Blues rock guitarist Bobby Parker, best known for his 1961 track Watch Your Step and credited as “the only musician the Beatles admitted to stealing from” has died at the age of 76, it’s been reported.
Bassist Anthony B Rucker, who often collaborated often with the pioneering artist, confirmed the news, saying: “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.”
Born in Louisiana and raised in Los Angeles, Robert Lee Parker’s first professional gig was with Otis Williams and the Charms in the 1950s, followed by stints with Bo Diddley, Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
Watch Your Step inspired the Beatles’ song I Feel Fine, with John Lennon once saying they’d used the riff “in various forms” throughout their career. Led Zeppelin made use of it in Moby Dick. The track was also covered by the Spencer Davis Group, Dr Feelgood and Carlos Santana, who once said: “Bobby inspired me to play guitar – he’s one of the few remaining guitarists who can pierce your heart and soothe your soul.”
In 2008 Parker reflected: “Watch Your Step was a culmination of blues rock guitar that nobody else had ever thought of. Mine was First. The United States was engulfed by Motown, but the whole world knew when I recorded Watch Your Step that I broke the brick wall of the sameness of Motown.
“I sent music in another direction worldwide, especially for guitarists like Jimmy Page, Santana, Eric Clapton and millions of others. Everybody who was anybody knew Bobby Parker alone penned the lick that created what’s known as the British revolution.
“I heard 600 or more blatant copycat recordings – everybody was playing my lick and trying to claim it, the Beatles included. Even now I hear copycat riffs in TV commercials.” He laughed: “I wish they’d come up with a different riff and leave mine alone…”
The track’s success led to international touring and an offer of a record deal from Jimmy Page, which didn’t work out. Parker spent the 1970s and 1980s based in Washington DC and out of international acclaim, but returned to the spotlight with his first solo album Bent Out Of Shape in 1993, followed by Shine Me Up in 1995. He remained active until his death, having played a series of blues festivals during the summer. Recently he said: “I keep doing it for the music and the people – I love the people.”
Parker has songwriting credits for a total of 55 tracks including his two other singles, Blues Get Off My Shoulder from 1958 and It’s Hard To be Fair from 1968.