Junior Parker – Way Back Home.
Herman Parker (known ’round the world as Little Junior) was born in Mississippi but moved with his mother to West Memphis, Arkansas sometime in the 1940’s.
In West Memphis, Sonny Boy Williamson tutored him on the harmonica and the lessons must have taken as he was playing with Howlin’ Wolf while still in his teens.
Ike Turner spotted Parker on one of his scouting trips to West Memphis in 1952 and played piano on his sole release on Modern Records that same year.
In 1953, Parker and his band the Blue Flames, moved on to Sun Records and scored with their first release, ‘Feelin’ Good’.
It was their follow-up the same year that produced their most enduring number, ‘Mystery Train’.
Parker was recording for Don Robey’s Duke label before the year was out, but it was not until 1957 that he had his commercial breakthrough with ‘Next Time You See Me’
Parker would release well over thirty singles on Duke between 1953 and 1966, with many landing on the R & B charts.
His later work for Capitol and Mercury are casually dismissed by many blues fans, (unfairly, in my opinion), but while not a match for his earlier material, they spotlight an artist willing to experiment and change direction.
He recorded covers of The Beatles’ ‘Inner Light’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ among others and two LPs with organist Jimmy McGriff.
Would he eventually have settled on a single style, or continued to explore whatever caught his interest? We’ll never know, as he passed away during an operation for a brain tumor in 1971.
This was his take on a number originally performed by The Jazz Crusaders; from the 1971 LP “You Don’t Have To Be Black to Love the Blues” (Groove Merchant)