Winfield Parker - Starvin'
Mr. Winfield Parker
The weekend was a productive one. I was going through the crates, searching for some interesting and funky sides with which to blog-i-fy, and I lingered in my Philly boxes. As a result, the next week or two will bring four worthwhile Philly based records (not all in a row of course), interrupted by the occasional non-Philadelphia funk heater (and I do mean heater) for your pleasure. While I’m not technically a Philadelphian, I do have friends and family in the area and have become something of a Philly soul “nut” over the years, having spent time in various under-the-radar digging spots. Of course, the under-ness of said radar depends on what diggers you’re talking to. I’ve been in some real caverns that I thought were unexplored, only to find out that the real heat had been carried out years before by more intrepid types than myself. Of course the obscurity of the places where I find these 45s is irrelevant (except where other dusty fingered record hounds are considered), because ultimately the music is what’s important, and when you’re talking about 60’s and 70’s soul and funk music, Philly has as much to offer as almost anywhere in the US. Of “local” Philly labels, one of my personal favorites – due in large part to sides by the mighty Volcanos – is Arctic Records. Co-owned by Philly radio personality Jimmy Bishop, Arctic had it’s biggest success with Barbara Mason’s ‘Yes I’m Ready’. Their discography is marked by many great Northern soul sides, some gospel, and at the very end (1968/69) a couple of nice funk sides. One of the best of these (and one of the hardest Arctic sides to locate in decent shape) is ‘Shake That Thing’ by Winfield Parker. Sharing a backing track with another hard to find Arctic side – Honey & The Bees ‘Baby Do That Thing’ – the Parker 45 is sought after by funk collectors. Sadly, I’ve never been able to score a copy, and as a result, ‘Shake That Thing’ is not today’s selection. However... Searching for that very record made me keep my eyes peeled for stuff by Parker, and as a result, I happened upon the little stick of dynamite you find yourselves downloading this very day. Winfield Parker got his start in his native Baltimore playing saxophone with a local group called the Veejays, before recording for the first time with Sammy Fitzhugh & The Moroccans (how’s that for a name?) in 1959. He moved on to record with the Imperial Thrillers on Ru-Jac in 1963. He would record his first sides as a leader for that label later that year. He continued to record for Ru-Jac into the late 60’s, with one of his singles, ‘Sweet Little Girl’ b/w ‘What Do You Say’ being picked up and issued by ATCO in 1968. He recorded the aforementioned Arctic 45 in 1969 and then went on to record one 45 for the Wand label in 1970. He had his greatest success with the Spring label. His 1971 release for that label ‘S. O. S. (Stop Her On Sight)’ b/w ‘I'm On My Way’ scraped the R&B Top 50. Today’s selection, ‘Starvin’ was the a-side of his second and last 45 for that label. Produced (and co-written) by Philly all-star Bunny Sigler and Phil Hurtt, ‘Starvin’ is a powerful record. Opening with a jangling, but sinister sounding guitar, and supercharged horn blasts, Parker drops in with some soul screams before launching into the verse. The beat is hard and funky, and Parker is, as they say, hitting it. His vocal is relentless, and the band provides a more than adequate backing. I’m not sure what to make of a lyric like: You look good to me baby And I mean you no harm Cause there ain’t no soul sisters Over in Vietnam The energy level remains high into the run off groove, certifying ‘Starvin’ as a lost classic of Philly funk. The flip side '28 Ways (She Loves Me)' was penned by Carl Fisher (of the Vibrations) who also wrote the Volcano's 'Storm Warning'. Parker went on to record for the G.S.F. label, and later as a member of the group Best of Both Worlds for Calla. He continues to perform to this day, singing gospel as part of Winfield Parker & Praise. The track has recently been comped by the BGP label on ‘Living In the Streets 3: Bustin’ Out of the Ghetto’. Were you to seek a copy of the record to keep the lesser records in your crates warm and cozy, you might have to shell out $25 or so.