BOBBY PARKER

Born Robert Lee Parker, 31 August 1937, Lafayette, Louisiana
Died 31 October 2013, Bowie, Maryland

Singer / guitarist / songwriter. Born in Louisiana, Bobby Parker was raised in southern California after his family moved to Los Angeles when he was six. Going to school in Hollywood, the young Parker was bitten by the scenery, and decided he wanted to be in show business. At the Million Dollar Theatre, he saw big stage shows by Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine and Lionel Hampton. Although he had an early interest in jazz, the blues bit him when artists like T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson, Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Pee Wee Crayton came to town. He began playing in the late '50s as a guitarist with Otis Williams and the Charms after winning a talent contest sponsored by Johnny Otis. Later, he backed Bo Diddley, which included an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show before joining the touring big band of Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams. He settled in Washington, D.C. in the 1960s, dropping out of Williams's band and making a go of it on his own. He is perhaps best known for his 1961 song, "Watch Your Step," a single for the V-Tone label that peaked at # 51 in the pop charts and was released on London HLU 9393 in the UK. The John Barry Seven released an instrumental version in November 1961 and Parker's song was later covered by several British blues groups, most prominent among them the Spencer Davis Group. And though Parker may not be a familiar name to the average music fan, he's been cited as a major musical influence by Spencer Davis, John Mayall, Robin Trower, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, drummer Mick Fleetwood, John Lennon and Carlos Santana. Parker's style has been described by his protege Bobby Radcliff as Guitar Slim meets James Brown, and that's not that far off the mark. In the summer of 1994, Santana was so happy about Parker's comeback on the BlackTop/Rounder label that he took him on the road for some arena shows on the East and West Coasts. Today Parker is one of the major players on the blues circuit. He can do it all: he writes brilliant songs, he sings well, and he backs it all up with powerful, stinging guitar. But things weren't always so good for Parker, and much of his newfound success is the result of years of hard work and struggling around the bars in Washington, D.C. and Virginia. Unlike so many other blues musicians, Parker's live shows are almost entirely his own songs. He does very few covers.

 
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