Chris Parker grew up playing drums on wooden blocks attached to the hi-hat and bass drum pedals by his father, a jazz drummer, while listening to Monk and Mingus on the radio. By his early teens, he was performing with friends and discovering the allure of rock and roll, through drummers such as Roger Hawkins, D.J. Fontana, Stax record ace Al Jackson, and New Orleans greats Earl Palmer, Smokey Johnson and James Black. By night, he put into practice what he heard, backing up strippers and exotic dancers in clubs and cocktail lounges.
While studying painting at New York City's School of Visual Arts on scholarship, Parker answered a "drummer wanted" ad in Rolling Stone. He moved to Woodstock, New York, where he joined the band Holy Moss. Holy Moss was short lived, but Parker recorded one album with them and stayed in Woodstock where he worked in the local scene with artists Paul Butterfield's Better Days, Bonnie Raitt, Tim Hardin, Rick Danko, Mike Bloomfield and Merl Saunders.
After four years, Parker moved back to New York and began augmenting his blues experience into an emerging jazz-fusion/R&B scene. He was soon invited to play in a band called the Encyclopedia of Soul, later to become Stuff, which included bassist Gordon Edwards, guitarists Cornell Dupree and Eric Gale and keyboardist Richard Tee. In the 70's, Stuff defined a soulful; laid back and distinctly New York sound that appealed not only to other musicians but also to singer /songwriters and producers. It was also in this band that Parker later began sharing the drum chair with another emerging studio great, Steve Gadd.
Also during this period, Parker co-founded the Brecker Brothers band which featured Michael and Randy Brecker, David Sanborn, Buzzy Feiten, Steve Khan, Will Lee IV, and Don Grolnick. With the Brecker Brothers, Parker toured the USA and recorded 3 albums. His studio career flourished in the 1970s, 80s, 90s and continues today with a wide range of artists including (but not limited to) James Brown, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Ashford and Simpson, Patti Austin, Cher, Michael Bolton, Quincy Jones, Freddie Hubbard and Salt n' Pepa.
In 1986 Parker was offered the house gig on the NBC television show Saturday Night Live, which lasted six years. He has worldwide exposure and has performed with musical superstars such as Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Aaron Neville/Linda Ronstadt, Quincy Jones and Bryan Ferry among others.
In 1988, Parker began touring with legendary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan, an association that lasted several years. In 1990, Parker added his touch, among other projects, to Donald Fagen's recording, Kamakiriad, produced by Walter Becker, which after going gold received the Grammy nomination for Best Album of the Year. Parker's groove and soloing on the song "On the Dunes" has since become part of Steely Dan lore.