The only Motown instrumentalist to make recordings under his own name,
Junior Walker scored a number of hits between 1965 and 1970. Featuring his dynamic tenor
and raspy voice, Junior Walker was one of Motown's more idiosyncratic performers
Born Autry DeWalt Mixon in Blythesville, Arkansas on June 14, 1931 Walker grew up in South Bend, Indiana. It was there while in high school where he took saxophone and picked up his nickname. Inspired by Louis Jordan Walker fell in love with the saxophone. Soon after graduating high school Walker turned professional and played in local jazz and R&B clubs with bands such as The Jumping Jacks and The Stix Nix. Moving to Battle Creek, Michigan in the late '50s he formed Junior Walker and The All Stars. The group consisted of Junior Walker, sax, vocals; Vic Thomas, Keyboards; Willie Woods, guitar; James Graves, drums. While playing the local club circuit the following year the group was spotted by Johnny Bristol. Bristol recommended them to Harvey Fuqua, who signed them to his own Harvey label. Fuqua's Tri-Phi and Harvey labels were taken over by Motown Records in 1963, and Junior Walker and the All-Stars began recording for the subsidiary label Soul in 1964.
Vic Thomas, Walker Willie Woods and James Graves
In early 1965, Junior Walker and The All-Stars recorded "Shotgun (#4 pop, #1 R&B, 1965) and had a string of party hits that included "Do the Boomerang," (#10 R&B) and "Shake and Fingerpop" (#7 R&B) in 1965; "How Sweet it is (to Be Loved By You)" (#18 pop, #3 R&B) and "I'm a Road Runner" (#20 pop, #4 R&B) in 1966; "Pucker Up Buttercup" (#3 pop, #11 R&B) and "Come See About Me' (#24 pop, #8 R&B) in 1967, and "Hip City, Part Two" (##7 R&B 1965) in 1968.
With Walker singing more, The All Stars had success with "What Does It Take (to Win Your Love)" #4 pop, #1 R&B) and "These Eyes" #16 pop, #3 R&B) in 1969' Gotta Hold On to This Feeling" (#21 pop, #2 R&B) and "Do You See My Love (For You Growing)" (#32 pop, #3 R&B) in 1970 and "Walk in the Night" (#46 pop, #10 R&B) in 1972.
Walker continued recording in the '70s, including a stint with ex-Motown producer writer Norman Whitfield's label in 1979, but was never as commercially successful as he had been with Motown. He provided the saxophone solo for Foreigner's 1981 hit "Urgent" and re-signed with Motown in 1983. Junior Walker and The All-Stars toured into the '90s. Junior Walker died in Battle Creek, Michigan of cancer on November 23, 1995.