Survival part of Parmalee’s arsenal


Parmalee is a success story.

Two brothers, a cousin, and a longtime friend work hard and make it big in Nashville.

But their real story is a story of hope.

“We’ve always been the type of guys that when we find one glimpse of hope in anything, we’ll go after it hard. And we found it,” Matt Thomas said.

Matt could have been talking about the long and winding road he, his brother Scott, cousin Barry Knox, and friend Josh McSwain took before busting through with the multiweek No. 1 smash “Carolina.” They’ve been playing in clubs since putting the band together while they were going to school at East Carolina University in 2001.

He could have been talking about the group’s nomination for the Academy of Country Music’s New Artist of the Year award. They’ve got their fingers crossed and are urging their fans to cast their ballots at

But he’s not talking about those things. He’s talking about the 5 percent hope that doctors gave Scott to live after a gunman shot him three times and severed a femoral artery during a robbery attempt in September, 2010.

Two men burst into the band’s RV, put a gun to Matt’s head and demanded money. Scott, who had a concealed weapon permit, opened fire and killed one of the men before being shot. He nearly bled out while being airlifted to a Charlotte hospital. He spent 10 days in a coma, 35 days in the hospital.

But his family and friends never gave up. Fans of the group stood vigil at the hospital and financially supported Parmalee as they waited at Scott’s bedside.

“We had to spend every day at the hospital. We couldn’t work, we couldn’t play, we couldn’t do anything,” Matt said. “Our fans gave us our drive. We didn’t realize that we connected with that many people over the years.”

And one day, Scott opened his eyes. And 35 days after almost dying, he left the hospital.

“I didn’t think for one minute that he wasn’t going to make it,” Matt said.

But the story really does get better. Prior to the shooting, Parmalee was doing a series of dates in their home state of North Carolina to raise some money to move to Nashville and play a showcase for Stoney Creek Records. That showcase wasn’t going to happen without Scott, the band’s drummer.

“The first show we did after the shooting — when we rehabbed Scott enough to get him out of the house — was the show for Stoney Creek. That got us our record deal,” Matt said.

After generating a buzz with their first single, “Musta Had a Good Time,” Parmalee hit No. 1 with their second single, “Carolina,” on December 21.

And that RV? The place where they cut demos for “Musta Had a Good Time” and some other songs, but that held so many bad memories?

“We put it up for sale, but for some reason, we just couldn’t sell it. I was about ready to just take what we owed on it,” Matt said.

But one day, a storm blew through Nashville, snapped a branch, and crushed the RV, which was covered by insurance.

Once again, hope prevailed.

Brian Dugger’s column on country music appears in The Blade the last Saturday of every month. Contact him at or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.