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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    BobLee
    • Thuaidh Cearuilin Reply
      3 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.

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        Well no. I never spat between the cracks of the bridge at Emma Webb, but I did pee in the Emma Webb Pool more than once. I was a Pharo’s Big Boy from Fairfield. Corvairs ARE cool! I was too young to have been a customer of Lyman & Eunice. Back then I thought whore was spelled “hore”, who knew the “w” was silent?

        • Thuaidh Cearuilin Reply
          3 years ago

          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 always had this vague feeling she was concealing a straight-razor somewhere on her person.

          • BobLee Reply
            3 years ago

            Eunice’s daughter was “about my age” but not in my social circle in the 60s. I pity the poor town that does NOT have its share of Daymon Runyon-esque characters a tad on the shady side. For “town characters” are truly the pepper in the stew of daily life. 🙂

            • Doug
              3 years ago

              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,

            • BobLee
              3 years ago

              OH MY! There are some great zingers in that, but I’ll need time to think about’em.

    • Zebraman Reply
      3 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.
      And John Bingham, lawyer and author of the 14th Amendment.
      Cadiz was a way station on the Underground Railroad.

      First time I’ve ever met someone from Cadiz (pop. 3,353) that I was introduced to in town or that wasn’t family.

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        You are REALLY going to enjoy the follow-up column to this one. … Tell “the banjo player” we need another lunch very soon. Maybe you can join us.

    • The Expatriate Reply
      3 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?

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        You just did.

    • Mary Beth Cowper Reply
      3 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

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        ’64-’65… While Grainger HS was winning State BBall Championships.

        • Doug Reply
          3 years ago

          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 fun. Lyman Grant’s place in Happersville was a lot riskier than any of the joints we went to. At some point east Kinston, like many other towns and cities changed, with drugs, gangs, guns, bitterness, danger, and just plain meanness.

          I used these earlier discoveries in my job which took me to “faraway places with strange sounding names” to learn about those lands. Always the edgy places not on tourist guides.

          • BobLee Reply
            3 years ago

            Then there was Sugar Hill before Lyman Grant and Eunice McLawhorn operated The Cadillac Motel / Eunice’s Court… and Clay Broadway’s deputies raided “Kinston’s Whorehouse” in the early 60s.

    • Mayberry Jim Reply
      3 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.

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        Did NOT know that. Of course I am not questioning his being “famous” and deservedly so… but due to the parallel universe factor, many from Kinston never knew.

    • JD Reply
      3 years ago

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

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        Foodie Fans of Vivian Howard might argue that point. Technically, I think she lives in Deep Run. …. Depending upon how the person earned their celebrity, relocation might have been a practical necessity. “Not living there” but remembering Kinston fondly and returning when possible should “count”. No?

    • Mary Page Whitley Reply
      3 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 right, we had them play at our reunion and it was incredible! Mary Page

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        I think it is soooo cool that they “made it”. With all due respect to Maceo, the real article was about The Parallel Universe aspect. Thanks again fr YOUR help.

    • unctarheel1984 Reply
      3 years ago

      I know Carlester Crumpler. Does that count?

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        ABSOLUTELY! Crumpler counts.

    • Porgie` Reply
      3 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. I listen to Van Denton myself. Did make a call to a fellow classmate of ours living in Raleigh who was to put some fannies in the seats. Good effort but still a L.

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        Skinny Kinston kid put up 25 on Pack.

      • Doug Reply
        3 years ago

        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

        • BobLee Reply
          3 years ago

          Of all the bazillions of people who have driven down 70 to “da beach” from the Triangle and points west… wonder how many have ever been in Downtown LaGrange – “The Garden Spot”. Of course, most of “them” probably think the 70 Bypass / Skinners / and Kings / Neuse Sport Shop IS Downtown Kinston… sigh, sniff.

    • 58 wolf kennel Reply
      3 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 :+))

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        Towns should simply be proud of “their own” and not need to compare / compete with any other. Having said that, a recent Kinston BBall celebrity hung 25 on the Pack earlier today. I assume you were there? … 🙂

    • Frank Linstreet Reply
      3 years ago

      Doesn’t EVERY town have “a celebrity”?

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        I certainly hope so. EVERY town needs (1) a stoplight… (2) a Dairy Queen …. (3) Somebody sorta famous for something.

    • Doug Reply
      3 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 for the Blue Notes and future stardom for a few “gifted” ones. Ulysses was their “uncle”. I moved to Kinston literally the day before school started my Junior year. First day of school I was threatened with a a** whupping by someone from the Shady’s Gang for being new. For the entire year I was on DEFCON 5 alert along with learning where the bathrooms were and other new stuff. My parallel Kinston universe was further distorted by the timing of our move to the Magic Mile City and dodging my new imaginary enemy. I was dragged to see Maceo by Skeet and a few friends to see JB and Maceo performing at Dorton Arena around July 4th 1968. We actually met and talked with him briefly after the performance. As I told you there is a exhibit at the NC Museum of History in Raleigh until the end of February. The original picture I took that is on display there was blown up into a poster and given to Skeeter & MB as a wedding gift. BTW, The Tams played for their wedding reception ?

      Mary Page and our GHS reunion group booked Dick Knight & Bill Meyers for our last reunion get together. Tommy was there as was Nancy. Thought that might bring Thailand out from hiding.

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        I take comfort in knowing “I know people who know all about music”. Our reunion committee finally learned “we” would rather talk to each other than be drowned out by a band. … General Bullmoose was Johnny Poythress…. He was TERRIFIC!

    • Mary Beth Cowper Reply
      3 years ago

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

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        When it comes to great “funk” saxophone players – absolutely. But I knew that Connie Dorn was once Miss North Carolina. Does that count? …. AND, I know that Vivian Howard’s husband is named Ben and she buys her produce from “Warren”.

        • Doug Reply
          3 years ago

          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!

          • BobLee Reply
            3 years ago

            Teena’s dad was a radiologist at the hospital. No clue what The Dorns did. She was an Oran Perry protege.

            • Donald Parrott
              3 years ago

              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,.

            • BobLee
              3 years ago

              OH LORDY! We done heard from “one of dem Parrott Boys”. Three boys all well into/beyond their 60s who have NEVER owned a pair of shoes that were not Bass Weejuns. 🙂

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