September 16, 2006

Michigan's Musical Connection: Ray Parker Jr

Welcome to yet another addition of Michigan's Musical Connection. If this is your first time visiting, let me give you the ground rules.
Each Saturday I select, at random, a musical artist that has ties to the Water Winter Wonderland otherwise known as Michigan. If the artist was born in Michigan, grew up in Michigan, or currently lives in Michigan - they gain admission to my series.
Pretty simple, eh?

This week I have selected Ray Parker Jr.

I remember first learning of Ray Parker Jr when I worked for a record distributor in Livonia. He was performing with his band, Raydio, and was signed to the Arista record label. I recall the band had several 45's that had strong sales for the company and I remember that they became an "evergreen title" for the local stores. It was many years before I learned that he was from the Detroit area.

Without a doubt, the biggest success for Ray Parker Jr that catapulted him to international fame was his title song from the movie, Ghostbusters.

Here's a clip from Soultracks about Ray Parker Jr -
Ray Parker is best known for an extremely successful career as a solo singing artist and as frontman for the group Raydio, but his most meaningful legacy may be in his lesser known role as one of the greatest session guitarists in Soul Music history.

A true prodigy, Parker was a sought-after guitarist around Detroit while still in high school, and began playing on a number of Holland-Dozier-Holland productions before graduation. His big break came when, at age 18, he was contacted by Stevie Wonder to play guitar on Wonder’s 1972 tour with the Rolling Stones. Over the next half decade he established an enviable career as a choice session musician, playing on albums by artists such as Wonder, the Chairmen of the Board, the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye.

In 1977 Parker was signed by Arista Records for a solo career. Instead, he brought on three contract guest singers (most notably first tenor Jerry Knight – later of “Breakin” fame as part of Ollie and Jerry) to put a group face on his music as the fictional band Raydio. As many in the music business expected, Raydio became an immediate hit. However, rather than creating muscular, electric soul that may have been anticipated based on Parker’s resume, Raydio became known for creating catchy, facile pop music.

Ray recently released a cd called "I'm Free". Here's some bio information available at Ray's web site.
Born May 1, 1954, in Detroit, MI, Parker started out as a teenaged session guitarist playing on sessions recorded for Holland-Dozier-Holland's Hot Wax and Invictus Records whose roster listed Freda Payne, Honey Cone, Chairman of the Board, 100 Proof Aged in Soul, Laura Lee, and 8th Wonder. He'd also play behind the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, the Spinners, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and other Motown acts when they appeared at the Twenty Grand Club. In 1972, Wonder called Parker to ask him to play behind him on a tour that he was doing with the Rolling Stones. Parker thought it was a crank call and hung up the phone. Wonder called back and convinced Parker that he was the real deal by singing "Superstition" to him.



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