Maceo Parker

Maceo Parker was the saxophonist in the groups that laid down the foundation of funk, rap and hip hop. He attended college in North Carolina but graduated from the University of James Brown. When he was on James Brown’s funky soul funk train James could be heard saying “Maceo, I want you to Blow!” when it came time for a solo. This band was the early pioneer of modern funk and hip-hop.

Maceo also played with other pioneers of funk, rap and hip hop: George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic as well as Bootsy Collins and Prince.

Maceo Parker

“2% jazz, 98% funky stuff.”

Maceo Parker was born in Kinston, North Carolina on February 14, 1943. In 1964 Maceo was studying music in college when James Brown stopped at a club where Maceo’s brother, Melvin was drumming. Brown offered Melvin a job and, a year later, Melvin took that job—after telling Brown that his brother Maceo played sax and needed a job. James asked Maceo if he owned a baritone sax; Maceo replied “yes” and then went out and bought one.

Maceo Parker was the musical lynchpin of James Brown and his group for 20 years. He played on 13 James Brown albums, including Out of Sight (1964), Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud (1969), Sex Machine (1970), Gravity (1986), James Brown’s Funky People, Pt 2 (1988), Messing With the Blues (1991), Soul Pride: The Instruments (1960-1969) and Foundations of Funk: A Brand New Bag (1996). He then joined The Mothership, George Clinton’s Parliament group, and played on their albums The Clones of Dr. Funkenstine (1976), Mothership Connection (1976), Live: P-Funk Earth Tour (1977), Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome (1977) and Major Booty Affair 1978).

For his work with those two groups, Maceo became the most sampled musician of rap and hip-hop artists.

Maceo played on Prince’s albums Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic (1999), One Nite Alone…Live! (2002), Musicology (2004), 3121 (2006), Planet Earth (2007), and Indigo Nights (2008). In 2007 Maceo performed with Prince during the artist’s 21 nights at the O2 Arena in London.

A talented saxophonist who plays tenor, alto and baritone sax, Maceo Parker has performed on albums by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Yvonne Jackson, Keith Richards, Living Colour, P-Funk All Stars, 10,000 Maniacs, Color Me Badd, Bryan Ferry, De La Soul, Ani DiFranco, and Dave Matthews Band in addition to James Brown, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton and Parliament.

Maceo Parker has been honored by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation with a Pioneer Award as a sideman and as part of the history of R&B. Since the 1990s, Maceo Parker has performed primarily with his own group, playing, in his words, “2% jazz, 98% funky stuff.”

Text and images provided by the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.