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Jr. Walker & The All Stars

Motown's skilled but mostly anonymous instrumentalists very rarely stepped out on their own. The lone exception to the rule was tenor saxman Junior Walker, whose rough-and-ready, old-school R&B was a marked contrast with the label's typically smooth, polished product. Walker's squealing gutbucket style was inspired by jump blues and early R&B, particularly players like Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic, and Illinois Jacquet. Possessed of a raspy, untrained voice, Walker's singing nonetheless complemented the energy of his sax playing, and he cut a wealth of danceable, party hearty R&B for Motown during his heyday in the second half of the '60s.

Walker was born Autry DeWalt II on June 14, 1931 (even though Motown gave his birth date as 1942), in Blytheville, AR. (Some accounts list his birth name as Oscar G. Mixon, which was then changed at some point during his early childhood.) DeWalt grew up in South Bend, IN, and began playing the saxophone in high school; he was soon performing in local jazz and R&B clubs with his first band, the Jumping Jacks, under the name Junior Walker. He next joined a trio led by drummer Billy "Stix" Nicks, which also featured organist Fred Patton; they soon added backing vocalist and guitarist Willie Woods, and played around northern Indiana and southern Michigan. Walker took over the group after Nicks joined the Army; in the late '50s, he relocated to Battle Creek, MI, and formed a band billed as Junior Walker & the All-Stars. Initially, they featured Patton, Woods, and drummer Tony Washington; Patton was later replaced by Victor Thomas, and Washington by Jack Douglas and, finally, James Graves. The All-Stars continued to play around the area, and took up a residency in Battle Creek's El Grotto club. There they were discovered by singer Johnny Bristol, who recommended them to his friend, ex-Moonglow Harvey Fuqua. Fuqua signed the group to his Harvey label in 1961; they made their first recordings in 1962, and the following year Fuqua's labels were absorbed by Motown.

Walker & the All-Stars ended up on their Soul subsidiary, debuting for the label in 1964. In early 1965, they scored their first big hit with the dance tune "Shotgun," which marked Walker's vocal debut; in fact, the only reason he sang the song was that the vocalist he'd hired didn't show up for the session, and he was somewhat flabbergasted by the label's decision to leave his vocal intact. Berry Gordy's instincts proved right, however, when "Shotgun" topped the R&B charts and hit the pop Top Five. A steady stream of mostly instrumental R&B chart hits followed, including "Do the Boomerang," "Shake and Fingerpop," and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)" (Walker was, naturally, encouraged to record instrumental versions of Motown hits). 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." Toward the end of the '60s, seeking to diversify their approach, the All-Stars began recording more ballad material, complete with string arrangements and Walker vocals. That approach resulted in the group's second Top Five pop hit, the R&B number one "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)," which helped refuel Walker's career. He landed several more R&B Top Ten hits over the next few years, with the last coming in 1972.

Walker resurfaced as a solo artist during the disco era, working with producer Brian Holland beginning in 1976 with the single "Hot Shot"; a pair of albums followed. In 1979, Walker joined up with another former Motown mainstay in 1979, signing with producer Norman Whitfield's Whitfield label, though without much success. Walker returned to the spotlight in 1981 with a well-publicized (and well-executed) guest solo on Foreigner's Top Five hit "Urgent." Two years later, he re-signed with Motown and recorded Blow the House Down; by that time, his melodic style was being absorbed into a new generation of R&B-flavored jazz instrumentalists. Walker continued to tour through the '80s and '90s, sometimes with his son Autry DeWalt III playing drums. Unfortunately, in 1993 his activities were severely curtailed by cancer, which claimed his life on November 23, 1995. In the wake of his death, Billy "Stix" Nicks continued to tour with a version of the All-Stars. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Comments

