Jr. Walker & The All-Stars (1964-1979)

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The 20th-century evolution of Jr. Walker & The All-Stars began with “The Rhythm Rockers,” which became “The All-Stars” in 1961. In 1964, Walker & The All-Stars signed with Motown Records.

The ensemble’s legendary composer and leader was Autry “Jr. Walker” DeWalt Mixon II, was born on June 14, 1931, in Blytheville, Arkansas. However, he was reared in South Bend, Indiana. He began playing saxophone while in high school. At the age of 16, he formed an instrumental ensemble called the Jumping Jacks, calling himself Jr. Walker after a childhood friend.

The other members of the All-Stars are rhythm guitarist Eddie Willis, born in Grenada, Mississippi on June 3, 1936; Hammond organist John Ellis Griffith Jr. was born on July 10, 1936, in Detroit, Michigan; bass guitarist James Jamerson, born on January 29, 1936, in Edisto Island, South Carolina, and percussionist Benny Benjamin, Jr. born, July 15, 1925, in Birmingham, Alabama.

The first composition of the All-Stars in 1965 was the hit ‘Shotgun.’ The music and lyrics were composed by Walker. “Shotgun” peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart and remained on the charts for 14 weeks.  In 1966 they released “Road Runner” which peaked at #12 and remade Marvin Gaye’s 1964 hit, “How Sweet it is” which peaked at #22.   In 1968 they recorded “What Does It Take To Win Your Love,” which peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at #1 on the R&B chart the following year. “What Does it Take to Win Your Love” proved to be the group’s biggest hit, selling more than a million copies in 1969 and remaining on the chart for 12 weeks.

In 1968 they also released Come See About Me” that peaked #24 and stayed in the chart for 11 weeks, followed by “Hip City – Pt. 2” that reached #31 and remained on the chart for 11 weeks.  In 1969 they released “These Eyes” which peaked at #3 and remained on the chart for 12 weeks.  “These Eyes” was their last single that charted. Their last year as a group was 1979.

On April 20, 1969, Benny Benjamin, the first of the original All-Stars died at the age of 43 in Detroit, Michigan.  James Jamerson died on August 2, 1983, at 47, in Los Angeles, California. Autry “Jr. Walker” DeWalt Mixon II died of cancer at 64 on November 23, 1995, in Battle Creek, Michigan. John Ellis Griffith Jr. died on November 10, 2002, in Detroit, Michigan, at 66; and Eddie Willis died on August 20, 2018, at 82 in Gore Springs, Mississippi.

Over the course of their 15-year career, Junior Walker & the All-Star, with a beautiful raunchy-raw R&B Tenor saxophone sound, released 23 albums and impacted the world of R&B for more than half a century. Jr. Walker & the All-Stars “Shotgun” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002, and Jr. Walker & The All-Stars were voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame 2007.