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

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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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