move, and found a way to weave all of their various influences and experiences into their original compositions. They have recorded two CDs of originals, and published one book of original fiddle tunes. Ted learned mandolin and bouzouki along the way, and has broadened his musical palette in this new environment. Together Ted and Catherine find ways to complement each other musically and lyrically, with a lot of variety. Always growing, always learning, always sharing!