Junior Walker and the All Stars put many songs on the charts in the 60's and early 70's, reaching the top ten twice. The group went on performing into the 90's.
Junior Walker was born Autry DeWalt Jr. in Blytheville, Arkansas in 1942. He grew up in South Bend, Indiana where he became a proficient saxophone player. He studied the methods of some of the prominent sax players of his youth, including Illinois Jacquet and Earl Bostic. DeWalt joined a group called the Jumping Jacks and began to perform in local clubs while in high school. He later played with a group known as Stix Nix.
DeWalt moved to Battle Creek, Michigan and in the early 60's he formed the All Stars. This group had DeWalt (now known as Junior Walker) on sax and vocals, his old friend Willie Woods on guitar, Vic Thomas on organ and Tony Washington on drums. The group played the club circuit in southern Michigan and northern Indiana, most notably at El Grotto in Battle Creek. They were soon noticed by Johnny Bristol, who recommended them to Harvey Fuqua. The latter had sang with Harvey and the Moonglows and by this time was running his own fledgling label, called simply Harvey. Fuqua liked what he saw and signed them. Junior Walker and the All Stars made their first recordings on the Harvey label in 1962.
Harvey was soon bought out by Motown Records, and the group found itself recording with Soul Records. Soul was a subsidiary of Motown and all of the group's subsequent hits in the US came out on the Soul label; they had some Tamla/Motown hits on the charts in the UK, as well as a number of hits on the R&B charts. The first of these was recorded early in 1965 and titled Shotgun. It went to number four on the pop chart, and signaled the arrival of Junior Walker and the All Stars. DeWalt played sax and did some vocals. Many of the group's hits in the mid-60's were instrumentals and/or party songs. Do The Boomerang, (I'm A) Road Runner, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You), These Eyes and others were played on radio stations across America from 1965 onward. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love) in 1969 matched the success of the group's initial hit, Shotgun, going to number four on the pop chart. The group toured and played their good time music to filled venues, and at times were reminiscent to some of the jump bands of the 40's. As the group progressed they occasionally added strings, and recorded some ballads.
Personnel changes were inevitable in the group as time passed. Some of the later members of the band included Phillip Wright on guitar, Larry Scurlock on bass, Sonny Holly on the Hammond organ and James Graves and Jerome Teasley on drums. Musical tastes changed in the 70's and the last top forty hit for Junior Walker and the All Stars was Do You See My Love (For You Growing) in 1970. They continued to perform in the 80's and 90's, often with Junior Walker's son Autry DeWalt III on drums.
Junior Walker contracted cancer in 1993. His health deteriorated and he had difficulty walking. He died on November 23, 1995 in Battle Creek, Michigan at age 53.
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