Please join the Albumism team in celebrating Maceo Parker’s musical legacy and share your personal memories of him with us in the comments below!
Born: February 14, 1943
Biography: One of the key sonic architects of funk, Maceo Parker first became a legend for his work with James Brown, whose impassioned shouts for a sax solo ("Maceo! Blow your horn!") would make Parker the Godfather of Soul's most famous sideman, though Parker would continue to enjoy a successful career long after leaving Brown's employ.
Maceo Parker was born on February 14, 1943 in Kinston, North Carolina. Parker's mother and father both had an appreciation for music and sang in their church's choir, but it was his uncle who had the strongest influence on the youngster's musical development. Parker's uncle led a local jazz and R&B band called the Blue Notes, and Maceo would sometime watch them rehearse; in time, Maceo would take up the saxophone, while his brothers Melvin and Kellis respectively learned to play the drums and trombone. Their uncle was impressed enough with the youngsters' abilities that he dubbed them "the Junior Blue Notes" and had them perform between sets at Blue Notes shows. The Parker brothers were seasoned professionals by the time they enrolled at North Carolina A&T, where they studied music. In 1963, Melvin Parker had graduated and was offered an audition with James Brown, who was looking for a new drummer; Melvin landed the gig, and when he asked if Brown could use a new sax player as well, Maceo was also offered a spot in the band.
Originally playing baritone sax, Maceo eventually switched over to tenor, and his style on the instrument was ideal for the band -- rich, rhythmic, and full of sharp, staccato lines that meshed with Brown's taut and funky sound. After lending an inspired solo to Brown's 1965 smash "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," Maceo became of the key members of Brown's recording and touring band, and his solos were an integral part of some of Brown's best-known songs, including "I Got You (I Feel Good)," "Mother Popcorn," "Sex Machine," and "Cold Sweat." However, Brown's well-documented reluctance to part with a dollar and firm hand over his sidemen led most of Brown's band to quit en masse in 1970; Maceo was one of the musicians who walked, and he soon formed his own group, Maceo & All the King's Men, with his brother Melvin on drums.
Maceo & All the King's Men had released an album by the year was out, titled Doin' Their Own Thing, but despite the strength of their live show, they didn't fare as well as they had hoped commercially. In 1973, Maceo rejoined Brown's touring band, though he found time to cut a solo album, Us, in 1974. The following year saw another revolt sweep through the ranks of Brown's group, and Maceo, trombonist Fred Wesley, and bassist Bootsy Collins all jumped ship to work with George Clinton's various projects, including Parliament and Funkadelic. [Read more via AllMusic here]