web analytics

Junior Walker and the All-Stars

Battle Creek

biography

[-] by Rovi

b. Autry DeWalt II, 14 June 1931, Blytheville, Arkansas, USA, d. 23 November 1995, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA. Walker’s record label, Motown Records, stated that he was born in 1942. He was inspired to take up the saxophone by the jump blues and R&B bands he heard in the early 50s. In his mid-teens, he formed his first instrumental group, the Jumping Jacks, adopting the stage name Junior Walker after a childhood nickname. By 1961 he had achieved a prominent local reputation, which reached the ear of label owner and former Moonglow, Harvey Fuqua. He signed Walker to his Harvey label, allowing him free rein to record a series of raw saxophone-led instrumentals. In 1964 Walker followed Fuqua to Motown, where he perfected a blend of raunchy R&B and Detroit soul typified by his 1965 hit, ‘Shotgun’. With its repeated saxophone riffs and call-and-response vocals, it established Walker as the label’s prime exponent of traditional R&B, a reputation that was confirmed by later hits like ‘Shake And Fingerpop’ and ‘Road Runner’. The latter was produced by Holland/Dozier/Holland, who also encouraged Walker to record instrumental versions of hits they had written for other Motown artists. Walker’s style became progressively more lyrical in the late 60s, a development that reached its peak on the 1969 US Top 5 hit, ‘What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)?’ This also marked the pinnacle of his commercial success, as subsequent attempts to repeat the winning formula were met with growing public indifference, and from 1972 onwards the All Stars recorded only sporadically. Hot Shot in 1976, produced by Brian Holland, marked a move towards the burgeoning disco market, which was confirmed on two further albums that year, Walker’s first as a solo artist. In 1979, he was one of several Motown artists to move to Whitfield Records. Finding his career deadlocked, Walker returned to Motown in 1983, issuing Blow The House Down, an exercise in reclaiming lost ground. The novelty single ‘Sex Pot’ rekindled memories of his classic hits, although Walker’s greatest commercial success in the 80s came when he guested with Foreigner and played the magnificent saxophone solo on their hit single ‘Urgent’. He lost a two-year battle with cancer in November 1995.

 

Junior Walker (born Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr., June 14, 1931 – November 23, 1995[1]) was an American musician. His group, Junior Walker & the All Stars, were signed to the Motown label in the 1960s, and became one of the label’s signature acts.

Contents

Biography

Walker was born Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr. in Blytheville, Arkansas[1] and grew up in South Bend, Indiana. His saxophone style was the anchor for the band’s overall sound. The other original members of the group were drummer Tony Washington, guitarist Willie Woods, and keyboardist Vic Thomas.

His career started when he developed his own band at the age of 14, in the mid 1950s as the ‘Jumping Jacks’.[1] His longtime friend Billy Nix (drummer) started his own group the ‘Rhythm Rockers.’ Periodically Nix would sit in on Jumping Jack’s shows, and Walker would sit in on the Rhythm Rockers shows.

Nix obtained a permanent gig at a local TV station in South Bend, Indiana, and asked Walker to join him and his keyboard player (Fred Patton) permanently. Shortly after, Nix asked Willie Woods, a local singer, to perform with the group; shortly after Woods would learn how to play guitar also. When Nix got drafted into the United States Army, Walker convinced the band to move from South Bend to Battle Creek, Michigan.[1] While performing in Benton Harbor, Walker found a drummer Tony Washington, to replace Nix.[1] Eventually, Fred Patton (piano player) left the group, and Victor Thomas stepped in.[1] The original name the ‘Rhythm Rockers’ was changed to the ‘All Stars’. Walker’s squealing gutbucket style was inspired by jump blues and early R&B, particularly players like Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic, and Illinois Jacquet.[1]

The group was spotted by Johnny Bristol, and he recommended them to Harvey Fuqua, in 1961, who had his own record labels.[1] Once the group started recording on the Harvey label, their name was changed to Junior Walker & the All Stars. When Fuqua’s labels were taken over by Motown’s Berry Gordy, Jr. Walker & The All Stars became members of the Motown Records family, recording for Motown’s Soul imprint in 1961.[1]

The members of the band changed after the acquisition of the Harvey label. Tony Washington, the drummer, quit the group, and James Graves joined the group in the Motown family. Their first and signature hit was “Shotgun“, written by Junior Walker, and produced by Berry Gordy and featured The Funk Brothers’ James Jamerson on bass and Benny Benjamin on drums. “Shotgun” reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1965, and was followed by many other hits, such as “(I’m A) Road Runner”, “Shake and Fingerpop” and covers of the Motown tracks, “Come See About Me” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)“. In 1966, Graves left and was replaced by old cohort Billy “Stix” Nicks, and Walker’s hits continued apace with tunes like “I’m a Road Runner” and “Pucker Up Buttercup.”[1]

