Maceo Parker is an American funk and soul jazz saxophonist, best known for his work with James Brown in the 1960s, as well as Parliament-Funkadelic in the 1970s. Parker was a prominent soloist on many of Brown's hit recordings, and a key part of his band, playing alto, tenor and baritone saxophones. He is now just as well known for his own shows, as he has toured continuously under his own name since the early 1990s and has built up a strong fan base.
Parker was born in Kinston, North Carolina. His father played piano and drums; his mother and father both sang in church. His brother Melvin played drums and his brother Kellis trombone. He and his brother, Melvin, joined James Brown in 1964; in his auto-biography, Brown says that he originally wanted Melvin as his drummer, but agreed to take Maceo under his wing as part of the deal. In 1970 Parker, his brother Melvin, and a few of Brown’s band members left to found Maceo & All the King’s Men which toured for two years.
In 1974, Parker returned to James Brown. He also charted a single „Parrty – Part I“ (#71 pop singles) with Maceo & the Macks that year. In 1975, Parker and some of Brown’s band members, including Fred Wesley, left to join George Clinton’s band Parliament-Funkadelic. Parker once again re-joined James Brown from 1984 to 1988. In 1988 Maceo played with some local musicians from Eastern NC Johnnie Byrd and Randy Hignite and a couple of other musicians in a regional soul band Hignite plays keys and Byrd from Kinston plays bass both acomplished musicians. He still sits in with their band The Mighty Saints of Soul occasionally when hes not touring. In the 1990s, Parker began his successful solo career which is ongoing to this day. He has released ten solo records and has been playing 100 to 150 tour dates per year. His average playing time on stage is more than two and a half hours and is dominated by the music he helped invent, funk. The band has been billed as „The greatest little funk orchestra on earth“ or the „Million dollar support band“.
In 1993, Parker made guest appearances on hip hop group De La Soul’s album Buhloone Mindstate. In the late 1990s, Parker began contributing semi-regularly to recordings by Prince and accompanying his band, The New Power Generation, on tour. He also played on the Jane’s Addiction track „My Cat’s Name Is Maceo“, for their 1997 compilation album Kettle Whistle. In 1998, Parker performed as a guest on „What Would You Say“ on a Dave Matthews Band concert which also became one of their live albums, Live in Chicago 12.19.98.
In 2007, Parker performed as part of Prince’s band for Prince’s 21 nights at the O2 arena. Parker’s last album Roots & Grooves with the WDR Big Band is a tribute to Ray Charles, whom Parker cites as one of his most important influences. The album has received critical acclaim, particularly in the US, and won a Jammie for best Jazz Album in 2009. In October 2011, Parker was inducted in the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. He continues touring throughout the world, headlining the major jazz festivals in Europe.