Bobby Parker

The best stuff I ever heard is by a bloke called Bobby Parker." So said John Lennon, who lifted the signature riff from Parker's "Watch Your Step" for not just one, but two Beatles hits: "I Feel Fine" and "Day Tripper." Led Zeppelin meanwhile, constructed "Moby Dick" from the same source, while Robert Plant has acknowledged Parker's first record "Blues Get Off My Shoulder," as the disc that inspired him to start singing. Then there's longtime Parker devotee Carlos Santana, who decided to pick up the guitar after witnessing one of his devastating performances. And the list goes on and on.

All that said, Bobby Parker must hold some kind of a world record. Perhaps for being the musician that singularly inspired so many with so little. It isn't that Parker's slim discography is loaded down with hits; or even that many releases. Nevertheless, he's made each one count, most notably "Watch Your Step." As good as its incendiary Latin beat, burning sax solo and killer lyrics are, Parker managed to say more with its introductory guitar riff than most artists say in their entire careers.

Born in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1937, Parker grew up in California, gaining experience with West Coast R&B gurus Johnny Otis and Don and Dewey and beginning his show biz career with Otis Williams and the Charms, whom he joined after running away from home at fourteen. Landing a job in the Apollo Theater house band led by Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams, he also played in the bands of both Bo Diddley and Fats Domino, waxing "Blues Get Off Of My Shoulder" for Vee-Jay in 1958. Nineteen-sixty-one brought the rock 'n' roll explosion of "Watch Your Step," which he recorded for the Philadelphia-based V-Tone label.

Remaining a popular draw in the DC area where he had settled, Parker's recordings have remained sporadic since his breakthrough hit, and have included "I Won't Believe it Til I See It," which he cut as Little Bobby Parker for the ultra-rare Shrine imprint, notable as one of the most sought after labels in all of soul music. A UK tour in the late '60s only spread the Parker legend, leading to recordings for Blue Horizon. Parker last recorded for New Orleans' Blacktop Records, and remains deadly whenever he picks up his guitar and hits the stage.

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