Good morning Reddit, I am musician Ray Parker Jr. I'm featured in a music documentary called Hired Gun which premieres Friday at SXSW. I spent years as a studio musician/hired gun for all the artists listed above and more before writing music for myself. ‘Jack and Jill’ was the hit I wrote that launched my career.

But you probably recognize my name because of four words: Who You Gonna Call?

Ask me anything. FYI, I am answering questions via phone


Edit: That about wraps it up. Thank you everyone for making my drive through Florida a little more interesting today. Hopefully I will see some of you in Austin on Friday for the premiere of Hired Gun!

E2: Here's a clip from Hired Gun that went live on Entertainment Weekly today

Comments: 847 • Responses: 54  • Date: 

suaveitguy487 karma

Have you gone through periods where you hated the Ghostbusters' theme? Was it because you were tired of it, or it cast a big shadow, or have you all around loved it?

rayparkerjr11308 karma

No no no and no. Its like a guy gets a lotto ticket. Do you wanna keep a lotto ticket or throw it in the trash? I love it. It makes everyone in the world happy. It's impossible to get tired of that song!

striker69478 karma

Ray, what were your thoughts on Key and Peele's sketch about you?

rayparkerjr1641 karma

Yes. I like the sketch! At the Emmy's, he was in the dressing with his shirt off getting makeup done. I rush in with my camera and I took a selfie. He was so relieved, he said "I didn't know if you were gonna punch me or not!" He asked if he could put his shirt back on and take another picture.

I kept the picture of with him with no shirt on, but we posted the other one on Twitter.

suaveitguy302 karma

Was playing lead guitar for Stevie Wonder opening for the Rolling Stones a career highlight? Any favorite memories of the tour?

rayparkerjr1429 karma

First of all, just getting the call from Stevie Wonder on the phone was a career highlight. To me Stevie Wonder was a musical genius

When I first heard of the tour, I thought Stevie Wonder was the opening act and Rolling Stones was the opening act.

It was the first time for me seeing the fast life. Even when I went out on tour with the Spinners it was only on the weekends. And I definitely, in specific, remember going to the Playboy mansion in Chicago!

suaveitguy281 karma

You must have worked with some brilliant musicians that never broke through? Are there any great (studio) musicians that don't get their due, that you could shine a little light on today?

rayparkerjr1392 karma

Yeah there was Leroy Emmanuel. He was in a group called The Counts in Detroit. He was a really good musician that I would have liked to see get more credit. Someone I looked up to when I was younger.

of course there was Robert White. Showed me a lot on the guitar. He was a really really good player

Then theres a drummer that stands out: Zachary Slater. He sure played on a lot of hit records. But he never got further than that. Along with Tony Newton who played on the bass in all those records as well.

popcornhicken195 karma

who YOU gonna call?

rayparkerjr1592 karma

When I get done here, I'm gonna call my wife and check in

ManOfLaBook157 karma

The mustache!!!! What happened to the mustache???

rayparkerjr1259 karma

My mustache at some point about 10 years ago started to get some grey hairs in it and I didn't like it anymore. I know mustaches are making a comeback. I might be a part of that but I'm not sure yet. My wife wants me to grow it back.

suaveitguy112 karma

Who is the most important influence on your career?

rayparkerjr1219 karma

Stevie Wonder. He taught me how to write songs, which I had no idea I was ever going to do

suaveitguy93 karma

The 20 Grand was an epic party place, and you were its (lead) guitarist? Can you write out a couple memories of the scene at the time? Who did you get to back up there?

rayparkerjr1141 karma

20 Grand was a wonderful place. I got to work with all the funk brothers. It was a wonderful club in Detroit. James Jameson was the regular bass player and I got to sit next to him everyday. At the time I didn't know who he was. He was just the old guy sitting next to me.

For me it was a really exciting time. Working with Gladys Knight. Not too mention I made pretty good money. Made some cash to pay for my bicycle!

alek_hiddel93 karma

In a lot of ways, you literally wrote the soundtrack to my childhood. So thanks for that. Two questions:

Do you have any involvement with the new film, like possibly doing a remix of the theme song?

I'm not sure if you're at liberty to discuss, or would want to discuss, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on the whole "Huey Lewis" controversy with your awesome theme.

rayparkerjr1379 karma

I have no idea what they're doing on the new film. Obviously they don't know who to call.

