Junior Parker Biography

Herman Parker Jnr., 3 March 1927, West Memphis, Arkansas, USA, d. 18 November 1971, Blue Island, Illinois, USA. Despite his later fame, some confusion still exists regarding the parentage and birth details of Little Junior Parker (Clarksdale, Mississippi, and 1932 are sometimes quoted, and his parents’ names have variously been cited as Herman Snr., Willie, Jeanetta or Jeremeter). It is certain that they were 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 premature death in 1971 occurred while he was undergoing surgery for a brain tumour. Parker was an important figure in the development of R&B.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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