Who are you going to call?, a new documentary which premieres in the US tomorrow (23), tells the story of Ray Parker Jr., known worldwide as the hitmaker “Ghostbusters”, but also for his hit band Raydio and, earlier again, as a much sought-after session guitarist in Motown and elsewhere.
Before breaking through as a leader with Raydio’s debut hit “Jack and Jill” in 1978, Parker was a staple musician on the sessions circuit in Los Angeles throughout that decade. He cut his teeth in clubs in Detroit as a barely teenager in the late 1960s, most notably in the group of disco-era scout Hamilton Bohannon. He continued to play with Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye and worked for Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Hot Wax label.
Parker’s guitar sounds can be heard on Wonder’s “Maybe Your Baby” Talking book, on Honey Cone’s big hit “Want Ads”, and on sessions for countless soul stars, in Motown with the supreme, Temptations, and Diana ross, and elsewhere with Rufus, Aretha Franklin, the carpenters, Tina Turner and many others. His first big success as a writer was with Chaka Khan on Rufus’ # 1 American R&B in 1974, “You Got The Love”.
The documentary has two screenings at the Freep Film Festival, directed by the Detroit Free Press in Parker’s hometown of Detroit on Thursday at the Redford Theater, then Sunday (26) at Emagine Birmingham. Parker and director Fran Strine will attend Thursday’s screening and then participate in a question-and-answer session. Tickets and passes are on sale on freepfimfestival.com.
The film has appearances from Wonder, Bohannon (interviewed before his death in 2020), Brian and Eddie Holland and other contributors to his colorful career such as Herbie Hancock, Bobby Brown, record director Clive Davis and bassist Nathan Watts.
In an interview with the Detroit Free PressParker said of the 90-minute film, “I see it as a happy story, although some parts may have been difficult or difficult…. You feel everyone’s love, and that’s a wonderful thing.
“I mean, Stevie Wonder – who actually taught me how to write songs and produce everything. I tell people, I dropped out of school at Lawrence Tech but I graduated from Wonder University, ”he laughs. “It’s very heartwarming. It’s hard to explain, when you watch Stevie Wonder up there say what he says.
Speaking about his upbringing in Detroit, he adds, “There was a lot of violence in Detroit when I was growing up. I have it all. But I love Detroit. I mean, I can’t say it because I’m here on the west coast of Nevada or California, but when I see the Tigers on TV I’m always in favor of the Tigers.
Of director Strine’s decision to make the film, Parker notes: “He [Strine] said, “Well wait a minute this guy has a story way beyond ‘Who are you gonna call’ [the 1984 mega-hit ‘Ghostbusters’]. I mean, he performed in every nightclub in Detroit. He played Motown, all the different records there. So I think that’s what makes the story interesting, because most people are going to say, why are we watching a movie about this guy who wrote the only song?
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