I don't know anymore than what I read on Google or Facebook

First of all I don't know much about the Huey Lewis controversy. There were about 10-15 people involved in the lawsuit. Everyone claimed they wrote that song. I had a wonderful lawyer who didn't tell me anything about any of the lawsuits, so I don't know anything. I know there was a gag order, but in 2003 there was a VH1 special where he talked about it and I got a lot of money out of that.

30 years later and I still don't really know much about it. But it didn't really affect me.

Pestonio62 karma

What is your biggest professional regret?

rayparkerjr1158 karma

I wish I had made more records, and was busier. But I had to take off a little time to have some fun.

If I had one regret, I wish they put my name on a song I wrote: You Make Me Feel Like Dancing. It's actually one of the stories I talk about in the Hired Gun documentary

suaveitguy59 karma

Do you ever get back to Detroit? What's the feeling seeing so many places that were so lively 40 years ago abandoned today? We all experience favorite places closing and that kind of thing, but not to that kind of scale.

rayparkerjr198 karma

I go to Detroit all the time because all of my family is there. Fans need to see that everything is closed. I think the Motown museum is the only thing left. Everything from that era is abandoned and I think it's going to take many years to bring it back.

bymx52 karma

Hi Mr Parker! What's your favourite ice cream flavour?

rayparkerjr1132 karma

Haagen-dazs Rum Raisin.

Actually another. Haagen-dazs Vanilla with a little kahlua poured over it. That's heaven on ice cream.

Marvin_Str847 karma

What is the best recording tip you could give some one?

rayparkerjr1150 karma

You need to record as though you're not on the stage but you're sitting in your living room. You're 100% comfortable and doing your thing. People can feel on the record if you're real

chtucker1843 karma

What advise would you give somebody trying to break into to music industry?

rayparkerjr187 karma

Anyone trying to break into the music industry needs to things: gotta really love it about just about life itself. Gotta get very very aggressive. Not a passive business.

I just told my son that. He's way too laid back. He's gotta get aggressive!

WanderingDonkey40 karma

Other than the GhostBusters movie what inspiration did you have for the theme song? Anything that has happened in your life that contributed to the lyrics?

rayparkerjr186 karma

No. I looked at the movie and I only had a few days to do it. It's not like a lot was going on then

damianted39 karma

Any tips or tricks for an aspiring session musician?

I love music and have recently been delving into session work, ive started to play along to anything on the radio to get my chops down and to play a wide range of styles. I think it's fun and keeps things fresh.

rayparkerjr178 karma

If a person is playing a wide range, that's gonna get you in the door for sure. Other thing to realize is producer/record company is on a time schedule. You gotta get it fast. First thing: make sure you're on time. Guitar tuned up, amp ready, ready to go. Seems like a small thing but when you only have a few hours it puts you ahead just to be on time.

rayparkerjr175 karma

And of course we're assuming you have good talent! Gotta play well

pipsdontsqueak37 karma

Damn, I never realized how many acts you've worked with!

Do you remember your first time on stage? How did you feel? How about your first time performing with a major act?

rayparkerjr170 karma

My first big show on stage was with a group called the Spinners. They had a hit record out at the time It's a Shame. GC Cameron was the leader singer. What was really exciting was playing with a Motown Man. If you lived in Detroit, that was really exciting

ottoman_vampire30 karma

Ray, big fan. Followed your career since I first heard Raydio.

What was it like working for such diverse acts as Stevie Wonder and The Carpenters?

Were you in any sessions where Karen played drums?

Was it intimidating being around Stevie Wonder, such a monster instrumentalist, not to mention his singing, writing, and producing?

rayparkerjr141 karma

Raydio changed my entire world. Changed me from being a studio touring musician to being an artist.

I love recording with Stevie and The Carpenters. But I never saw Karen playing the drums

It's always intimidating being around Stevie Wonder. Even today!

suaveitguy27 karma

Ever work with or know Sixto Rodriguez?

rayparkerjr121 karma


rayparkerjr147 karma

I do know Dennis Coffey though, who did Rodriguez's music

suaveitguy21 karma

What are residuals like for a Producer? From it, your playing, and writing, do you get 1000 different royalty cheques in your mail box every month?

rayparkerjr150 karma

Well I wish there thousands. But there's a lot of them. Some of the checks now are down to .01. One penny. Because some of the digital download stuff pays so little. I don't know how they can afford to pay for the check! Stamp costs more than the check. But it's a really nice thing to get them from a lot of different places.

