Top 10 Junior Parker Songs

Junior Parker Songs

Feature Photo: unclepepin / Shutterstock

Our Top Junior Parker Songs list presents the best Junior Parker Songs like “Mystery Train,” “Next Time You See Me,” and many more. According to historical resources, Herman “Junior” Parker was born on March 27, 1932, at the Eastover Plantation near Bobo, Mississippi. During the 1940s, he moved to West Memphis, Arkansas, with his mother. While growing up, he first sang in gospel groups, then on the blues circuit. Parker cited Sonny Boy Williamson as his biggest musical influence as a harmonica player, whom he had the privilege to work with before teaming up with Howlin’ Wolf in 1949. Starting in 1950, he collaborated with the Beale Streeters while in Memphis, Tennessee. At the time, its band roster included Bobby “Bland and B.B. King.

Branching Out

Starting in 1951, Junior Parker founded the Blue Flames, along with guitarist Pat Hare. Come 1952, he was discovered by Ike Turner, a talent scout that worked for Modern Records. Turner’s “You’re My Angel” and “Bad Women, Bad Whiskey” was a recording that got the attention of Sam Philips. In 1953, Junior Parker, Ike Turner, and Matt Murphy were signed with Sun Records. While there they recorded and released three successful hits, “Feeling Good,” “Love My Baby,” and “Mystery Train.” These songs were since covered by various artists, including Parker’s guitar riffs for Pat Hare’s version of “Love My Baby.” That song, plus “Mystery Train” has since become rockabilly standards.

In 1955, Parker toured with Bobby Bland and Johnny Ace. Bland and Parker were the frontmen behind the very successful Blues Consolidated Revue that was regularly performed on the southern blues circuit. Throughout the 1950s, Parker enjoyed a series of hits on the US Billboard R&B charts. While with Duke Records, Parker was at the height of his recording career.

Phasing Out

After Junior Parker left Duke Records in 1956, it was a challenge to maintain the same success level. After going through a series of record labels, his final hit was 1971’s “Drowning on Dry Land.” On November 18, 1971, Parker died on the hospital bed during brain tumor surgery in Blue Island, Illinois. He was thirty-nine years old. In 1972 I Tell stories sad and True, I Sing the Blues and Play Harmonica Too, It Is Very Funky was Parker’s eleventh album release. Posthumously, there would be three more studio albums released to his credit. In addition to fourteen studio albums, Junior Parker also had five compilation albums, each of them released posthumously as well.

Junior Parker Legacy

Also known as Little Junior, Parker was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001. He’s also been inducted into the Mississippi Musician Hall of Fame and has a marker on the Mississippi Blue Trail in Bobo.

In 1974, Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” was a song dedicated to Junior Parker from his album, …Explores Your Mind. In the spoken introduction, it was revealed the two artists were cousins and the song was written as a means to carry on his name.

Top 10 Junior Parker Songs

#10 – Annie Get Your Yo-Yo

“Annie Get Your Yo-Yo” was a fast-paced workout of a blues tune that had Junior Parker’s vocal talent at its best. This fast and furious tune was the most successful hit the blues artist had on what is now referred to as the US Billboard Hot 100. It peaked as high as number fifty-one after it was released as a single in 1962. On the race charts, which is now known as the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it became a number-six hit. In 1999, the Wiseguys sampled “Annie Get Your Yo-Yo in their hit, “Start the Commotion.”

#9 – Tomorrow Never Knows

The Chemical Brothers frequently featured Junior Parker’s version of “Tomorrow Never Knows” as an intro for their live show performances. This 1966 original by The Beatles was inspired by John Lennon as he shared his experiences with the hallucinogenic drug, LSD. What was a mix of electronic and psychedelic for the Beatles in “Tomorrow Never Knows” was a bluesy, smoky number performed by Parker. It was among his final recordings before an unsuccessful brain tumor removal operation claimed his life on November 18, 1971. As a song, “Tomorrow Never Knows” is a timeless classic that continues to make an impression to this day. As popular as this was as a Beatles hit, it’s also heavily favored by Junior Parker fans.

