Born: June 14, 1931 | Died: November 23, 1995 Primary Instrument: Band/ensemble/orchestra
Junior Walker & the All Stars will forever be remembered for the huge R&B hit of 1965, “Shotgun.” This song was a showcase for the honking tenor sax playing of Junior Walker, who carried on the instrumental R&B style made popular in the 1950’s. He was also influenced by the sounds of jazz saxophonists Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic and Illinois Jacquet.
Born Autry DeWalt in Blythesville, Arkansas in 1931, he was raised in South Bend, Indiana, and was playing the saxophone in high school. He was soon proficient enough to start his first band The Jumping Jacks; at this time he also picked up the stage name of Junior Walker.
In the ‘50’s Walker joined up with a local trio which was drummer Billy 'Stix' Nicks, organist Fred Patton, and guitarist Willie Woods also doing vocals. He took over the group in the late ‘50’s and moved to Battle Creek, Michigan where they became Junior Walker & the All Stars. They became the house band at the city’s El Grotto club, where they began to gain a loyal audience and strong reputation as a hard swinging act.
They were heard and signed by Harvey Fuqua for his local Harvey label, making their first recording in 1962. This label soon became part of the Motown label in 1964. By this time Walker had perfected his blend of raunchy R&B and Detroit soul typified by his 1965 hit, Shotgun, which topped the R & B charts and reached the pop charts in the Top Five. 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.
In 1969, Walker had another big U.S. Top 5 hit, “What Does It Take To Win Your Love.” During the 1970’s he tried making some disco influenced records, some solo efforts, changed labels, and did some guest appearances on other peoples records. By 1983 he was back on Motown and released “Blow The House Down.”
He continued to perform throughout the rest of the ‘80’s and 90’s until he succumbed to cancer in 1995.
Source: James Nadal