Erinnerungen21 karma

Will you give us an idea of how much stuff you create that you don't go on to use for something, or how much gets rejected? I think people often have the false belief that everything a successful musician creates gets used for something.

rayparkerjr148 karma

90% sits in the can. Not necessarily rejected. Too lazy to finish it, started something else, inefficiency.

barrell_of_pabstbeer16 karma

Thanks for the AMA. Got more of a musical question. I see you always playing guitar. Do you play bass at all? I have read that many guitarist will play both as they are the ones who have the vision for the song. Whereas another person has to interpret and play the root notes that are visioned. I guess my question is, how often do you play bass. Thanks.

rayparkerjr132 karma

I play bass on most of my records, and I have done so on a lot of other people's records as well. I also play some piano and drums. But my main instrument is the guitar.

Oh and I started off on the clarinet and saxophone

HutSutRawlson15 karma

Hey Mr. Parker! I was pleased to discover that you were part of Herbie Hancock's band for a period of time. How did you hook up with that group, and how was it different working for Herbie compared to the other big pop acts you were playing with?

rayparkerjr138 karma

Herbie Hancock called me and I wrote a lot of songs and played on a lot of his albums. It was a wonderful experience.

Last year I got to play a concert with him at the Apollo. So we're still friends. They gave me a star on Hollywood Blvd just a few spaces away from Herbie so I feel like I'm in good company there.

DontTalkHowComeHe14 karma


rayparkerjr179 karma

I don't know if I would call it cheating. It's like they're taking an old piece of the art and adding new art. It's a new creation. Whether you like it or not, it's a new creation. Sometimes it turns out really really good, and sometimes it can be bad.

Joe Cocker had a song Woman to Woman and Dr Dre turned it California Love, one of the biggest songs of all time

Spambop13 karma

Hi Ray. What is the best pice of advice you've received from some of the greats you've worked with?

rayparkerjr124 karma

To be yourself. Play what you really really feel. And give it your all and do your best

suaveitguy13 karma

How did you get to work on Pryor's Place?

rayparkerjr123 karma

They just called me to do the show. It was the Krofft Brothers producing the show and they called me. That was very exciting because Richard Pryor was one of my all time favorites.


What was it like working with The Temptations?

Which one of them was the best (or worse) to work with?

Which album or song did you collaborate with them on?

What exactly does a hired gun do in the music industry?

I'm a huge fan of their music (and also your theme song) and very much look forward to watching Hired Gun. Thanks for doing this AMA!

rayparkerjr140 karma

I love the Temptations. Working with them was wonderful. A childhood dream come true. Got to play my favorite songs My Girl and I'm Losing You.

I don't think any other of them were better than another. It was a very talented group where everyone was different. I think that's why they put them together. But my favorite person as a personality was Melvin Franklin/David English

So many songs. It's hard to remember some of them

We shoot people. That's what we're hired to do. We shoot down good guitar parts on records. That's why they would call us a hired gun. I would grab my guitar and shoot 'em with the groove

Strabbo10 karma

What was Stevie Wonder like in the studio? Did he have a process in arranging or production that was different from anyone else?

rayparkerjr123 karma

Yes, he layered the instruments on at a time, and as I mentioned with someone else he adds the drums last

I was in the studio with him when he recorded Living For the City from beginning to end

nynedragons9 karma

Hi, Ray! What's a favorite album of yours that people wouldn't guess?

rayparkerjr118 karma

Phil Upchurch, Black Gold

suaveitguy9 karma

I always liked Dennis Coffey's tunes, was he a big force back in the day? What do you think of him?

rayparkerjr112 karma

I think he's an excellent, excellent musician. Hes something I looked up to when I was young. Wonderful musician. Wonderful person. Very talented.

suaveitguy9 karma

Which Ghostbuster actor was the best to you?

rayparkerjr153 karma

The one named Ray Parker Jr that's not in the movie

AnalHarbinger9 karma

What's your desert island gear of choice? Could be any musical equipment. Thanks!!! It's really great to see you here.

rayparkerjr117 karma

Probably a Merida acoustic guitar

McPorkums8 karma

Hi Ray! Your speed-write of The Ghostbusters Theme inspired me to start writing music back in the day, so a big thank you for that! When you compose, what instrument do you use to sort out a melody? Any other tips? Cheers!

rayparkerjr115 karma

Thank you very much! When I write a song, I usually use the guitar and sometimes a piano.

fargoadvice7 karma

When in the studio, what is your favorite thinking food? You're not just choking down lozenges and water, right?

rayparkerjr121 karma

Raw nuts

drDOOM_is_in7 karma

Dude, my first cassette tape was chart busters... Awesome shit.

