Walker was born in Blytheville, Arkansas and grew up in South Bend, Indiana. His unmistakable saxophone style was the anchor for Jr. Walker & The All Stars rambunctious sound. The other original members of the group were drummer James Graves, guitarist Willie Woods, and keyboardist Vic Thomas.
His career started when he developed his own band at the age of 14, in the mid-’50s as the ‘Jumping Jacks’. 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 would 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 army, Walker convinced the band to move from South Bend, Indiana to Battle Creek, Michigan. While performing in Benton Harbor Michigan, Walker found a drummer by the name of Tony Washington, to replace Nix.
Eventually, Fred Patton (piano player) left the group, and Victor Thomas stepped in. The original name the “Rhythm Rockers” was changed to the “All Stars”.
The group was spotted by Johnny Bristol. He recommended them to Harvey Fuqua, in 1961, who had his own recording labels. 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 Berry Gordy, Jr. Walker & The All Stars became members of the Motown Records family, recording for Motown’s Soul imprint.
The members of the band changed after the acquisition of the Harvey label. The drummer, Tony Washington quit the group, and James Graves followed the group into the Motown family.
Their first and signature hit was “Shotgun”, written by Junior Walker and produced by Berry Gordy. “Shotgun” reached #4 on the Pop chart and #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 classics “Come See About Me” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)”.
In 1969 the group had another hit enter the top 5, “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)?”. A Motown quality control meeting rejected this song for single release but radio DJs made the track overwhelmingly popular, forcing Motown to release it as a single, whereupon it reached #4 on the Pop chart and #1 on the R&B chart. From that time on Walker sang more on the records than earlier in their career.
In 1979, Junior Walker went solo and was signed to Norman Whitfield’s Whitfield Records label. He wasn’t as successful as he had been with the All Stars in his Motown period. Junior Walker also played the sax on the group Foreigner’s “Urgent” in 1981. The solo was actually cobbled together from tapes that he had made with the band. He later recorded his own version of the Foreigner song.
In 1983, Walker was re-signed with Motown. He died on November 23, 1995 in Battle Creek, Michigan of cancer. Drummer James Graves died in 1967 in a car accident, and guitarist Willie Woods in 1997 at age 60.
Jr. Walker’s All Star Band is currently touring around the world with with original members Tony Washington and Acklee King and Detroit’s own Marty Saxman Montgomery singing and blowing the saxophone so well if you closed your eyes you would think Junior himself was in the room.
TML11017 Shotgun LP
STML/TML11029 Soul Session LP
STML/TML11038 Road Runner LP
STML/TML11097 Home Cookin’ LP
STML/TML11120 Junior Walker’s Greatest Hits LP
STML/TML11140 These Eyes LP
STML11152 Live LP
STML11167 A Gassssssssss! LP
STML11198 Rainbow Funk LP
STML11211 Moody Jr LP
STML11224 Greatest Hits Vol 2 LP
STML11234 Peace & Understanding Is Hard To Find LP
STML11274 Jr Walker & The Allstars LP
STML12018 Hot Shot LP
STML12033 Sax Appeal LP
TMSP1129 Anthology LP
STMS5054 Greatest Hits LP
Year Song title Pop R&B UK
1965 “Shotgun” 4 1 -
1965 “Do The Boomerang” 36 10 -
1965 “Shake And Fingerpop” 29 7 -
1965 “Cleo’s Back” 43 7 -
1966 “(I’m A) Road Runner” 20 4 -
1966 “Cleo’s Mood” 50 14 -
1966 “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” 18 3 22
1966 “Money (That’s What I Want), Pt.1” 52 35 -
1967 “Pucker Up Buttercup” 31 11 -
1967 “Shoot Your Shot” 44 33 -
1967 “Come See About Me” 24 8
1968 “Hip City, Pt. 2” 31 7 -
1968 “Home Cookin’ 42 19 -
1969 “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” 4 1 13
1969 “(I’m a) Road Runner” 4 20 12
1969 “These Eyes” 16 3 -
1970 “Gotta Hold On To This Feeling” 21 2 -
1970 “Do You See My Love (For You Growing)” 32 3 -
1970 “Holly Holy” 75 33 -
1970 “Carry Your Own Load” 117 50 -
1971 “Take Me Girl, I’m Ready” 50 18 -
1971 “Way Back Home” 52 24 -
1972 “Walk In The Night” 46 10 16
1971 “Take Me Girl I’m Ready” 18 50 16
1973 “Gimme That Beat, Pt. 1” 101 50 -
1973 “Way Back Home” 52 24 35
Edited by midlifefanclub on 8 Jan 2009, 15:38
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