Born: March 27, 1932 | Died: November 18, 1971 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Junior Parker was one of the premier singers of his time and had a considerable following on the black club circuit, but in working and recording almost exclusively for that market, he remained virtually invisible to the new blues audience of the ‘60’s. The versatile Parker may have been tagged as a blues artist, but was equally at home across the R&B spectrum, and even covered some early soul.
Herman Parker Jr. was born in West Memphis, Arkansas on March 27, 1932, to a farming family situated near enough to West Memphis for Little Junior (who had started singing in church) to involve himself in the local music scene at an early age. His biggest influence in the early days was Sonny Boy Rice Miller Williamson, in whose band Parker worked for some time before moving on to work for Howlin' Wolf, later assuming the leadership of the latter's backing band. He was a member of the ad hoc group the Beale Streeters, with Bobby Bland and B.B. King, prior to forming his own band, the Blue Flames, in 1951, which included the well-regarded guitarist Auburn Pat Hare.
Parker's first, fairly primitive, recordings were made for Joe Bihari and Ike Turner in 1952 for the Modern Records label. This brought him to the attention of Sam Phillips and Sun Records, where Parker enjoyed some success with his recordings of Feeling Good, although the period is better recalled for the downbeat Mystery Train, which was later covered by the young Elvis Presley.
His greatest fame on record stemmed from his work on Don Robey's Duke label operating out of Houston, Texas, and it was along with fellow Duke artist Bobby Bland that Little Junior headed the highly successful Blues Consolidated Revue, which quickly became a staple part of the southern blues circuit. His tenure with Robey lasted until the mid-60s, with his work moving progressively away from his hard blues base. In his later days, Parker appeared on such labels as Mercury Records, United Artists Records and Capitol Records, enjoying intermittent chart success with Driving Wheel (1961), Annie Get Your Yo-Yo (1962) and Man Or Mouse (1966).
His move to Mercury's Blue Rock was not as successful as his earlier ventures, but he did “Like it Is” and “Baby Please” in 1967. Minit put out an album, “Blues Man” and that year of 1969 Blue Rock released “Honey Drippin' Blues.” He had on Capitol in 1970, “The Outside Man.” That label released the next year, “Dudes Doin' Business,” and on United Artist, “100 Proof Magic.” He did regular gigs at The Golden Slipper owned by great organist, Jimmy McGriff.
Junior Parker died of a brain tumor on November 18, 1971,
In 2001, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.