Who was/is Little Junior Parker ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

Little Junior Parker

As consistently modern a bluesman as he insisted on being—he'd placed his Sonny Boy-influenced harmonica interjections on the back burner to emphasize his smoothly burnished vocals on R&B-styled material—Bobby 'Blue' Bland's Duke labelmate Little Junior Parker wasn't shy about adapting the vintage material of his pre-war blues ancestors to his own considerable strengths.

He'd scored a sizeable R&B hit at the end of 1958 by updating Robert Johnson's Sweet Home Chicago, his arrangement echoing a '55 treatment by rotund pianist Roosevelt Sykes. He returned to Sykes' repertoire in early 1961, bringing the Arkansas-born ivories ace's Driving Wheel back for a new listen. Roosevelt had waxed his original in Chicago for Regal in February of '50, but he didn't have the four-piece horn section that Parker brought to his Houston-cut revival, let alone the gospel-style breakdown Junior breaks into at the two-thirds mark.

"Junior could play just about anything that's to be played," says Duke house musician Texas Johnny Brown, probably the lead guitarist on the date (Wayne Bennett is the other possibility; bassist Vernon Heart and drummer Randolph Odom round out the rhythm section). Brown also toured with Junior as his bandleader.

"Junior was a good person to work with," Johnny says. "He was kind of happy-go-lucky, but he was business. He had more business sense than Bobby, much more. He was more aware of what he was doing. Bobby was the kind of person that just enjoyed what he was doing, and took the stardom part of it." 

Driving Wheel was a #5 R&B smash that spring and made a #85 pop bow. Junior made similar inroads later that year with another delicious blues, In The Dark, though he veered into dance fare the next year with his irresistible hit Annie Get Your Yo-Yo 

Duke's two principal breadwinners Parker and Bland toured for "between eight and 10 years" together, according to Bland. "Junior was a good experience for me," says Bobby. "I was his valet and driver. Then I was opening the show. I did all three of the things." They went back even further than that, recording a duet for Modern in 1952. "We were kinda close," says Bobby. "He was from West Memphis, and I was in Memphis. So we used to go on Eighth Street, and play on weekends sometimes. It was our good chance to sit in, or whatever. And so it went on from there. Junior was on the Duke label when I got there."

As the decade progressed, Parker dropped the 'Little' from his billing. He stayed with Duke into 1966, then recorded for Mercury and its Blue Rock logo (sometimes in a modern soul style), Minit, and Capitol before dying much too soon on November 18, 1971 in Blue Island, Illinois (a southern Chicago suburb) while undergoing surgery for a brain tumor. Herman Parker, Jr. was only 39 years old.

Bill Dahl
Chicago, Illinois 

Electric Blues 1939–2005 – The Definitive Collection!
Volume 3: 1960–1969

Little Junior Parker on Wikipedia


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Little Junior Parker: Feelin' Good b-w Fussin' And Fightin' Blues
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(1956-66 'Duke Records') (51:32/20) Neben Bobby Blue Bland der auch in den 60er/70er Jahren beim afro-amerikanischen Publikum erfolgreichste Bluessänger, der eher wie ein Geschäftsmann und nicht wie ein Baumwollpflücker aussah. Schöne Zusammenstellung um die...

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(2016/Jasmine) 50 Tracks - The complete singles 1952-1962, original Modern, Sun and Duke recordings! Memphis R&B!

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