ROBERT PARKER

Born 14 October 1930, New Orleans, Louisiana

Saxophonist / singer. One of my favourite instrumental breaks is the sax solo on "Flat Foot Sam" by Oscar Wills, a.k.a. T.V. Slim, on Argo. For decades I thought that the sax player was Lee Allen, until part 2 of "Blues Records 1943- 1970" taught me that it was in fact Robert Parker. (Not to be confused with Bobby Parker of "Watch Your Step" fame.) Parker was (and is) an accomplished saxophone player, who joined Professor Longhair's Blue Scholars in 1949. He can be heard on alto sax on Longhair's 1949 Atlantic recordings ("Mardi Gras in New Orleans", etc.). It was Parker who later came up with the new name for the combo : Professor Longhair and his Shuffling Hungarians. Parker also led the house band at the Club Tijuana in New Orleans. As a session saxophonist, he played behind such artists as Ernie K-Doe, Fats Domino, Frankie Ford, Joe Tex, Huey "Piano" Smith, Joe Tex and Irma Thomas. He also toured with Huey Smith and the Clowns and later with Eddie Bo and Percy Stovall. Parker made his solo recording debut in 1959, for the Ron label, with "All Night Long", a scorching two-part instrumental. Parker's underutilized vocal talents suddenly emerged in 1966, when his infectious dance record "Barefootin'" became a # 7 pop hit on the tiny Nola label. On the R&B charts it peaked at # 2 and it was also a hit in the UK (# 24). Parker had a very relaxed, unhurried singing style which was quite amazingly effective considering that he was only really thought of as a saxophone player in New Orleans until this time. Although the soul beat was coming through, the New Orleans Sound was still clearly apparent on "Barefootin'" (Parker's own composition). Nola then released several vocal follow-ups, but only "Tip Toe" (# 48 R&B, # 83 pop) managed to make some chart noise. The label soon filed for bankruptcy, ending Parker's brief fling with fame. He later recorded unsuccessfully for the Island and Silver Fox labels, but Robert Parker remained a popular attraction in his hometown.

CD: Golden Classics (Collectables).

 
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