Jr. Walker and The All Stars

What Does It Take (1988)

I've seen Jr. Walker live many times and this is the arangement of "What Does It Take" that he always performs live. I first recorded him at Barbarellas Club in Birmingham when we recorded an interview with him and taped the whole of his show on 'reel to reel'. Never thinking that video footage of him would turn up some 35 years later. He was a quiet speaking guy and very respectful to his fellow artistes and producers, Johnny Bristol in the case of this tune - I'm sure he's greatly missed.

Walker was born Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr. in Blytheville, Arkansas 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'. 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 United States Army, Walker convinced the band to move from South Bend to Battle Creek, Michigan. While performing in Benton Harbor, Walker found a drummer 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'. Walker's squealing gutbucket style was inspired by jump blues and early R&B, particularly players like Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic, and Illinois Jacquet. The group was spotted by Johnny Bristol, and he recommended them to Harvey Fuqua, in 1961, who had his own record 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's Berry Gordy, Jr. Walker & The All Stars became members of the Motown Records family, recording for Motown's Soul imprint in 1961.

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 Billboard Hot 100, aka as 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 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."

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 station DJs made the track 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. He landed several more R&B Top Ten hits over the next few years, with the last coming in 1972.

In 1979, Junior Walker went solo and was signed to Norman Whitfield's Whitfield Records label. 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. 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.

Junior Walker died on November 23, 1995 in Battle Creek, Michigan of cancer at the age of 64. 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. Junior Walker was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, in Battle Creek, MI., under his birthname of Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr., as well as stage name. Jr. Walker's All Star Band is currently touring around the world with original members Tony Washington and Acklee King.

Walker's "Shotgun" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002. - Wikipedia

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