Junior Walker gave Motown true Arkansas grit.
Autry DeWalt Jr. (some say his name was Oscar G. Mixon) was born on June 14, 1931, in Blytheville. He reportedly got the nickname “Walker” as a child, because he didn’t have a bicycle. Walker grew up in awe of saxophonists like Lester Young and Illinois Jacquet and especially Brinkley native Louis Jordan. Walker played the clubs in South Bend, Ind., when the family relocated, and practiced relentlessly.
He cut his first record on South Bend’s small local Harvey label. “Cleo’s Mood” became a regional hit in 1962 and rose to No. 14 on the R&B charts when it was rereleased in 1965.
When Harvey was purchased by Berry Gordy it joined the Motown Records family — and so did Junior Walker. He and his group landed on Gordy’s Soul label; their second single, written by Walker and named after a new dance, reached No. 1 on the R&B charts and No. 4 in Pop. Reluctantly, Walker sang on “Shotgun” — only because he thought it was a scratch vocal for the “real” singer. But the vocal stayed — and “Shotgun” became a million-selling, Grammy Award-nominated hit with the Mississippi County native’s raspy voice singing “Shotgun! Shoot him ’fore he runs now.”
The famous rigors of the Motown machinery didn’t much apply to Junior Walker and the All-Stars, and the group’s records have a loose feeling unlike much else issued by Gordy. “Mr. Gordy told everyone, ‘You leave Jr. Walker alone,’ ” Walker said. The contrast is especially apparent when Walker recut Motown classics. After “I’m a Road Runner” hit No. 4 on the R&B charts in 1966, his version of “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You” hit No. 3. Walker also hit No. 8 in R&B with his version of “Come See About Me.”
In 1969, his version of the Guess Who’s “These Eyes” made that song a hit for the second time that year. But the best thing that happened to Junior Walker in 1969 was the release of a song written specifically for the group. It was a mellower song, and Walker didn’t think it was right for the band. A year passed before Walker was persuaded to record “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” — and it went to No. 1 in R&B and No. 4 in Pop.
Walker continued recording through the 1970s, but last charted in 1973. He rose to prominence again, though, when he met Mick Jones of Foreigner.
Jones, who said English guitar players like himself, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck were heavily influenced by Walker’s playing, wanted to record him. Jones was expecting Walker’s old screaming sax, but Walker reportedly said he didn’t play that way much anymore. But, although used to recording live with a group, he did a couple of takes in his old style. For two days, Mick Jones and producer Mutt Lange pieced together the solo they wanted from the different takes, and the result was the solo on “Urgent.” The No. 4 pop hit helped Foreigner’s album, “4,” top the charts in 1981.
Walker’s last Motown recordings came in 1983 — on drums was his son, Autry DeWalt III. In 1988, Walker appeared in the movie “Tapeheads,” but the Arkansan’s name was by then fading from the lips of the current music public, as was that of the classic Motown era. Junior Walker died Nov. 23, 1995, in Battle Creek, Mich.
• "Shotgun," 1965
• "Roadrunner," 1966
• "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)," 1970
• "Urgent," Foreigner, 1981
Disclosure about financing of the anti-medical marijuana campaign in Arkansas is so far lacking, but it's no secret what's happened in other states — pharmaceutical companies have worked to defeat medical marijuana laws because they create (safer) competition.
Kenneth Starr, whose persecutorial past need not be repeated here, gave an extensive interview yesterday with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune and, boy, was it a corker. The football coach was the true victim, said Starr.
Shuggie Otis and his three-piece band drew a near-full house at Stickyz Wednesday night — a mixed crowd of those who could recall when Otis was being heralded as America’s next top guitarist and those who likely heard him first through his being sampled by the likes of Beyonce and J Dilla.
Readers and experts suggest ways to change Arkansas for the better.
by Ellie Wheeler, Leslie Newell Peacock, Leslie Newell Peacock, Jonathan Wilkins, Jane English, Eric Wilson, Benjamin Hardy, Chris Hancock, Meredith Martin-Moats, Carlton Saffa, Mara Leveritt, Catherine Crisp, Dan Rahn, Walter Manger, Special Sanders, Jack Wagoner, Nate Bell, Jacob Pesicek, Lilyan Kauffman, Tara DeJohn, Max Farrell, Jeff Short, Mike Steeley, Phil Beuth, Omaya Jones, Tobin Williamson, Stephen Koch, Lucy Holifield, Randy C. Forst, Stephanie Smittle, David Sanders, Mark Christ and Stephanie Spencer
Politico reports that Kathleen Harrington Kennedy Townsend says former Republican President George H.W. Bush is voting for Hillary Clinton for president. The article quotes a Bush spokesman as declining to confirm or deny.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is an Arkansas Republican. Thus, like the governor and the Republican-majority legislature, she intends to do everything she can to deny women comprehensive medical care, particularly abortion.
No two presidential candidates since polling began have run up negatives as massive as those of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who yet won their parties' nominations easily. "What gives?" may be the biggest political mystery in history.