#8 – Sweet Home Chicago

“Sweet Home Chicago” was a 1958 hit for Junior Parker after covering this Robert Johnson 1936 original. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it became a number thirteen hit. This blues standard was recorded by Parker as an upbeat ensemble shuffle that also featured his harmonica performance. Unlike other performers who made reference to California in this song, Parker kept that part out. His version paid more homage to Chicago, as did the version performed by Roosevelt Sykes.

#7 – The Things That I Used to Do

Written by Guitar Slim, “The Things I Used to Do” was originally a 1953 Ray Charles hit before Junior Parker covered it in 1964. While Parker’s version may not be as massively popular, it was still good enough to be considered an all-time favorite among the fans of classic blues music. The religious-style influence Ray Charles poured into “The Things That I Used to Do” inspired Parker to cover this tune as his own. The song itself was legendary as it was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll list. It also served as a song that spawned the development of soul music. The guitar genius behind Guitar Slim that was poured into this song played a major role in the development of rock music. While Parker’s coverage of “The Things That I Used to Do” doesn’t earn nearly as much recognition, his performance was just as classic and just as melodic.

#6 – In the Dark

On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, “In the Dark” became a number seven hit after it was released as a single in 1961. Regarded as one of his most popular hits, Junior Parker recorded this song while he was still with the Duke Records label. Full of swing, along with blues and jazz, this served as one of those classic numbers that made Junior Parker an inspirational favorite for aspiring musicians who embarked on recording careers of their own.

# 5 – Driving Wheel

Originally recorded by Roosevelt Sykes in 1936, “Driving Wheel” became a major 1961 hit for Junior Parker. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart, it peaked as high as number five and on the US Billboard Hot100, at number sixty-five. While Parker shared the honey-drip vocal style as Sykes, the instrumental arrangement and the horn section gave this blues tune what felt like an extra jolt of soul. What made Junior Parker so popular as a blues musician was his ability to sing with a smooth voice instead of shouting out the lyrics.

#4 – Love My Baby

“Love My Baby” was a fiery 1953 release that was credited to Little Parker’s Blue Flames. Written by Junior Parker, this song is about a love interest he referred to as “Big Fat Mama.” Considered a blues classic that also became a rockabilly standard, “Love My Baby” had Parker’s guitar riffs that inspired Scotty Moore and Pat Hare.

#3 – Feelin’ Good

“Feelin’ Good” was Junior Parker’s first hit single, which was released in 1953 and charted as high as number five on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. At the time, he signed to Sun Records as Little Junior’s Blue Flames. What became of “Feelin’ Good” after it was first recorded and released was a tune that was covered by a long list of artists such as James Cotton, Magic Sam, and Ike Turner. This blues standard has been a favorite song of choice for many fans of traditional blues music. The harmonica style featured in the song was almost as stellar as Parker’s velvet smooth vocal delivery.

#2 – Next Time You See Me

Recorded in 1956, then released in January 1957, was Junior Parker’s “Next Time You See Me.” Credited as Little Junior Parker, this was the first single in his career to make a chart appearance since signing up with Duke Records. On the US Billboard Hot 10, it became a number seventy-four hit. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it peaked as high as number five. With velvet smooth vocals and genius guitar play, this served as one of Parker’s signature hits as a recording artist. The melodic appeal of “Next Time You See Me” earned a series of blues and pop artists to record their own versions of a song that made the most out of the horn instruments that were used to make this one of Parker’s most memorable hits.

#1 – Mystery Train

“Mystery Train” was a laid back rhythm and blues song Junior Parker wrote and recorded in 1953. It served as an inspiration for scores of artists, including Elvis Presley, turning it into a popular rockabilly song in 1955. This was the single that put Presley on the map as a country music star. For Junior Parker, “Mystery Train” put him on the map as one of the delta blues pioneers who began a musical evolution that would lead into the popular genres of R&B and rock and roll.

Top 10 Junior Parker Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022

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