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Junior Parker Biography

Born: March 27, 1932, West Memphis, Arkansas

Died: November 18, 1971, Chicago, Illinois

Also known as: Herman Parker, Jr.

Junior Parker was known for his prowess as a vocalist, bandleader, songwriter and harmonica player, but it was his voice — which music historians describe as “honeyed,” “velvet-smooth” and “magic carpet” — that brought him real fame. Parker was mentored in the subtleties of blues harp (harmonica) by the blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson II, and joined Howlin’ Wolf’s band when he was still a teenager. He was part of Memphis’s famous Beale Street blues community. Reportedly one of talent scout Ike Turner’s many discoveries, Parker recorded for Sun records in the early fifties; his rendition of the self-penned “Mystery Train” made it to number 5 on the R&B charts and was later covered by Elvis Presley. Parker’s recordings would make the charts many more times throughout the decade and into the early sixties. During the late fifties Parker led a highly successful R&B revue, Blues Consolidated, which also featured fellow Beale Street vocalist Bobby Blue Bland. Though he never was able to sustain the fame he’d achieved during the fifties, Parker continued working as a recording artist and performer throughout the sixties.

Essential listening: “Mystery Train,” “Next Time You See Me,” “Barefoot Rock,” “Feelin’ Good,” “Love My Baby”

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