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Tributes pour in for British-born blues legend Denis Parker, dead at 78

Tributes pour in for British-born blues legend Denis Parker, dead at 78


A man sings into a microphone and plays the guitar.
Denis Parker, a prominent British-born blues musician who spent more than 50 years writing and performing music in Newfoundland and Labrador, has died. (Denis Parker/Facebook)

Denis Parker, a prominent British-born blues musician who spent more than 50 years writing and performing music in Newfoundland and Labrador, has died.

He was 78 years old.

Parker is remembered by fellow musicians as a pioneer and major force in the St. John's blues scene. He also spent years running MusicNL, where he supported other musicians.

“For 42 years, Denis Parker's music has been a part of my life,” TonyPloughman, manager of Fred's Records in St. John's, said in a Facebook post.

“It won’t stop being a part of my life until I stop being a part of it.”

History of health problems

Parker, originally from England, moved to St. John's in 1971 and is remembered as someone who was always playing the blues on his guitar in the city's local pubs and bars.

In a Facebook post, actor Mark Critch says he remembers he and his brother sneaking into Parker's concerts when they were minors.

He says that having posters of Parker on the set of Son of Critch it was no coincidence.

“When we created our rooms for Son of Critch, there MUST be tapes and posters of Denis Parker,” Critch wrote in a Facebook post Sunday.

A man sings into a microphone and plays the guitar.
Parker told the St. Johns Morning Show in 2019 that, despite numerous health issues, he continued to sing and perform in the province. (CBC)

Even after suffering heart attacks and numerous other health problems, Parker continued to sing and perform around the province.

Parker told the Saint-Jean morning show in a 2019 interview, he said he had heart attacks, heart bypass surgeries, pneumonia, bypass surgeries on both of his legs, and the flu. He said at the time that he suffered from “30% heart function.”

He said touring wasn't an option for him due to his health, but he was content to continue writing and playing local shows.

“My career is pretty much non-existent, I guess, other than the fact that I'm always writing and recording music, which keeps me sane,” Parker said at the time.

During his interview in 2019 with the St. John's Morning Show, he remembered the exact date and time of his arrival in the province, November 4, 1971 at 1:30 p.m.

He said he came to the province after meeting Newfoundland musicians in London who played with the band Lukey's Boat. He said he “wasn't doing much” at the time, so when he was invited to Newfoundland and Labrador to start a band, he jumped at the chance.

That band was Mantis, the first band he performed with in the province.

“When you create something, it’s a special event,” he said at the time.

“So that's the greatest pleasure. I mean, it's great to stand in front of thousands of people and play in a 50-seat bar and people love it, but the greatest pleasure is writing a song. So that's my greatest joy and that's what really keeps me going.”

WATCH | Denis Parker appeared on this October 2021 CBC show about the Black Sheep, a St. John's pub that featured Parker and many other artists.:

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