The Gold Chain Cowboy Brings Country Music Home

Conroe native Parker McCollum kicks off the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

By Shelby Stewart February 22, 2023

Parker McCollum is sitting in his office in his Nashville home, where dozens of gold and platinum record sales plaques adorn the walls. These days you could say he’s living out his country boy dreams. But even though he now calls Tennessee home, as the old adage goes, “you can take the boy out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the boy.” 

For McCollum, all the awards and honors pale in comparison to the real indicator of success for most, if not all, Texas country music artists—performing at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Even better than that? Being the opening-day performer who gets to kick off the prestigious show.

Playing the HLSR has been a lifelong goal for McCollum. “I remember seeing Pat Green sell out the Houston Rodeo in 2003 or 2004, somewhere around that time,” he said. “I can remember that night watching him at the rodeo and thinking, ‘You know, I think I could do that.’”

That confidence served him well, and his career has been on a steady rise since. In 2022, McCollum received the Academy of Country Music’s new male artist of the year, and Country Music Television’s award for the breakthrough music video of the year for his hit “To Be Loved by You.” 

That same year, he made good on his dream to play the HLSR, promptly becoming a favorite for rodeo goers after performing for a crowd of roughly 74,000 fans. It was the fourth highest-paid HLSR concert attendance in 2022, just a tick behind one of his biggest idols, George Strait. Pretty good for a relative newcomer on the scene. “I truly love and identify so much with classic country,” McCollum said. “When I was a kid George Strait was the man of my house.” 

The "Gold Chain Cowboy," Parker McCollum. 

A self-described country boy at heart, McCollum grew up approximately 40 miles north of Houston in Conroe, Texas. His parents both attended Conroe High School, as did his aunts, uncles, and some of his grandparents, too. Far from the gold records and glamorous TV awards shows, McCollum said his youth was spent herding his grandpa’s cattle with his cousins in the summer months and mostly playing sports and music during the school season. “Growing up in Conroe probably wasn’t too different from the average person. We would ranch in the summer, hunt in the winter, and play sports during the school year,” McCollum said. 

Being a country music superstar was far-fetched for the small-town boy. “In high school, I wasn’t as great an athlete as my friends, but I knew I could sing better than them,” McCollum said. 

Before he graduated from CHS in 2011, the wheels began to turn in his mind, and McCollum started to think about performing on a big stage one day. “I knew I wasn’t going to go to college. I don’t think my mom knew that,” McCollum recalled, laughing. “I think she thought up until my senior year I was going to college. That’s when I started telling my parents I think I can do this music thing.”

It was this self-confidence that propelled him into music even further as McCollum, his brother, Tyler McCollum, and their cousin Braden shared an apartment in south Austin, where they all dreamt of making it big in the music business.

“All of us were thinking about writing songs and doing that for a living. I think those were some of the absolute best days of my life, but certainly the least productive,” McCollum recalled. “My brother plays, produces, and writes. He’s pursued it quite a bit, but I was really the only one obsessed with it.”

His persistence led to his debut EP, A Red Town View, in 2013. But his 2015 album, The Limestone Kid, turned McCollum into a mainstream success and coined his first nickname. “Everyone took on ‘The Limestone Kid’ as a nickname when it wasn’t intended to be.”

He released another project, Probably Wrong, in 2017, and in 2019 the Texas native signed a record deal with Universal Music Group Nashville. As he continued to grow, it was his 2021 album that turned him into the “Gold Chain Cowboy.” 

The moniker “Gold Chain Cowboy” is indicative of an artist who embraces the melting pot of cultures that is Houston. The now 30-year-old grew up listening to country, of course, but his older brother introduced him to the Houston rap of the early aughts. 

“I like things from several different backgrounds. Growing up that close to Houston, it’s hard not to be influenced by a lot of that old-school Houston rap culture,” McCollum said. “I ran around with my older brother and his buddies a lot when I was really young, and so I heard a lot of music at a very early age, and I was always very into rappers. I thought they were cool.”

Similar to the Limestone Kid, the name took off. Now, McCollum says, everyone shows up to his shows in gold chains and cowboy boots, which is precisely what happened on opening day at the rodeo. 

“It’s definitely a full-circle moment,” McCollum said. “My granddad used to take all of us to the rodeo, and he passed away in 2017. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. But standing on stage at the Houston Rodeo is certainly one of those things that I think about, because he would not have believed that.”

And now, just like his childhood hero George Strait, Parker McCollum is most definitely the man of the house.

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