Bluesman Bobby Parker, a major influence on the British blues-rock genre, died on Friday at the age of 76.
Longtime collaborator Anthony B. Rucker confirmed the news, releasing the statement "It is with a heavy heart I thank you, Bobby, for all that you have done for me. I’m so glad I had one last chance to play with you a couple of weeks ago. See ya on the other side.”
Parker was born in Lafayette, LA but was raised in Los Angeles. He learned guitar early and, by the 50's, started playing with a number of bands and solo artists including Otis Williams and the Charms, Bo Diddley, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, LaVern Baker and the Everly Brothers.
In 1958, Parker recorded his first single, Blues Get Off My Shoulder, but he would be best remembered for his 1961 minor hit Watch Your Step which peaked at number 51 on the Billboard Hot 100.
While the recording was not a major hit, the guitar riff has taken on a life of its own. In one of the few cases where the Beatles admitted that a recording had a direct influence, George Harrison said that the guitar part on I Feel Fine was inspired by Watch Your Step. In addition, Led Zeppelin, who were know to borrow on occasion, show an obvious influence on their song Moby Dick. Over the years, the original song was covered by the Spencer Davis Group, Santana and Dr. Feelgood.
The connection with Zeppelin becomes stronger with the fact that Jimmy Page was very interested in signing Parker to the band's label, Swan Song, something that would have happened had Parker ever finished a demo for the band.
Parker continued to play music throughout his life, becoming a staple in the Washington, DC area. He returned to recording in the 90's with the albums Bent Out of Shape (1993) and Shine Me Up (1995).