Who Is Maceo Parker? …Why Didn’t I Know?

maceo parker
BobLee
January23/ 2016

“From Kinston, huh? …. so you must know Maceo Parker?” the pre-op nurse at The Duke Eye Clinic, making “small talk”, asked The Internet Legend Thursday a week ago.

THIS is one of those fascinating series of coincidences that result from just living Life… when priceless column fodder falls in your lap.

“Uuhhh, no.  But I’ve been gone from Kinston for a number of years.” I replied as I spun thru my cranial Google at warp speed for anyone named “Maceo”.

Did a Maceo play with Cornbread Maxwell?… Did Maceo play 2nd base with The Legendary George Whitfield?… Did he teach Charles Shackleford to “be amphibious”?…  Was he the captain of the ill-fated Ram Neuse?… Is he a bartender at Chef & The Farmer?

One of the many charms of a small town (pop “around 18,000”) is that being “a celebrity” is a relative honor.  “Having webbed feet” or “being able to kiss your elbow” might get one on the short list.  “I think I saw Ava Gardner in the S&W in Raleigh” is a winner for sure.

Had Maceo Parker seen Ava Gardner at the cafeteria?

Why did telling this Duke nurse that I was from Kinston immediately have her asking about a “Maceo Parker”…. and being noticeably surprised that this guy getting prepped for a cornea transplant had never heard the name?

One does not become certified as an Internet Legend without a 3rd degree black belt in remembering names.   I can throw out Forrest “Smokey” Burgess…. “Bork & Blass”…. the starting line-ups for both Kinston & New Bern high schools in 1964-65…. who threw the TD pass to whom while Leo Hart “tied his shoelace” at The Wally in 1969… Who played General Bullmoose in Grainger High School’s production of Li’l Abner in 1964.  But, in all my years, I had never heard of Maceo Parker.

That pre-op nurse…. an AfAm woman I judge to be Baby Boomerish proceeded to enlighten me as regards Maceo Parker.  End Of Story?   Ohhhhh NO.

Three days later Glenn Frey died.   I wrote that anecdote about the Eagles in that last incredibly insightful column and Reader Doug commented; and in Reader Doug’s comment he mentioned …. Maceo Parker!

Now I was hearing Rod Serling in the background….Twilight Zone

“…. that’s the signpost up ahead.  Your next stop – The Twilight Zone.”

Six plus decades in parallel universes and suddenly Maceo Parker and BobLee had collided not once, but TWICE in less than a week.

Was it “just me”?  I was a compulsive “never missed school“ kinda-kid but maybe on one of those rarest of days Everyone else in Kinston, NC learned about Maceo Parker.   So, on Thursday I emailed a group of 20+ “Kinston people of my era” to see if indeed it was “just me”.   It wasn’t.

Of those 26 fellow Kinstonians, 19 replied.   Of those 19, four “knew”.  Two more said the name “seems familiar but…”.  One thought he was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  Two thought he was “an Original Ember” which was closer than they knew.   The rest said let them know if I figured it out.

What those 26 fellow Kinstonians and I all have in common is (1) we are all “white” and (2) we “grew up” in Kinston in the early 60s.   Maceo Parker did the latter but was NOT the former.   Maceo Parker was “a colored boy” who grew up in “a parallel universe” on “the other side of town”.

NOTE:  Before anyone tries to “politicize” this historical reality.  The total number of registered Repubs in Totally Segregated Kinston in the early 60s was LESS than the number of Repub Elected officials in Chapel Hill in 2016….  statistically “zero”. 

I was a kid.  Yes, I stuffed Billy Stadium in a trash can.  Yes, I shot an arrow thru Mrs Herring’s kitchen window; BUT… I was NOT responsible for the socio-racial climate of the 1960s.

I have been, and always will be, a Big Fan of Kinston NC as Hometown Extraordinaire in the early/mid 60s…  IF one was a middle-class white kid.  I was and it was.   Anyone who grew up “back then” in countless other small towns across Eastern NC and Across The South might argue that theirs was “the best”.  It is a nice argument to have among middle-class white people.

The early/mid 60s “in the South” was the era of Separate But (sorta) Equal Facilities.  OK, lets stop pretending –  NOT Equal AT All but definitely Separate schools, public restrooms, dining areas in restaurants, public recreation areas, barber shops, and most other facilities.

Maceo Parker’s Kinston and My Kinston were indeed “Parallel Universes” – separated both geographically and in every other way possible short of a physical fence.  I had a wonderful experience attending Jesse W. Grainger High School while Maceo attended Adkin High School “in East Kinston”.   I cannot speak to his experience.   Apparently Adkin High had a pretty darn good music department.

