Although Bobby Parker wasn't on the album, one of his songs was....."Watch Your Step" opened the disc in a big way and quickly became my favorite song on the album. I did find out that it was a cover of a early 60's hit by Bobby Parker. Of course, back then it wasn't like old songs appeared on the radio, other than on Sunday nights, when I could pick up WLAC out of Nashville. They played songs from the late 50's/early 60's frequently and that's where I first heard the original version of "Watch Your Step," which blew me away all over again.
It was next to impossible for me to find recordings of older artists like Parker where I lived. I listened to what I could find, thanks to a few mail-order places that I was able to track down via the ads in Living Blues magazine, but I was never able to track down any music from Bobby Parker. I think it was mainly due to the fact that Parker just recorded singles and for multiple labels, so it was hard to collect them all together into a "Best Of" due to licensing issues and such.
Fortunately, my favorite record label at the time, Black Top Records, released Bent Out Of Shape, Parker's first official album, in 1993. I heard about it via Mississippi's Public Radio Saturday night show, Highway 61. They played a track off the album (the title track, I think) as part of their set and two days later, I was driving to the record store, where I quickly grabbed a copy.
Upon hearing Bent Out Of Shape, my biggest question was why Bobby Parker didn't become a big star then and why wasn't he regarded as one of big stars of his era?? I found out over the years that he was a huge influence on a host of acts, particularly Santana, John Lennon, Spencer Davis, John Mayall, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Bobby Radcliff, who described Parker as "Guitar Slim meets James Brown," which sums him up about as well as I've ever heard.
He won a talent contest in the late 50's, which led to a gig with Otis Williams & the Charms, later backing Bo Diddley (even appearing on Ed Sullivan), and Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams before he settled down in Washington D.C., where he became a solo act, recording "Watch Your Step" in 1961 for V-Tone Records. Some of his other singles included "Blues Get Off My Shoulder" (Parker claimed that he wrote the B-side, "You Got What It Takes," but it was stolen by Berry Gordy) and "It's Hard By It's Fair," both of which he reprised on Bent Out Of Shape many years later.
Parker remained active over the years, but spent most of his time performing in the D.C. area. Upon the release of his two Black Top efforts, Santana took Parker on the road with him for several shows, one of which was captured for DVD in the late 90's.
Parker remained active until he passed away in October of 2013 from a heart attack at 76. If you missed out on Bobby Parker, you missed a real treat. Luckily, his music is still available via streaming or CD, and there's an upcoming release that collects his 50's and 60's recordings that is on my radar for sure.