DJ Flash Gordon Parks is the living encyclopedia of Houston music

FOR MORE THAN A DECADE, JASON ‘FLASH GORDON PARKS’ WOODS to Ccultivated proof of Houston’s presence in almost every popular musical genre.

Growing up in the 1980s in South Houston, Woods grew up during the years when hip-hop was becoming more accessible. He attended John E. Codwell Elementary School, a place he considers “an oasis in the middle of the neighborhood” and which exposed him to a myriad of cultures and artistic expressions. A local park in his neighborhood separated him from a world of violence as the crack epidemic ravaged black and brown communities across the country. Woods’ earliest memories of music come from his parents, who kept a record collection at home and cassette tapes in tow to occupy him during family trips. “All of those things gave me great sensitivity and helped me develop my ear and my taste at a young age,” Woods says. Houstonia.

Woods was trained in photography in high school by artist and educator Ray Carrington and went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in photography from Sam Houston State University in 2001. Together with Eric Blaylock of local rap group HISD, Woods has released The beautiful side of the ugly—a book that commemorated a series of photo-poems about the beauty of Houston’s urban areas.

Woods’ stage name, “Flash Gordan Parks”, is a triple meaning: inspired by the late photographer Gordon Parks, the 1930s comic strip Flash Gordon and the American DJ Grandmaster Flash. “My friends gave me the name Flash Gordon Parks because I always had my camera and I was just starting to DJ. It was just on the cusp of these worlds merging. I I felt honored and I ran with it,” he explains.

After attempting a life in corporate America, Woods realized he had knowledge and skills that could galvanize a wider appreciation of Houston’s music history. Since 2009, the ethnomusicologist has devoted himself to establishing bridges between different genres and eras. “Houston has always been an incubator for gospel, blues, jazz, funk, soul, country and hip-hop and it was a big factor in how records were even sold.” The legacy of the Great Migration (the movement of African Americans between 1916 and 1970) is a key factor for Woods’ research. During this period, Houston became a destination for intra-South migrants due to its booming oil, gas, and medical industries. As a result, the city’s music scene was somewhat overshadowed by places like Detroit, Nashville, and Austin, as it didn’t need to rely on the arts to drive its economy.

By collecting books, posters, ephemera and vinyl records, Woods uncovered a story that was important in his day, such as the Houston-based Peacock Records label, which was founded in 1949 and is considered “the Bad Boy Records of his time”. He even discovered that while zydeco is known for its Creole origins, the blues-infused style was created in Houston’s Fifth Ward by Clifton Chenier, a Louisiana migrant who came to Houston in 1947. Thirty years later, the same community gave birth to Houston rap. -A-Lot Records. “It’s important to find this information and connect these dots, and then make sense to a child who has never heard of this and show the connections to the artists of their time.”

Intergenerational ties don’t stop at zydeco. Woods draws parallels between UGK rap duo and blues music, names Bushwick Bill’s presence on Dr. Dre’s The Chronicle (1992) and even cites Houston-born DJ Premier (who is considered the cornerstone of New York hip-hop) as an example of the city’s impact on hip-hop history. While the South was largely ignored during hip-hop’s golden age, Woods points out that “every rapper’s sounds considered the greatest can be traced back to a native of Houston, Texas.”

In 2015, Woods released a documentary This Thing We Do (Houston DJ Culture Revealed) who explored the world of DJing in the city of Bayou, from its historical foundations to its contemporary style. Four years later, he produced a tribute to soul icon Archie Bell. Today, he runs Mo’ Better Brews’ vinyl store in the Museum Quarter, maintains a number of DJ residencies, and continues to lecture at institutions around the city. “I was so lucky to come to a city like Houston because it’s less respected in terms of creative opportunities. It’s not oversaturated like New York and other places. But there are so many possibilities for musical expression here.

As Houston continues to expand its reputation as a metropolis of the South and welcomes post-pandemic transplants from around the world, Woods stresses the importance of local appreciation. “The main thing I want Houstonians to know is that Houston always had it. We’ve always been on the cutting edge of musical culture. There’s nothing people can celebrate musically that Houston doesn’t. touched or influenced. I think it would create a sense of pride locally if we all knew who came from here, went to school here, spent time here and soaked up what they need and took him to new places.There is evidence of all these things and they have been there all this time.

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