I got that one and the cars heartbreak city.

Thanks for some sweet chilhood memories.

Yeah, I don't really have a question, but I wanted to say hello, if that counts?

rayparkerjr112 karma

Thank you very much and hello. Doing Chartbusters was Clive Davis' idea and it was a good one

joetheslacker6 karma

Did you teach the ghost busters that iconic dance?

rayparkerjr111 karma

No. We just came up with that, and everyone started doing it. I'm not sure who started it

patabr6 karma

what will we learn about you in Hired Gun? How did you become connected to the film?

rayparkerjr117 karma

I was called to do the film along with some good friends of mine. I think it's a good a idea to talk about the musicians that made the music behind a lot of big records. I think anybody watching the film will learn a lot of things about music they didn't know

ijoinedtosay5 karma

Hey Ray, hope all is well. I thought I'd ask this because of your name and because I own one myself.

Have you ever played any Parker guitars and if so, what do you think of them? Personally I love them and any other guitar feels 'weird' to me haha.

rayparkerjr112 karma

I own two Parker guitars. I do like them. They're very very different from my traditional sound. They have a different sound and I like them and I do use them.

They were very expensive, too

tikhung014 karma

What was it like working with the Ghostbusters crew and especially, the late Harold Ramis? You're awesome, by the way.

rayparkerjr120 karma

The only time I got to work with them was in NY when we shot the video in Times Square. Which we decided on a Friday afternoon at 1 oclock to block off the entire square. But that's the only time I got to meet the cast of the film

mgoyoda2 karma

What are your favorite sports teams?

"The Other Woman" is one of the coolest songs ever recorded. Thank you for everything!

rayparkerjr111 karma

Well, my favorite sport is tennis. I like Novak Djokovic. He's real good

Try to play at least an hour a day. Love it.

argentoromero2 karma

Do you ever get asked about Enemy Territory? I still enjoy the vhs.

rayparkerjr110 karma

Yes. That was a movie I did for my parents. I wanted them to see me on the big screen.

Now it's become a classic comedy at my house with my kids, they can see their dada on the TV acting silly

kcohle2 karma

Ray, thanks for doing something like this. You were a huge part of what I consider the best musical period of human existence, other than maybe the late 1700s. Who are some artists making music today that you enjoy?

rayparkerjr17 karma

I like the Weekend, I love Justin Bieber's new song Love Yourself.

I also love Fifth Harmony - I'm Worth It

Z-9-D-Ray1 karma

Will you be in Austin for SXSW?

rayparkerjr14 karma

Yes. I'll be at the premiere at the Paramount at 1pm. And there's a panel at 5PM.

That's all on Friday, March 18

quiktrip_hot_dogs1 karma

Do you enjoy cream soda? I find it quite refreshing.

rayparkerjr11 karma

No. I don't drink soda

ughalready1 karma

Now I have "Ghostbusters" stuck in my head. Thanks!

What can you tell us about the documentary?

rayparkerjr15 karma

You're welcome.

First of all, you get to see me in it. So I think you should watch it! Get to see my smiling face. And like I said before, I think you're gonna see a bunch of interesting musicians that you didn't know about before.

joegee661 karma

I still can't get over loving you. Awesome song!

When you're in the studio, do you know when you've got a hit? Is there a feeling you get from the song that says "this is going to be huge"? What's a song you've done that has surprised you, positively or negatively?

rayparkerjr17 karma

I love that song also.

There's only one song I wrote that I was sure was gonna be a hit The Woman Needs Love. I could read the lyrics off to women and I would always get the same response. That's when I knew I had it.

Biggest surprise was Ghostbusters. None of us would have imagined it would be this big for this long. Biggest surprise I've ever had.

I thought the first song I ever wrote was gonna be the huge hit. I can't even remember the name of it now. Couldn't get a record deal with it. To all aspiring writers: you gotta keep going.

Crash6651 karma

I heard one time that you wrote the Ghostbusters' theme while sitting on your toilet.

Is that true? Have your movements produced any other interesting hits?

rayparkerjr14 karma

No, that's just not true

highpowered1 karma

When you recorded "The Other Woman", did you decide beforehand that you were going to play all the instruments or did it just happen that way? And in what order did you lay down the instrumental tracks?

rayparkerjr13 karma

I learned the idea of playing all the instruments from Stevie Wonder. And I always put the drums on last because he puts the drums on last