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Maceo Parker

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.

By 1984, Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic empire was in tatters, and Maceo signed back on with James Brown for another four years, though he appeared as a guest on several of Clinton's solo albums from this period, and when Clinton produced the Red Hot Chili Peppers' sophomore album, Freaky Styley, Maceo stopped by to contribute some trademark sax solos. In 1988, Keith Richards invited Maceo to perform on his debut solo album, Talk Is Cheap, and as hip-hop acts began recycling James Brown's potent grooves, Parker found himself in demand with contemporary acts such as Deee-Lite, Living Colour, and Material, all of whom brought him in to play on their sessions.

In 1990, Maceo Parker stepped out as a solo act, releasing a jazz-oriented album called Roots Revisited through Verve Records and hitting the road in support. With funk back in fashion, Parker found he had a ready audience for his new music, and another jazz-flavored set, Mo' Roots, appeared in 1991. Parker upped the funk factor on the 1992 live set Life on Planet Groove, which featured fellow James Brown alumni Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis, and it documented the powerful show Maceo and his band were playing up to 150 nights a year. Through the 1990s, Parker released a steady stream of solo records and made guest appearances on albums by De La Soul and Brooklyn Funk Essentials, as well as less likely collaborations with 10,000 Maniacs and Bryan Ferry. In 1999, noted funk enthusiast Prince recruited Maceo to play on his album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, and he would be a regular contributor to Prince's studio projects over the next decade, as well as performing with his live ensemble. Alternative folk diva Ani DiFranco also persuaded Maceo to sit in with her, with the sax man contributing to the albums To the Teeth and Reveling: Reckoning. And in 1998, Maceo and his band were the opening act on a concert tour by the Dave Matthews Band; Maceo would often join in with the headliners, and one of the shows from that tour was belatedly released in 2001 as Live in Chicago 12.19.98 at the United Center.

In 2004, Parker's impressive live show was documented on film for the documentary My First Name Is Maceo, which featured interviews with Maceo discussing his life and music along with extensive footage of him and his group in full flight. In 2007, Parker performed a series of concerts in Europe with the German ensemble the WDR Big Band; highlights from the tour appeared on the album Roots & Grooves, including a set of tunes made famous by Ray Charles, one of Parker's early influences. And Parker paid homage to a handful of other R&B greats on another collaboration with the WDR Big Band, 2012's Soul Classics, with Maceo putting his stamp on classic numbers by Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, and his former employer James Brown. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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Real cool! Maceo is on top.
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Sophisticate d funk to the highest degrees. Can You dig it
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So funky!! Somebody light a match!
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jtny786
Love me some MACEO! It's crazy how insanely talented and prolific Maceo Parker has been, one of those extraordinar y people that provide the wind beneath the wings of a lot of great artists.
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ultra funk god
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MACEO!!! Blow yo horn now!!
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Maceo blow
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MACEOOOOOOOO O O O O H , WOW,MAN!!! Rock on,my brother!!! God bless u & ALL the other great Monsters of da Funk Persuasion,k n o w n & not-so-known ! ! ! & HAPPY BIRTHDAY,O SAXY ONE!!!
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Keeps the beat with all instruments, right on Brother. 14y 1m
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Dennis is a monster. Funk on brother!
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So so
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Dennis Chambers! So many people have had heard tons of Maceo Parker but wouldn't recognize the name...Surpr i s i n g there's not more likes or comments
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Maceo. Misprint on earlier print. Never met to spell a ledgend name wrong, sorry.
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I was station in North Carolina in 1974- 1976and use to go to K-town every weekend and never knew Macro came from there. Keep it real my friend.
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Nice and funky
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the rhytm on this is really the best
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Very happy with his music influence.
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He is one of my favorite dig his sound
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I've never seen/heard Maceo play a Tenor Sax. Maybe a slight oversight there, that's Peewee's Axe!
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scubatainer
Yeah, that's when I got on to Maceo, Pass The Peas, like they used too do -showing my age, hmmm.
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zmontuori3
Dennis Chambers on drums
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I almost skipped the pass the peas! intro -- SO GLAD I didn't! Now that's funk.
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Drummer on Off the Hook is the one and only Dennis Chambers! One good funk, deserves another
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zauberberg7
He's a goddamned national treasure. Get the funk going on a bio.
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mmcshane6
Maybe the reason I can't write the bio is I cannot spell...enco m p a s s i n g not incompassing . MP still rocks, or is funky, or all the above.
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mmcshane6
yes, sir. Mr. Parker is one of the best brass players of all time. Let's get a more incompassing bio for this living legend. You mean i have to go to Wikipedia to learn more about this great musician? Let me write it.
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Somebody need to write a decent bio about this great artist!
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That is one FUNKED UP man!
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willkim
Woooooh- Maceo!
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What's with this bio? Besides work with JB, what about the Horny Horns? Maceo was an important part of the whole P-Funk experience? His body of work deserves more than a hastily penned paragraph.
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cleehoe
Maceo! wheooooo... wheooooo.. :-)
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i would love for maceo and clyde and jabo to get back together and just record a live funk session and instructiona l dvd breaking down historical breaks and there thoughts of what was happening at the time with JB!!!
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He plays in Prince's band now; I saw him at a Prince concert last night and he had funk to spare.
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Anybody know who Maceo's drummer is? He is AWESOME!!!
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you need to research his bio better,quit being lazy ROVI.......
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reelriot85
Although Mr. Brown is an awsome performer and truely the King of Funk, he would NOT have been as successfull with out the MASTER of Funk Mr. Parker.
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greghart1993
Sad bio for sure, but that's OK. His horn says it all.
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Maceo is so bad, love his sound
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JB would be very disappointed with the lukewarm bio on Maceo. That's okay cause Maceo will continue to BLOW that HORN!!
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WEAK biography!
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bjbailey
blow baby blow
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He's cool and on My Baby Loves You he has James Taylor singing backup vocals. That's pretty random but cool as hell!
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the baddest sax man in the land bar none!!! He stands out in a crowd with his licks and is inspiring to other musicians not only sax players but musicians too!!!
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omattison
Another Carolina product; Maceo Parker: Blow your horn!!!
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maceo has a unique sound, like no one else can ????
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Maceo Parker is a Genius!!!!!
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NEVER HEARD OF THIS CAT , MAN HE IS JUST AWESOME! GOTTA HEAR MORE OF THIS DUDE!!!
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Maceo Maceo Maceo ... Where would JB have been without MACEO?
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Hey, I remember seeing Maceo Parker with the Parliament Funkadelicks . They failed to mention that in the above bio!
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brennantluca s
Going to see him in January with my girl in the Burgh! Can't wait!!!
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