In 1969 the group had another hit enter the top 5, “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)“.[1] A Motown quality control meeting rejected this song for single release but radio station DJs made the track popular, forcing Motown to release it as a single, whereupon it reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 and No. 1 on the R&B chart. From that time on Walker sang more on the records than earlier in their career. He landed several more R&B Top Ten hits over the next few years, with the last coming in 1972.[1]

In 1979, Junior Walker went solo and was signed to Norman Whitfield‘s Whitfield Records label.[1] He was not as successful as he had been with the All Stars in his Motown period. Walker also played the sax on the group Foreigner‘s “Urgent” in 1981.[1] The solo was actually cobbled together from tapes that he had made with the band.[citation needed] He later recorded his own version of the Foreigner song for the 1983 All-Stars album Blow the House Down.[2] Walker’s version was also featured in the 1985 Madonna film Desperately Seeking Susan. In 1983, Walker was re-signed with Motown.[1]

In 1988, Walker played opposite Sam Moore as one-half of the fictional soul duo “The Swanky Modes” in the comedy Tapeheads. Several songs were recorded for the soundtrack, including “Bet Your Bottom Dollar” and “Ordinary Man”, produced by ex-Blondie member Nigel Harrison.

Death

Junior Walker died on November 23, 1995 in Battle Creek, Michigan of cancer at the age of 64.[1] He had been inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Foundation that year. Drummer James Graves died in 1967 in a car accident, and guitarist Willie Woods in 1997 at age 60. Victor “Vic” Thomas died Sunday, November 28, 2010 in Battle Creek, Michigan. Tony Washington is the only original surviving band member of the four that Harvey Fuqua signed to his label in 1961 and took to Motown with him.

Junior Walker is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, in Battle Creek, Michigan, under a marker inscribed with both his birth name of Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr., and his stage name.

Walker’s “Shotgun” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.[3]

Discography

Albums

  • TML11017 – Shotgun
  • STML/TML11029 – Soul Session
  • STML/TML11038 – Road Runner
  • STML/TML11097 – Home Cookin’
  • STML/TML11120 – Junior Walker’s Greatest Hits
  • STML/TML11140 – These Eyes
  • STML11152 – Live
  • STML11167 – A Gassssssssss!
  • STML11198 – Rainbow Funk
  • STML11211 – Moody Jr
  • STML11224 – Greatest Hits Vol 2
  • STML11234 – Peace & Understanding Is Hard To Find
  • STML11274 – Jr Walker & The Allstars
  • STML12018 – Hot Shot
  • STML12033 – Sax Appeal
  • Back Street Boogie – Whitfield, 1979
  • Blow the House Down – Motown, 1983
  • TMSP1129 – Anthology
  • STMS5054 – Greatest Hits

Singles

Year Song title U.S. Billboard Hot 100[4] U.S. R&B[4] UK Singles Chart[5]
1965 Shotgun 4 1
“Do The Boomerang” 36 10
“Shake And Fingerpop” 29 7
“Cleo’s Back” 43 7
1966 (I’m a) Road Runner 20 4 12
“Cleo’s Mood” 50 14
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You) 18 3 22
Money (That’s What I Want), Pt.1 52 35
1967 “Pucker Up Buttercup” 31 11
“Shoot Your Shot” 44 33
Come See About Me 24 8
1968 “Hip City, Pt. 2” 31 7
“Home Cookin’ 42 19
1969 What Does It Take (To Win Your Love) 4 1 13
These Eyes 16 3
1970 “Gotta Hold on to This Feeling” 21 2
“Do You See My Love (For You Growing)” 32 3
Holly Holy 75 33
“Carry Your Own Load” 50
1971 “Take Me Girl, I’m Ready” 50 18 16
“Way Back Home” 52 24 35
1972 “Walk in the Night” 46 10 16
1973 “Gimme That Beat, Pt. 1” 50
1979 “Wishing on a Star” 89

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p “Biography by Steve Huey”. Allmusic.com. Retrieved 2 February 2009.
  2. ^ Hamilton, Andrew. “Junior Walker & the All-Stars: Blow the House Down”. Allmusic. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
  3. ^ Jr. Walker and the All Stars
  4. ^ a b Allmusic – Charts & Awards
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 590. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.

External links

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *