WRVU Makes My Weekend: The Junior Parker Edition



So I'm driving home from Franklin on Saturday night and I turn on WRVU, usually my first or second stop on the radio dial. (If I'm jonesing for news, NPR takes precedence.)

It's the Delta Groove show, and DJ Lauren Tingle is spinning some choice blues and soul from folks like Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, RL Burnside, Son House and John Lee Hooker. There's a scorching version of "Blues Power" by Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and a lecherous "Backdoor Man" by Howlin' Wolf. Sprinkled into the mix are some more obscure names: Harlan Bobo, Eddie Hinton, Lucious Curtis. And I'm digging all of it.

At one point she plays a song by someone whose name sounds familiar, though I'm not really sure who it is: Junior Parker (sometimes known as Little Junior Parker) doing The Beatles' "Lady Madonna."

As Wikipedia would inform me later, Parker was a Memphis blues singer and harmonica player who came up in the ’50s and enjoyed some success on the R&B charts, touring with the likes of Johnny Ace and Bobby "Blue" Bland. Oh, and he co-wrote (with Sam Phillips) and recorded the first version of "Mystery Train," later made famous by some other Memphis musician whose name escapes me.

Parker's 79th birthday would have been last Friday, but sadly, he died of a brain tumor at only 38 years old. Among his last recordings were some Beatles covers for Capitol that blues and R&B purists saw as a lame attempt to cash in. Cashing in or not, the version of "Lady Madonna" that Lauren played knocked my socks off — but not as much as the above version "Taxman," which I discovered later that evening, and which has to be one of the best Beatles covers ever.

Thanks Lauren. Thanks, WRVU.

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