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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Life before Guilford: Serendipitous moments follow Parke Puterbaugh

(Peach McCarty)

When he was about 10-years-old, Part-Time Lecturer in Music Parke Puterbaugh remembers walking into his house and hearing “Shapes of Things” by the Yardbirds on the radio.

“I literally stopped in my tracks and felt my knees go wobbly,” said Puterbaugh. “I immediately segued from collecting baseball cards to buying records.”

The shifts in Puterbaugh’s life have come together like a song where each note continues seamlessly to the next. Three subjects are interwoven into his song, and his love of writing brings them together.

“I envisioned a tripod,” said Puterbaugh. “I thought if I had music, travel, and environment, that if one thing went away, I could depend on the other things.”

Puterbaugh cultivated his love of writing by double-majoring in English and Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduating in 1976, he moved to New York and worked as an editorial assistant with Oxford University Press.

Puterbaugh enjoyed New York’s music scene throughout his work week. Writing about music began when he took the advice of a friend, applied to Rolling Stone, and got the job.

“It wasn’t even a possibility that I entertained,” said Puterbaugh. “It was almost too good to be true.”

He started as a copy-editor. Luck struck when a co-worker asked him to cover an interview with Johnny Ramone. This was Puterbaugh’s first interview, and many more followed. “I just love interviewing and hanging around musicians,” said Puterbaugh. “They’re so brilliant.”

Puterbaugh built his career in New York for almost ten years. One day while looking at a map of America in his office at Rolling Stone, he had an idea.

“My eye went from Maine to Florida,” said Puterbaugh. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to drive from the tip of Maine to Key West and write about the beaches along the way?'”

He asked his best friend from college, Alan Bisbort, to travel with him. They had bonded over a British music magazine while working at the graduate library.

“Being a young man of high standards, long hair, and good musical taste, Parke often brought imported music magazines with him to work,” said Bisbort in an e-mail interview.

Puterbaugh and Bisbort collaborated and wrote four travel books together about the east and west coast beaches.

“We were basically beach bums for six months, working out of the trunk of the car with an electric typewriter,” said Puterbaugh.

Puterbaugh noticed the over-construction at the beaches he visited. This led him to get his Masters Degree in Environmental Science in 1996 and he wrote a book for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1997.

Even after leaving Rolling Stone, he freelanced for them for the next 20 years. A one-time interview with Phish turned into writing for the band for 15 years. Their biography is among the many musical artists’ biographies that he has written.

“It all shakes out that I mostly wrote about music anyway because that’s where the work was,” said Puterbaugh.

Fittingly, he met his wife, Carol, at a music show at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill 20 years ago and they have a 14-year-old daughter, Hayley.

With all the other serendipitous moments woven into Puterbaugh’s life, the one leading him to Guilford was a telephone call from Tim Lindeman, professor of music. This call would combine two dreams of Puterbaugh’s and that was to teach about what made his “knees go wobbly” at 10-years-old: rock and roll.  

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