It has been 20 years since Frank Parsons retired from his market research and data processing job in Ohio and moved to Florida. A year later, in 1993, he followed a longtime dream and formed the Frank Parsons Big Band, playing his trumpet with 16 or 17 other devoted musicians and performing for tens of thousands of people in scores of venues across the Tampa Bay region.
In 2005, he accepted an invitation from the late Charlie Skelton to bring his big band to Richey Suncoast Theatre, launching an annual series the following year that has drawn thousands to the theater on Wednesday afternoons since then.
At the first concert of this season's six-concert series, Parsons announced he's retiring for a second time at the end of the last concert on April 10.
"I'm going to put my feet up and just do nothing," he said with a chuckle after the November show.
But Parsons' retirement doesn't necessarily mean an end to the popular Wednesday concerts. Parsons said conductor/trumpet player Fred Nunes will take over his spot and continue the shows.
Meanwhile, Parsons will continue his role as narrator/storyteller at the five monthly shows in December through April.
As he winds up 20 years of shows, Parsons has changed the format from previous ones. In the past, each show had a theme — "just like Lawrence Welk does," he once quipped. It may be St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, holiday tunes or perhaps a tribute to Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra or Count Basie. Parsons carefully researched the background of each tune: composer, arranger, where it was first played, who made it famous or any tidbit that would make the music more meaningful and interesting.
This year, he's still giving the background for each number, but the shows are more free-form, without a title or theme.
"We're just playing a lot of our favorites," he said. If the November show was any indication, those tunes are the audience's favorites, too.
Future shows are at 2 p.m. on Dec. 5, Jan. 16, Feb. 13, March 13 and April 10.
Tickets to individual shows cost $11. A "snow bird special" season ticket for the concerts December through March is $36, all seats reserved. Call (727) 842-6777 and leave a local phone number. The box office will call back to arrange seat selection and payment.