A Big Junior

Somewhere On the Delta

Memphis' molasses musical mouth Junior Parker was born Herman Parker, Jr. in Clarksdale, Mississippi on May 27, 1932. (However, one account has him born on the third of March, 1927 in Arkansas' West Memphis, and even though it seems logical there was indeed a Herman Senior, a Willie is mentioned; and was the mother - Jeanetta or Jeremeter.) We do know how blessed he was to grow up in the Delta, singing in Church, listen to music the cotton pickers listened to on the radio while in the fields, get a harmonical at five years old, and finally to be tutored by one of the great Bluesmen, and harp players, Sonny Boy Williamson (the II, aka Rice Miller). He met his mentor by placing himself on the front row at a show, and therefore was quickly available for the asked for opportunity to play the blues harp -- which more than amply proved his ability. He accompanied him oft times, and sitting on Sonny Boy's lap he became the 'Junior' . He continued with him as a teenager developing a harmomica virtuosity that allowed him to play with only the best. This would include legendary Howlin' Wolf with whom he eventually took a leading role running his accompanying players. He belonged to the Beale Streeters that included none other than Bobby "Blue" Bland and B.B. King.

On His Own

In 1951 he formed, with guitarist Auburn "Pat" Hare, and Mat's brother, Floyd Murphy (his Blue Flames. They perfomed regularly on West Memphis' radio station, KWEM. Next year he was discovered by that famous musician, and talent scout, Ike Turner, and he brought Little Junior to his first relatively rough studio sessions -- backed by Ike's piano and Matt Murphy's guitar work-- at Joe Bihari's Modern Records for his first single: You're My Angel. That in turn, led to his discovery by star maker, Sam Phillips for Sun Records in 1953. Here he released his tryout recording, Feeling Good, a Delta version of John Lee Hooker's boogie beat, but most famously, Mystery Train whose coals were stoked by Elvis Presley a few years later, making an R & B tune, ironically a Rockabilly anthem. Primitive rocker Hayden Thompson did the same with his rendition of Parker's raucasious Love My Baby.

Consolidatin' the Blues

Just before 1954 rolled around, Junior contracted with Don Robey's Houston based Duke Records, but did not become untracked with any wax until 1957 when he had a crossover song, Next Time You See Me. He hooked up with another Duke label star, Bobby Bland, trumpeter Joe Scott: putting together a horn section, and they created a national touring group, the Blues Consolidated. By 1961 they had a hit doing Roosevelt Sykes' Driving Wheel and he continued into the next year with his downhome or uptown blues with In the Dark and the danceable Annie Get Your Yo-Yo. Before he split from Duke in 1966 he finished there with the assortment that included, Sweet Home Chicago, Barefoot Rock, Mother-In-Law Blues, and a 1965 hit version of Harold Burrage's Crying for My Baby. He would go on to record his song, Sittin' at My Window, and he did Sweet Home Chicago, Stand by Me, Next Time You See Me, Five Long Years, I Want To Ramble, and It Serves Me Right To Suffer Sittin' Drinkin' and Thinkin'. Duke besides their 1962 Drivin' Wheel, they released the LP The Best of Junior Parker in 1967.

Movin' On

His move to Mercury's Blue Rock was not as successful as his earlier ventures, but he did Like it Is and Baby Please here in 1967. He subsequently recorded covers of the Beatles' Taxman and Lady Madonna on Capitol. 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 blues (though classified sometimes as jazz) organist, Jimmy McGriff. The real blues came for us all --when not quite 40 --this wonderful Blues man was no longer among the living. Like Bob Marley, a brain tumor took him on November 18, 1971, and like so many from the Delta, died in Chicago. He still had work for us to hear in post-humous albums:

  • 1972 - Blues Shadows Falling; Groove
  • 1972 - Good Things Don't Happen Every Day; Groove
  • 1973 - I Tell Stories Sad and True; UA
  • 1973 - Sometime Tomorrow; Bluesway
  • 1974 - Junior Parker; Bluesway
  • 1974 - Blues for Mr. Crump (asst. trks); Polydor
  • 1976 - Love My Baby; Charly
  • 1977 - Legendary Sun Performers (Side One); Charly
  • 1990 - Little Junior Parker; LRC
  • 1990 - Mystery Train; Rounder
  • 1992 - Junior's Blues/ Duke Recordings Vol 1;MCA
  • 1996 - Mercury Recordings; Collectables
  • 1997 - Love Ain't Nothin' But a Business Goin' On;          Simitar
  • 1998 - I'm So Satisfied; Polydor
  • 1998 - Funny How Time Slips Away; Delta
  • 1998 - Backtrackin' 2; Peacock/Duke

Source: Memphis Guide

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