Ray Parker Jr. found his groove way before 1984’s mega-smash, “Ghostbusters.”
The R&B-pop vocalist, songwriter and guitarist strummed his way into Motown studios and onto live stages recording and performing with Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and other legends in the late 1960s as a teenager.
A Detroit native and guitar prodigy, Parker brought a signature rhythmic groove to his session work that quickly captured the attention of arrangers, songwriters, artists and musicians.
“For me, I was just trying to play the guitar the best I could to get everybody to like it. Now, in hindsight, it’s becoming, ‘Oh, he was doing great rhythm guitar.’ But at the time, I didn’t really think of it like that. I was just trying to play a guitar part or something that would work on the record,” he said.
Parker revisits his five-plus decades in music through a compelling new 90-minute documentary, “Who You Gonna Call? A Portrait of Ray Parker Jr.,” which premiered Thursday night at Detroit’s Redford Theatre as part of the Freep Film Festival.
Directed by Fran Strine (“Hired Gun”), the documentary “traces Parker’s path from the segregated streets of Detroit in the 1960s to the top of the charts and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, offering a candid look at a complicated artist whose musical legacy is overdue for wider appreciation.”
“That’s what this film is about. I mean, ‘Ghostbusters’ came out, and it was such a huge hit. It just overshadowed everything; people didn’t even know I played the guitar or where I came from,” said Parker, who attended the documentary’s premiere with Strine. (Another screening without Parker will be shown Sunday at Emagine Birmingham 8.)
“They were like, ‘Where did he come from? He was born under a broccoli patch, and he just appeared one day.’ This film actually takes you back and says, ‘There was a lot more going on before that. It didn’t just sprout out of nowhere.’”