Robert Parker

TrackAlbum / Single
Barefootin’'Island WI 286 / Barefootin' CD
Let’'s Go Baby (Where The Action Is)Island WI 286 / Barefootin'’ CD
Happy FeetWardell Quezergue Sessions
Yak Yak YakWardell Quezergue Sessions
Hip-Huggin’'New Orleans Funk CD
You See MeIntroduction CD
Give Me The Country Side Of LifeIntroduction CD
A Little Bit Of SomethingBarefootin’' CD
Better Luck In The SummertimeIntroduction CD
Good WomanIntroduction CD

spotify-logo-primary-horizontal-dark-background-rgb-sm

 

Contributor: Peter Viney

Robert Parker was recording Mardi Gras In New Orleans with Professor Longhair by 1949 and was known then as an up and coming 19-year old New Orleans alto sax player. He went on to record with Eddie Bo, Fats Domino, Earl King, Joe Tex, Frankie Ford, Ernie K. Doe, Irma Thomas and Jimmy Clanton. It’s Parker’s tenor sax on Huey Smith’s High Blood Pressure in 1958. His name came first on All Night Long in 1959, an instrumental with Mac Rebbenack on piano. Though he did odd vocals here and there earlier, Toppermost is focussing only on his post-1966 career as a singer.

Parker recorded Barefootin’ in 1965 for Wardell Quezergue’s Nola label (Nola = NO, LA; New Orleans, Louisiana), but it stayed on the shelf for a year. He took the first line, Everybody get on your feet, you make me nervous when you’re in your seat … from a comedian who used to open for one of his bands. Barefootin’ was a major American hit in 1966, and also had one of the all-time best B-sides in Let’s Go Baby (Where The Action Is). Certainly where I was in 1966 and 1967, the languidly funky B-side persisted longer on club playlists. though attracting fewer cover versions than the A-side. Apparently it was planned as the A-side, got flipped in the USA, then was the B-side on British release. The same happened to the follow up, Happy Feet, with The Scratch on the B side in Britain, though they’d been the other way round in the USA. When I was doing a little DJ-ing in 1967 to 1968, I always used the two UK Island singles, playing three of the four songs, and I don’t think I ever played The Scratch, which shares most of its tune with Barefootin’.

Parker, after Barefootin’, got somewhat hung up on dance crazes. Tip-Toe was a minor American hit. The Hiccup is a dance instruction number from 1970. Hip Huggin’ (aka Everybody Hip Huggin’) was supposed to be another dance. Robert Parker has a lower profile than other New Orleans artists, and doesn’t get too much on compilations. Parker is a footnote in New Orleans music, unjustly so. The New Orleans Funk compilation in 2000 rescued Ernie K. Doe from obscurity, with Here Come The Girls. The next track is Robert Parker with Hip-Huggin’ which did nothing. Even back in 1966 to 1967, it was late on for dance crazes, and it was the cool hipster groove of Let’s Go Baby and Happy Feet that appealed to the smoother sort of mod in British clubs.

All this 1966-67 material was produced by Wardell Quezergue for his Nola label, licensed to Island in the UK. The Wardell Quezergue Sessions CD on Night Train Records assembled twenty-four tracks, including faithful covers like I Can’t Help Myself, In The Midnight Hour, Mr Pitiful I’ve Been Loving You Too Long. They may be faithful, but there is a shift in a New Orleans direction in the horns, and Parker is always smoother than the Stax/Atlantic singers. If you love Lee Dorsey and The Meters and Allen Toussaint, you’ll love it. They were recorded for the hastily assembled Barefootin’ LP at the time.

The single Yak Yak Yak verges on novelty in Coasters style (You know that you’re making me sick, I gotta get away from you… Oww!) and that’s a recommendation. Secret Service is another with a lot of humour … the girl’s mum and dad watch his every move like the secret service (The secret service, they make me nervous). Some of these sessions at least are sourced from vinyl. Funky Soul Train is marked ‘was not known to exist’ and of course the “soul train” in the lyric turns out to be a dance, a kind of conga.