I actually went to a basketball game in the Adkin High Gym in ‘63/’64.  A Globetrotter “unit” toured small towns and came to Kinston.   They could not perform in the Grainger Gym “because …”  So they played at Adkin.   My dad and I were not the only one “of us” there for the first / only time that night.

Maceo Parker was four years older than me.  He grew up…. developed his world-class skill and was “out in the world” as I was taking Driver’s Ed.  Our paths never crossed as noted above.

Music has never been my Jeopardy category of choice, as noted in my Eagles’ Tribute BUT I HAVE heard of:

James Brown – The Godfather of Soul.

Kinston’s own Maceo Parker was James Brown’s Saxophonist for James Brownover two decades.   A resume enhancement even a tone-deaf BobLee can appreciate.

My pal, Lonnie, even knew that at the conclusion of each show, James Brown would kneel at the front of the stage…. and a cape would be draped over his shoulders.  Maceo Parker was the designated cape-draper.

James Brown Maceo Parker

Maceo became a headlining music star in his own right and toured for decades.   For anyone into the history of Rock ‘n Roll and “Funk”…. Maceo Parker IS “a bona-fide celebrity”.  Take THAT Ava Gardner.

“A celebrity from Kinston” without some connection to Basketball is rarer than a Unicorn finding a four-leaf clover at Midnight.   Jaime Pressley, Vivian Howard and Maceo Parker are on a very short list.

All About Maceo Parker…. LINK

Maceo3

In my crash course on Maceo Parker I learned he was one of a number of Kinstonians from that “Parallel Universe” who went on to fame in the music industry in the 60-70-80s.

“…. toured with James Brown off/on for over twenty years.”  Can you imagine “the stories”.  ….YOWSA

###

If you had told me two weeks ago – BobLee, you get to make ONE phone call to answer a Kinston Trivia Question… about Maceo Parker or about pretty much Anything.

I would have flipped a coin between MaryPage Whitley and Tommy Pressley and won regardless of which one I called.   Those two aren’t “good”.  Those two are “The Best”.

Reid Parrott would be my 3rd choice but I don’t think Reid has a cell phone or he only checks his email in leap years.  Bless his heart.

Oh…  while Leo Hart was tying his shoe in the Fall of 1969, Marcel Courtillet passed to Wes Chesson for a 53-yard TD in Duke’s 17-13 upset of Carolina.   Surely EVERYBODY knows that; but now you also know – Who Was Maceo Parker.

###

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Dennis Rhodes
Dennis Rhodes
8 months ago

Johnny Koussouf owned the Sportsman Pool Room. Lyman Grant was a regular along with Jay Tripp, Harry Duty and Roy racked the balls.

Thuaidh Cearuilin
Thuaidh Cearuilin
5 years ago

Jeez, you don’t know nuthin’! I’ll bet you never even heard of Lyman Grant or Eunice Pickett. How about Johnny Kassouf? Bob your problem is you hung out at Emma Webb too much, or I should say exclusively. You’re a mayonnaise sandwich eating white boy who still thinks Corvairs are cool.

Thuaidh Cearuilin
Thuaidh Cearuilin
5 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

Ahh… so Bob, you are indeed aware of these folks but never a patron? (unlike half the local country club membership) For the benefit of your readers Kinston was once ENC’s version of Hot Springs, Arkansas or Covington, Kentucky. Maybe not in size (apologies, an unfortunate locution in this context) but certainly in terms of years spent in pursuit of vice (or a good time depending on perspective). I am not ashamed to admit I was casually acquainted with Eunice (on a non-professional basis, well not HER profession anyway) and she was a very polite, congenial old gal. However I… Read more »

Doug
Doug
5 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

Gasp! Sugar Hill Pizzeria is opening today on North Queen St. An obvious exploitation of the notorious past. No word on the sanitation grade or if any local celebrities will attend the grand opening. Cornbread could not be reached for comment,

Zebraman
Zebraman
5 years ago

Maceo Parker. Clarence Clemmons. That’s what I know about the sax, BL. Thanks for doubling the amount of my knowledge and understanding. Cool story. I always enjoy finding out the stories of the staff in hospitals and doctors offices. Asked the nurse at my last trip where she was from. Young thing in her late 20s. She responded, “Oh a small town in rural Ohio, you’ve never heard of.” As I probed further, I learned that she was from Cadiz, Ohio (Coal Country, near Wheeling and Pittsburgh). Hometown of my Mom and grandparents. And also the hometown of Clark Gable.… Read more »

The Expatriate
The Expatriate
5 years ago

I spent my formative years in one of the parallels in Goldsboro. One of my high school teachers was Andy Griffith. Does that count? One of my classmates was Gene Roberts, a genuinely world-famous newspaper editor (The Philadelphia Inquirer,The New York Times), whose sister married one of my brothers. Is there some way you can make that help me step out of the darkness of anonymity?

