Based in North County San Diego, keyboardist Robert Parker is a graduate of the Drake University instrumental music program, as well as being an inductee in the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In a career spanning over four decades, Parker has played with everything from concert bands (bass horn) and orchestras (violin and double bass), to jazz, country, rock, R&B, and fusion bands.
Parker first earned local notice in the early 1980s with his jazz band Purl. “I wandered into a place called Carlsbad by the Sea [retirement home] and noticed they had a nice piano. I asked if I could play, and the next thing I know, they were offering me a job. It turns out there are thousands of those places.”
Among his favorite projects is a series of recordings for Wolf Marshall in connection with his Guitar Signature Licks series for Hal Leonard Music. In 2010, Parker was inducted into the Iowa/Midwest Music Heritage Hall of Fame. Five years later, he showed no signs of slowing down. “In 2015, I actually did 347 performances,” he told the Reader. “That was way too many, sometimes four gigs in a single day. I just started collecting Social Security this year, and I’m trying to whittle the shows down to around 200 per year.”
Parker frequently performs at retirement homes, estimating they make up 80 percent of his gigs. Mostly, Parker says he performs themes from the 1930s and the '40s. But, he also admits to a little Elton John, and maybe some Beatles. “And they say, I know that song because my kids listen to that.”