Parnell was born in Abilene on December 21, 1956, and grew up on his parents’ ranch; his father had toured with a teenage Bob Wills in traveling medicine shows, and Lee Roy’s first public performance came on Wills’ radio show at age six. He joined Kinky Friedman’s Texas Jewboys in his late teens and moved to Austin in 1974 to join the city’s budding music scene. Parnell spent over a decade playing clubs in Austin, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and New York while honing his style and songwriting. Lee Roy moved to Nashville in 1987 and quickly landed a publishing contract and a regular spot at the famed Bluebird Café. He signed to Arista’s Nashville division in 1989 and the next year released his self-titled debut album, a collection of horn-driven country-soul. It received good reviews but didn’t break him commercially; that would happen with 1992’s Love Without Mercy, which mostly dispensed with the horns and emphasized Parnell’s slide guitar. “What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am” and “Tender Moment” both went to number two on the country charts, and the title track also made the Top Ten. 1993’s On the Road produced two more Top Tens in its title track and “I’m Holding My Own,” and his duet with Ronnie Dunn (of Brooks & Dunn) on Hank Williams’ “Take These Chains From My Heart” made the Top 20. 1995’s “We All Get Lucky Sometimes” found Parnell tailoring his sound to country radio a bit more and featured duets with Trisha Yearwood, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Tex-Mex accordionist Flaco Jimenez. It also spawned two Top Five hits in “A Little Bit of You” and “Heart’s Desire.” Following his deal at Arista, Parnell next wound up on the rootsy Vanguard label, debuting for them with 2001’s Tell the Truth. He returned to the studio in 2006 with Back to the Well and made the segue into music publishing by co-partnering in Dean Parnell Music. Lee Roy is currently producing and writing with some of the most influential songwriters and recording artists nationwide.
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