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Bobby Parker was really only known for one song — but what a song. The guitar riff from 1961’s “Watch Your Step” was copied by the Beatles for “I Feel Fine,” and Jimmy Page for the intro and outro of “Moby Dick,” John Bonham’s drum solo on Led Zeppelin II and most of their live shows throughout the 1970s — and by lots of other British groups, including Deep Purple on a song called “Rat Bat Blue.”
Unfortunately, Parker, who died earlier this month at age 76, was virtually unknown to much of the American public:
Blues rock guitarist Bobby Parker, best known for his 1961 track Watch Your Step and credited as “the only musician the Beatles admitted to stealing from” has died at the age of 76, it’s been reported.
Bassist Anthony B Rucker, who often collaborated often with the pioneering artist, confirmed the news, saying: “It is with a heavy heart I thank you, Bobby, for all that you have done for me. I’m so glad I had one last chance to play with you a couple of weeks ago. See ya on the other side.”
Born in Louisiana and raised in Los Angeles, Robert Lee Parker’s first professional gig was with Otis Williams and the Charms in the 1950s, followed by stints with Bo Diddley, Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
Watch Your Step inspired the Beatles’ song I Feel Fine, with John Lennon once saying they’d used the riff “in various forms” throughout their career. Led Zeppelin made use of it in Moby Dick. The track was also covered by the Spencer Davis Group, Dr Feelgood and Carlos Santana, who once said: “Bobby inspired me to play guitar – he’s one of the few remaining guitarists who can pierce your heart and soothe your soul.”
In 2008 Parker reflected: “Watch Your Step was a culmination of blues rock guitar that nobody else had ever thought of. Mine was first. The United States was engulfed by Motown, but the whole world knew when I recorded Watch Your Step that I broke the brick wall of the sameness of Motown.”
In related news from the world of rock, Bo Diddley, who passed away at age 79 in 2008, proffers helpful tips for a long and successful life as a touring musician.