Among the wealth of artists that performed on the Motown labels in 1960s, I probably know about Junior Walker the least. He was born Autry DeWalt-Mixom, Jr. in Blythesville, Arkansas on 14 June 1931. He grew up in South Bend, Indiana.
He started his band, the Jumping Jacks, and his good friend, drummer Billy Nicks, had a group, the Rhythm Rockers, but the two would play on each other’s gigs. Since Nicks had a local TV show in South Bend, he asked Walker to join his band.
When Nicks got drafted, Walker convinced the group to move to Battle Creek, Michigan. After some personnel and name changes, the All Stars were signed by Harvey Fuqua to his Harvey records. “Fuqua’s labels were taken over by Motown’s Berry Gordy, and Jr. Walker & the All Stars [the usual spelling] became members of the Motown family, recording for their Soul imprint in 1964.”
The group’s first big hit was “Shotgun” in 1965, which “uses only one chord throughout the entire song — A-flat seventh. Other songs featuring this same structure (or non-structure) are Chain of Fools and Land of 1000 Dances.” The song is in the Grammy and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame. The All Stars were in a particular groove. The song appeared in several movies, including Malcolm X.
I have this Motown LP box set that explains that there was a songwriter – it doesn’t identify who, but it was either Johnny Bristol, who discovered the group; Fuqua, who took Bristol’s suggestion; or a guy named Vernon Bullock. The songwriter pitched the song to Junior, but he said it wasn’t his thing.
The next year, the songwriter said he still had that song, and Walker reluctantly agreed to record “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” in 1969. “A Motown quality control meeting rejected this song for single release, but radio station DJs made the track popular, resulting in Motown releasing it as a single.”
Junior Walker died of cancer on 23 November 1995 at the age of 64 in Battle Creek.
Round 20 of ABC Wednesday.