1947 - 2013
Bobby Parker - a longtime resident of Washington, DC - was a guitarist and well-respected blues and R&B artist. He was born in 1937 Lafayette, Louisiana, but his family moved to Los Angeles, California, during his childhood. Notably, both of Parker's parents were involved in music - his mother sang gospel and his father was a record distributor servicing jukeboxes. As a teen in the 1950's, Parker began performing himself while living in L.A. After winning a talent show produced by Johnny Otis, he toured with the Doo Wop group, Otis Williams and the Charms, who are best known for their hit version of the song, "Hearts of Stone" in 1954. Parker later performed as a member of Bo Diddley's band including on the Ed Sullivan Show. He then worked as the guitarist for Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams and recorded with Williams in 1955. And while with Williams' band, he backed performances by artists like Sam Cooke, LaVern Baker, and Clyde McPhatter.
As a solo artist, Parker composed "Blues Get Off My Shoulder" and the B-side "You Got What it Takes" for his 1958 Vee-Jay Records single. That B-side was then recorded by Motown artist Marv Johnson in 1959, falsely listing Berry Gordy, Gwen Fuqua, and Roquel "Billy" Davis (also known as Tyran Carlo) as songwriters. Lacking legal resources, Parker didn't contest the song's appropriation; and Johnson's version became a hit for Motown. Parker's best-known song, "Watch Your Step," was recorded at Edgewood Studios in Washington, DC, and released in 1961 on V-Tone records. The song was a major international influence, being covered by British rock groups including the Spencer Davis Group, and inspiring artists like John Lennon of The Beatles, Carlos Santana, and Led Zeppelin. Bobby Parker settled in Washington, DC, in the early 1960's and performed at local venues such as the Flamingo in DC and the Tip Top Club in Bladensburg, MD. Beginning in 1992, he held a monthly spot at Madam's Organ in DC. During this period, he released two albums on Black Top Records: "Bent out of Shape" (1993) and "Shine Me Up" (1995). Parker passed away on October 31, 2013 at the age of 76.
“'Cause when you took your love from me, you left me full of misery"
- Watch Your Step