Damb, this tune really brings back so many great memories of past friends & loves. Long live this song! Peace people! From Tiny S. F. Mission
I'm riddin w Jr.walker for awhile trying 2 hold on 2 this feeling ya.
Imissjr walkersongs
THEY PLAYED ON MY FAVORITE MOVIE COOLEY HIGH. I WANT TO GIVE TO EVERYBOBY FROM MOTOWN RECORDS FOR THE BEAUITFUL SOUNDTRACK FOR COOLEY HIGH THE MOVIE WAS MADE IN 1975. BUT BASE ON THE HIGH SCHOOL DAYS THE 60S. AND A SCHOOL WAS NAMED COOLEY HIGH IN THE DAY SMILE..
R.I.P JR WALKER I JUST LOVE U ALOT THE SHOTGUN I LOVE AND ALL YOUR MUSIC I CAN DANCE TOO SMILE...
Dont git no better'n THIS!!!!!!!! ! !
d_owen
this song will never die
hannanator_1
Remember...W h a t does it take to win your love for me? With some...Green onions...HEL L YA!!!
Love the fkn saxophone in this cut...La Tusa Ariza...
One of my all time favorites
I'm rediscoverin g this musical powerhouse. Jr. Walker, you're one of the greats of soul music.
He's back woowoo.
I loved his music and all R&B when I was a teenager! My niece adopted his bio granddaughte r . She is a joy to our family and will someday know about her grandpa!
kvons1
How Sweet It Is----BETTER than Marvin Gayes original take.
How can I make this dream come true 4 me...
A day without the shining sun is like a day without your love.
What does it take to win your love from me
kvons1
JR. Walker----gr e a t old Motown stuff!
just BAN this artist
mzbunnie1312
I love sweet soul by jr walker. Play it sometime. Bunny from Pittsburgh
Sexiest instrument evah
Love this song nice horns
kvons1
How Sweet It Is---great old Motown (Marvin Gaye) tune! I think the '64 Jr. Walker version is by far the best version (opinion)
ap2366
I don't think that Junior was a tenor player. I think he was an alto player.
univoxgear
look up Billy Stix Nicks and his motown dance party when your in South Bend, IN. Billy is still playin' like he's 30!! if you want some Jr. Walker stories, Billy's got em! Billy was there at the beginning, recorded at both motown studios and remained Jr's friend to the end!
I thought Junior and his band came out of Benton Harbor Michigan. I met Victor Thomas' wife working at a state institution there. She worked with my wife. Dorothy Thomas was pleasant to work with. It is a small world afterall.
OMG....I was in elementary school when this was out. My parents use to play this alot......OM G . . . t a k e s me back to my childhood... S t i l l sounds good.
leclarkster
I met Jr. in San Francisco in the 70s. Went backstage. Nice guy. Great player. Also a good singer even if he didn't think so. LOVE HIS SAX.
pitcairn.fra n k
if you listen to this music and don't move, you must be dead
nice hand dancing music
14739578
Jr was the best SAX player BARE NONE
Most music I requested my husband and I have on 33lp. Never get tired of good music
I hope the complete thought I'm trying to post gets posted this time. It was the summer of 1966 I arrived along with 21 other guys in Battle Creek, Michigan we were the avant guarde of what grew to be over 1,800 Corpsmen the first to arrive in Sargent Shrivers Job Corps (Camp Custer) Guys from New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and me from Akron, Ohio. The first furlough we got a bunch of us went into Battle Creek to this nice little bar called The EL Grotto and there blew the mighty Junior Wa
would you play more this groups' tracks
t_heath
What Does It Take.....one of the best songs ever....grea t sax....
eddysbeejay
Junior, Bo Diddley, and a few more made the Chicago scene a place to be in back in the 60's...I know I was there with Chess and Checker
its 1969,friday eve,Im dressed to the nines,lookin so fine,with my sweater hangin neatly over my forearm,walk i n into th Cudahy teen club,and the chicano band,Thee Delighters,i s playin this Jr.Walker piece,nothin better.
still sound good!!!
My dad is lucky enough to now play with Billy in Motown Dance Party band....grea t fun!
Roadrunner was the song for me even though recorded prior to my graduating from high school in 1969. I was like the lyrics in the song
woukd you please more of his tunes on this collection.
Loves Jr. Walker & the Allstars
In the summer of '69, Jr. had the hit "What Does It Take" (to win your love). I fell in love this summer and this was our song. My heart still skips a beat when I hear it.
otia_rogers
remember dancing with my Dad to 'Shotgun'... p r e c i o u s .
artist is very handsome. my boy tank hubbbard
There will never be another like Jr., and never another song like "What Does It Take." It has, and will always hold, a very special place in my heart.
FIRST SONG THAT I LEARNED TO STRIP TOO..
BALLS OUT JUNIOR! - it's the steam escaping that makes the sax squeek, you know.
dillpickle4
Great Music Jr.!!
The Band is still alive and kicking you can vist theam at www.jrwalker s a l l s t a r b a n d . u s
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