Winfield Parker
Winfield Parker

See also entry for Winfield Parker and Praise

Excerpts from Cooler Than Ice: Arctic Records and the Rise of Philly Soul:

Winfield Parker was born June 21, 1942 in Baltimore and raised in Cooksville, Maryland, He started out as a saxophonist at Harriet Tubman High School in nearby Simpsonville, joining a band called the Veejays. “You know how we got that name?” asks Parker. “Jerry Butler was on that label, the Vee-Jay label, and we took that name.”

Parker’s big break came when powerful Baltimore agent Rufus Mitchell caught him playing at an Annapolis club and assumed his managerial reins. “He heard me sing a couple of songs, and he said, ‘Lay that horn down there! I’m gonna record you singing!’”  

Winfield landed at Arctic, thanks to Mitchell. “He hooked me up with Jimmy Bishop,” says Parker. “And Jimmy Bishop hooked me up with Arctic. Mr. Mitchell stopped managing me, and Bishop took over.” Jimmy produced Parker’s Arctic 45, getting together with session guitarist Norman Harris and Bernard Broomer to compose “Shake That Thing,” a slab of horn-driven funk arranged by Bobby Martin. “I just sang it,” says Parker. “He’d put me up in the hotel and I’d learn it, and we’d go in the studio and do it.”

The classy ballad flip “Brand New Start” was a Parker original. “I experienced things in life,” he says. “You go through love affairs and all that kind of crap back in the day, you know. So I just started writing.” Its uptown soul ambiance recalled Parker’s suave cousin, Tommy Hunt. “I used to watch him all the time,” he says. “That’s how I learned how to get my stage act together, watching Tommy and James Brown. Sam Cooke was my main man.”

This was Winfield’s only Arctic platter in March of ‘69, but Bishop held onto him after the label’s demise. He produced Parker’s self-penned 1970 ballad “I’m Wondering” on Florence Greenberg’s Wand logo, arranged by Martin (Barbara Mason wrote the flip).

Winfield Parker’s name has been familiar to music fans internationally for more than 30 years. His biggest hit as an R&B star was ”S.O.S.,” which reached 48 with a bullet on the Billboard R&B chart in 1971. Even before that, at the age of 18, he was playing the saxophone and touring with Little Richard.  Winfield never finished high school because he was playing in Little Richard’s band on tour internationally as far away as Sweden and Germany.

At his height, he was earning $4500 a night, but by the mid-80s, disco had largely replaced live performances in clubs. When Winfield found himself in trouble in February, 1985, he made a pact with God that if He helped him out of his trouble, “I would glorify Him with my work. “And ever since, I have,” Winfield says.That was the beginning of Winnfield Parker and Praise, his gospel group.


Cooler Than Ice: Arctic Records and the Rise of Philly Soul

Philly Soul
Philly Soul