June 14: Saxophonist Junior Walker (of Jr. Walker & the All-Stars) Was Born on This Date in 1931

0 Posted by - June 14, 2022 - BLACK MUSIC, LATEST POSTS, On This Date

By Victor Trammell

Photo credits: Motown Records

Junior Walker (born Autry DeWalt Mixon Jr.) was a multi-instrumentalist (mainly saxophone and vocals) who was a recording artist for Motown Records during the 1960s.

Walker was born in Blytheville, Arkansas, on June 14, 1931. He passed away on November 23, 1995, in Battle Creek, Michigan. His career began in the mid-1950s, when he formed the Jumping Jacks, his own band. Billy Nicks (1935–2017), a lifelong buddy and drummer, created his own band, the Rhythm Rockers. Nicks would occasionally sit in on Jumping Jack’s gigs, while Walker would occasionally sit in on Rhythm Rockers shows.

Nicks was offered a permanent job at a small television station in South Bend, Indiana, and he urged Walker to join him and keyboardist Fred Patton there. Nicks invited local vocalist Willie Woods (1936–1997) to join the group and teach him how to play guitar. Walker persuaded the band to relocate from South Bend to Battle Creek, Michigan, when Nicks was drafted into the US Army.

Walker found a drummer to replace Nicks while performing in Benton Harbor, Tony Washington. Fred Patton eventually departed from the band, and Victor Thomas took his place. The Rhythm Rockers’ initial name was modified to “The All Stars.” Jump blues and early R&B artists such as Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic, and Illinois Jacquet influenced Walker’s sound.

The 1965 single “Shotgun” (released on Motown) was the timeless song that catapulted the musical legacy of Jr. Walker & the All-Stars into the future. It was used in Spike Lee’s film “Malcolm X” and was the main theme for BET’s former television show “Comic View” in the 1990s.

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