Mary Beth Cowper
Mary Beth Cowper
5 years ago

My husband, Skeet, who, along with Doug, is a James Brown, Maceo Parker expert, says that 5 people from Kinston played in James Brown band. Maceo, saxophone, Dick Knight, trumpet, Melvin Parker, drums, Levi Rasberry, valve trombone, Nat Jones, sax and band director all played in same era, ’64-’65. FYI

Doug
Doug
5 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

The parallel universe is such a good description. Back then Skeeter and I became aware of something that was different from what we used to. It was really a pretty simple discovery for us. We knew something special was happening and were curious enough to go find out where those places were, made some friends and wound up in many of them, many times by just showing up. That window of discovery was actually very safe for a couple of white boys back in the late 60’s, early 70’s. Bootleggers, late night haunts, music, and people just hanging out having… Read more »

Mayberry Jim
Mayberry Jim
5 years ago

Great stuff BL. Just for future reference, the Wikipedia entry for any city or town lists “Notable People” who are natives or otherwise associated with the locality. Ol’ Maceo is there under Kinston.

JD
JD
5 years ago

Maceo Parker is the only Kinston celebrity that still lives in Kinston. They must cut him a deal on his utility bill.

Mary Page Whitley
Mary Page Whitley
5 years ago

Great article! You as always , did your homework! The NC Arts Council has a book published on the African American Music Trail and it tells the stories! The best part about Kinston ,besides the famous musicians that came from Adkin High School music program, were the Tobacco Warehouse shows that were part of the circuit from New York to Florida that would showcase very famous bands and singers! Again, we had no idea about this! Thanks for the article, it was delightful! Come back to Kinston and I will show you the park honoring all these legends! Doug is… Read more »

unctarheel1984
unctarheel1984
5 years ago

I know Carlester Crumpler. Does that count?

Porgie`
Porgie`
5 years ago

Being one of the 7 that did not originally reply to your email, I hope that now is not to late. Yes, I have heard the name Maceo Parker and knew he was a musician of some sort but was not aware he was a fellow Kinstonian. Maybe my much older siblings knew of him. Anyway, does Doug know of Sonny Bannerman and The Night Owls, another local group ? Did not make it to Raleigh today to watch the Wolfpack due to very poor road conditions up our way. Plus Guv Pat and Little Johnny said yo stay away.… Read more »

Doug
Doug
5 years ago
Reply to  Porgie`

Porgie, Have not heard of Sonny Bannerman but do know about the Uzell bothers, Jay “Bird”, James, and Moses. (The Corsairs) and their doo-wop song, Smokey Places. They were from LaGrange.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Corsairs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Q6tjiZS5wM

58 wolf kennel
58 wolf kennel
5 years ago

Had heard of Maceo’s music but could not have placed him with either Brown or Kinston.
Great article in any case. New Bern could make some noise, but I would be ill-prepared to do it. I’d just rather send over Basketball Hall-of-Famer Walt Bellamy to clean house :+))

Frank Linstreet
Frank Linstreet
5 years ago

Doesn’t EVERY town have “a celebrity”?

Doug
Doug
5 years ago

I don’t know who played General Bullmoose in Li’l Abner, though as friend of mine cut, designed and painted the Yaupon trees for the set. Did Lonnie play Li’l Abner? If you had polled some of my pals the results would have been better than 50/50 on knowing about Maceo. The next stage in your development will be to learn about Kinstonians Dick Knight (The Bossatettes), Nat Jones and Ulysses Hardy & The Blue Notes. Then on to Bill Meyers & Sam Lathan (Wilson). Maceo and Melvin Parker played in the Junior Blue Notes which was like a farm team… Read more »

Mary Beth Cowper
Mary Beth Cowper
5 years ago

Maceo Parker is a living legend!! Have you been living under a rock, BobLee??

Doug
Doug
5 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

Lucky me. I lived two doors down from Connie and three doors down on the other side lived Tina Lutz’s folks. Surrounded on both sides with Miss NC and first runner-up Miss American and Miss Kinston was a superb location. Those damn DuPonters!

Donald Parrott
Donald Parrott
5 years ago
Reply to  BobLee

Willie Moore had the first band. He played at the Legion Hut on Saturday nights.
Also Little Eva ended up living in Kinston before she died.
Connie Dorn’s father was named Leonard Dorn and did work for DuPont. He was a nice guy,.

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