The Virginia Musical Museum in Williamsburg
The City of Williamsburg Honors The Commonwealth’s Musical History And Acclaimed Artists
Buddy Parker brushes his fingertips across the pristine paint job of a 1978 Clenet Roadster once owned by Wayne Newton.
“It’s all original,” he boasts of the car he bought on eBay, sight unseen. “Wayne called me once and wanted to trade it for a Rolls Royce when he was going through some financial hardship, but I didn’t want to sell. It’s not about the money.”
For Parker, it is about his passion for memorabilia—and music. He had been collecting antique instruments, music boxes and the personal items of Virginia musicians for years before finally opening a place to display these prized possessions in June 2013. Before that, he parked Newton’s Clenet in his own home.
“I was pretty happy when he built this space and I could get some real furniture again,” jokes his wife, Peggy, about a collection that continued to expand throughout the 10 years her husband talked about opening the Virginia Musical Museum.
Once he decided to make his daydreams a reality, it took Parker three years to build and prep the space he added to the back of his Williamsburg piano store, Parker Piano Outlet, to serve as the museum. Parker focused on the history of music in Virginia through instruments and people.
“I don’t know of any other museums for Virginia music. I think we are the best music museum in Virginia because we are the only music museum,” says a modest Parker, downplaying the significance of what visitors will discover at his Virginia Musical Museum.
He hopes people become familiar with the commonwealth’s rich musical past through items like a recording of the Virginia state song, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” on phonograph; the scarf of Ella Fitzgerald made by Pearl Bailey; the self-playing organ used for General MacArthur’s funeral in Norfolk; Patsy Cline’s performance outfits; and exhibits detailing prominent Virginia artists like June Carter and Ralph Stanley.
But besides honoring Virginia music, Parker’s longtime interest in the history of music in general is clear here. His museum includes rooms dedicated to displaying his array of nickelodeons, phonographs, organs and even an amusement park music room complete with a Laughing Sal. The piano gallery shows off keyboard instruments dating from 1760, showing the development of the instrument.
Parker owes a lot to pianos. After taking a side job tuning them as a young family man, he started to buy, restore and resell them, at first out of his garage in 1969. Eventually he worked up to eight retail stores, with three still in business today in Coastal Virginia.
His ever-growing interest in musical memorabilia coupled with the prosperity of his business fueled the personal collection he now shares with museum patrons. But Parker says now that he’s been open for nearly a year, Virginia musicians are beginning to hear about his endeavor and donate notable possessions. He called Bruce Hornsby to acquire several gold records and wrote The Statler Brothers to ask for some performing suits (now on display).
He plans to continue to expand the museum and add to the collection, with hopes to eventually include a section showcasing younger Virginia artists like Pharrell and Missy Elliott.
“I have always dreamed bigger than I should,” he says. But museum visitors that now benefit from Parker’s devotion to his dreams may disagree. He says he is ready for even more this summer, tourists and locals alike.
“If a person likes any kind of music, antiques or history, they would really enjoy this,” he says.
The Virginia Musical museum is open for personal or self-guided audio tours. Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children. For more information visit www.VirginiaMusicalMuseum.com
Virginia Musical Museum
6316 Richmond Rd., Williamsburg