As a child, Chris Parker started playing his father’s drums with wooden blocks on the HiHat and bass drum pedals so he could reach them! His father, a jazz drummer, fed him a diet which included plenty of listening to Monk and Mingus on the radio. By his early teens, he was performing with friends and discovering the allure of rock and roll through drummers such as Roger Hawkins, D.J. Fontana, Stax record ace Al Jackson and New Orleans greats Earl Palmer, Smokey Johnson and James Black. By night, he put into practice what he heard, backing up strippers and exotic dancers in clubs and cocktail lounges.
While studying painting at New York City’s School of Visual Arts on scholarship, Parker answered a “drummer wanted” ad in Rolling Stone. He moved to Woodstock, New York, where he joined the band Holy Moss. Holy Moss was short lived, but Parker recorded one album with them and stayed in Woodstock where he worked in the local scene with artists Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, Bonnie Raitt, Tim Hardin, Rick Danko, Mike Bloomfield and Merl Saunders.
After four years Parker moved back to New York and began augmenting his blues experience with playing in the emerging jazz-fusion/R&B scene. He was soon invited to play in a band called the Encyclopedia of Soul, which would later become Stuff, which included bassist Gordon Edwards, guitarists Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale and keyboardist Richard Tee. In the 70’s, Stuff defined a soulful, laid back and distinctly New York sound that appealed not only to other musicians but also to singer /songwriters and producers. It was also in this band that Parker began sharing the drum chair with another emerging studio great, Steve Gadd.
During this period, Parker co-founded the Brecker Brothers band which featured Michael and Randy Brecker, David Sanborn, Buzzy Feiten, Steve Khan, Will Lee and Don Grolnick. With the Brecker Brothers, Parker toured the USA and recorded three albums. His studio career flourished throughout the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s and continues today with a wide range of artists including James Brown. Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Ashford and Simpson, Patti Austin, Cher, Michael Bolton, Quincy Jones, Freddie Hubbard and Salt n’ Pepa.
In 1986 Parker accepted the house gig on the NBC television show Saturday Night Live, which lasted six years. He gained worldwide exposure and performed with musical superstars such as Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Aaron Neville/Linda Ronstadt, Quincy Jones and Bryan Ferry among others.
In 1988, Parker began touring with legendary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, an association that lasted several years. In 1990, Parker added his touch to Donald Fagen’s recording “Kamakiriad” produced by Walter Becker, which sold a half a million copies and received a Grammy nomination for Best Album of the Year. Parker’s groove and soloing on the song “On the Dunes” has since become part of Steely Dan lore.
Younger brothers Tony, Eric, and Nicholas are also professionaly drummers, and younger brother Geoff is a guitarist. Tony, born 1952, and Eric, born 1954, have played drums professionally in Woodstock, NY for many years. Eric played on Joe Cocker’s epinomous album in 1973 and received a gold record for this. Geoff, born 1956, and youngest brother Nicholas, also are active musicians in Woodstock, NY. Still drumming is their father, Robert Parker, now in his 80’s.