May 27, 1932* – November 18, 1971
Recording history: 1952 for Modern, 1952 for Sun, 1952-1966 for Duke, 1966-1968 for Mercury/Blue Rock, 1970 for Capitol
Also recorded with: N/A
Important/historic recordings: “Mother In Law Blues”, “Sweet Home Chicago”, “These Kind Of Blues”, “Sitting & Thinking”, “Pretty Baby”
Random fact: Soul artist Al Green had covered Junior Parker’s “Driving Wheel”, and also dedicated his original version of “Take Me To The River” to Junior Parker, which is only fitting since Al Green is his distant cousin.
About: Born Herman Parker, Jr. supposedly in Clarksdale, MI*. Sang in church gospel groups as a youngster, and not long after started to discover the local blues circuit (being near to Memphis) as a teen. While still in his teens, he garnered some inspiration and blues experience with Rice Miller – Sonny Boy Williamson #2 (who was his big harmonica influence, and actually taught him some harp) and soon thereafter, Howlin’ Wolf. Formed his group The Blues Flames in 1951 and was discovered by Ike Turner for the Modern label in 1952, where one single was issued. The attention of Ike Tuner and this Modern single got Sam Phillips (of Sun Records) interested, and in 1953 he was signed to Sun. Among the few recordings for Sun Records were two very influential songs – “Feelin’ Good” and “Mystery Train“, but his real success came later that year.
Later in 1953, Junior Parker got signed to Don Robey’s Duke label, and then things started changing. He started touring regularly with the “Blues Consolidated” Revue which also included Duke label-mate Bobby “Blue” Bland. Soon the hits were coming for the smooth-voiced Parker, including “Next Time You See Me“, “Sweet Home Chicago“, “Driving Wheel“, “Cryin’ For My Baby” and others. At this time, Junior Parker was definitely considered somewhat of a “modern” blues artist, with his repertoire consisting of a mix of some down-home styled songs such as “Sweet Home Chicago“, “Mother In law Blues“, “That’s All Right” (all with strong and tasteful harp playing), and more “uptown/R&B” flavored numbers with full horn sections like “Seven Days“, “Barefoot Rock“, and “Wondering” (some of which even had snippets of his ever-tasteful harp thrown in). Sadly, this talented vocalist, harp player and blues/R&B artist died before even reaching his 40th birthday. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001.
* (there are some sources that state birth information as March 3, 1927 in West Memphis, AR)
Recommended Recordings in-print:
- “Chronological 1952-1955″ - Classics (great early recordings)
- “Junior’s Blues” – MCA (includes many of his early Duke recordings)
- “The Collection” - Spectrum (good mix of Duke & Mercury tracks)