Junior ParkerA voice as sweet as honey and a clean, clipped harp sound made Junior Parker a Blues star in the 50s with many hit records. From busking on streetcorners, he was recruited by a Blues legend, was signed by major labels and fronted a renowned touring show. He managed to keep one foot in the Memphis Blues scene, where he got started as a kid, while the other foot took great strides into the R&B sound of the 60s. With a voice ideally suited to the increasingly popular Soul music, Junior could easily have gone on to world fame, and his later work showed he was open to that music, but sadly he died from a brain tumour while he was still a relatively young man.

In 1932, Herman Parker Junior was born in Clarksdale MS, the home of Delta Blues, although some sources cite West Memphis AK.

There he must have heard Rice ‘Sonny Boy II’ Miller blowing his harp on the radio, or perhaps even down the block, and Junior’s harp style definitely benefited from ‘Sonny Boy’s personal tuition at some stage. He learned to sing in Church but as a teenager Junior had moved to the ‘open city’ of Memphis, where he hung around Beale Street with such future Blues stars as BB King, Johnny Ace, Rosco Gordon and Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, who was to become a life-long friend. In the late 40s, these young guns were known as The Beale Streeters and they would form into impromptu bands whenever someone was putting on a rent-party, barbecue or any kind of gig. In 1949, Junior caught a break when he was offered a place in Howlin’ Wolf‘s band. Little Junior, as he was then known, was picked up by Ike Turner, who was working as a talent scout for the Bihari Bros. Modern label in 1952. Junior’s debut record, ‘You’re My Angel’ had Ike on piano and Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy on the session.

Junior pours his soul into ‘That’s Alright’;

The following year, Junior switched to Sam Phillips‘ Sun Records, where his ‘Feelin’ Good’, ‘Love My Baby’ and ‘Mystery Train’ were national R&B hits, and the latter two became Rockabilly classics when they were covered later by Elvis. The originals were rollicking, up-tempo Blues delivered in Junior’s smooth, seductive tones, and backed by his band The Blue Flames. Things didn’t work out at Sun, so Junior signed for Don Robey‘s Duke label in 1954, but the move took a while to bring results. Junior’s sophisticated delivery was tailor-made for the swish Blues ballads that Charles Brown was recording on the West Coast and regularly taking to the top of the R&B charts, but Robey wanted Junior to boogie with records like ‘Barefoot Rock’. When Junior finally had a big hit for Duke in 1957, it was with the ballad ‘Next Time You See Me’. Meanwhile, Junior was on the road leading Blues Consolidated, a hugely successful live show with a big brass section which often had Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland or Big Mama Thornton in support. As well as touring The States constantly, this band made the R&B charts many times with songs like Roosevelt Sykes‘ ‘Drivin’ Wheel’ and the insistent ‘ In The Dark’.

Junior Parker Discography
This fantastic collection from Junior’s most productive years with Modern, Sun and Duke has all his chart hits


Junior was an exceptionally versatile artist, combining down-home Blues tracks with up-town R&B numbers on a series of 60s albums like ‘Baby Please’, which he cut in Memphis, ‘Like It Is’ and ‘Blues Man’. Towards the end of the decade, Junior flirted with Soul and he showed what a great Soul star he could have become when half the tracks on his 1969 album ‘Honey Drippin’ Blues’ featured his dreamy voice on some unfamiliar Soul material. Perhaps covering The Beatles ‘Taxman’ and ‘Lady Madonna’ on his final album for Capitol was a step too far, however. Sadly, Junior’s potential was not to be recognised as his life was cut short in 1971 when he was stricken by a brain tumour.