Parker moved to Silver Fox Records in 1969, cutting You Shakin’ Things Up/You See Me then, on their subsidiary SSI, The Hiccup. You See Me was cut in Muscle Shoals, not New Orleans. The sleeve notes point out that Parker sounds just like Levon Helm on You See Me. Levon must have noted the similarity, as The Band later covered You See Me (written by Allen Toussaint, who did the horn arrangements for Rock Of Ages) on Jubilation in 1998.

Parker appears to have given up recording for a few years, before signing to Allen Toussaint’s Sansu label, released in the UK as Island. Get Ta’ Steppin’/Get Right On Down is quite easy to find on an Island 45 from 1974. The B-side Get Right On Down is bass heavy/Shaft-guitar, reviving yet another dance instruction record. The Meters backed both sides. I think both sides are falling over backwards to be fashionably funky, and it’s not his thing.

Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley is the Allen Toussaint song, done by Lee Dorsey on Yes We Can in 1970, then made famous by Robert Palmer (Robert Parker/Robert Palmer sounds so similar) in 1974, and Palmer was backed by The Meters, and if that weren’t enough, added Lowell George. At least one source says Parker was the original version, but I’d place it with the 74-76 recordings.

This is where it gets interesting for me. I never saw singles of Give Me The Country Side of Life (1975) or A Little Bit Of Something/Better Luck in The Summertime (1976), and first heard them on the 1993 Barefootin’ compilation. Better Luck In The Summertime was composed by Meters guitarist Leo Nocentilli. Skinny Dippin’ also on Sansu was Parker’s own composition. The sleeve notes to the 1993 compilation CD compare both songs to The Band, and I can see what they mean. These songs aren’t straight New Orleans at all, and there’s a definite affinity to Band-like material. It’s what is now classed as “Country Got Soul”. They’re all first rate with Give Me The Country Side Of Life competing with Let’s Go Baby (Where The Action Is) as my favourite track.

Barefootin’ was recut and reissued in the 70s too. I Caught You In A Lie from 1967 was put on the B-side of the 1977 Contempo-Raries Barefootin’ single, and thus gained its own Northern Soul reputation as a soul ballad. There’s a Charley reissue single too.

The Wardell Quezergue Sessions CD covers 1966-67, but doesn’t have any of those great 70s sessions like Better Luck In The Summertime, Sneaking Sally Through The Alley and Give Me The Country Side Of Life.

The Barefootin’ CD selection of 14 tracks, with these, has appeared with several different sleeves on different labels. Charley retitled it Get Ta Steppin’ in 1987, then it appeared as Selected Hits in 2006, and most recently it appeared as Sneaking Sally Through The Alley. It’s all the same selection. I doubt anyone at Parker’s end got paid. As Nola went comprehensively bust, I doubt anyone gets anything.

An Introduction to Robert Parker (Fuel, 2006) is remastered quality, and apart from Barefootin’/Let’s Go Baby is all from the later Sansu/Island material except that A Little Bit Of Something is missing. It adds a few other songs which must be around the time of Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley like Fire On The Bayou, Good Woman, The Way She Do It, Coconut Heaven, They All Ask For You and says there are unreleased rarities. This is a good compilation, sounding way better than the earlier ones, but still doesn’t think something as simple as composer credits useful.

The Way She Do It and Good Woman are both classic soul, sounding more Stax than New Orleans (which makes me wonder if they’re from the Muscle Shoals sessions), and one has to go in. The Way She Do It has a magnificent sax solo, and I wonder if it’s Parker playing it. It’s a toss up between the two. Tails? OK, Good Woman edges Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley out, because while Robert Parker’s version is no worse than Lee Dorsey’s, it’s no better either and the song can deservedly appear for Lee Dorsey. Or Robert Palmer.

Robert Parker – The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame

Robert Parker biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #153

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

↓