JUNIOR WALKER / “Shotgun”
Rhythm and blues. A screaming tenor saxophone and a heavy backbeat. Rhythm and blues. Hip shaking, hard shouting songs. Rhythm and blues. What we used to do in back rooms, juke joints or in a hole in the wall somewhere well off the beaten path. Rhythm and blues. Small groups of black men (and a female singer or two) setting standards for what it meant to shake and finger-pop. Rhythm and blues. Something so Negroidal there was never any hope of R&B crossing over to anything. One foot in the gutter, the other kicking the slop jar.
Then came Motown. Gordy doing his darnedest to clean up the unscrubble funk of rhythm and blues. Old smooth ass Motown with its façade of sophistication. Except for one act that was for real. Everybody else got gussied up eventually. Not Autry DeWalt (Mixon)—no documentation exists to say for sure whether Mixon was a birth name or something added a little later after being born in Blythesville, Arkansas on June 14, 1931. Autry, who was called Junior, grew up in South Bend, Indiana and moved to Battle Creek, Michigan in the fifties.
Starting with a band called the Jumping Jacks and moving on to The Stix Nix, a band he eventually took over and in the best tradition of Negro bravado, renamed his group “The Allstars”! In 1965 Walker hit it big with “Shotgun” (#4 pop/#1 R&B). After “Shotgun” there were a string of hits, none of which were totally in the Motown mode. For one thing they were loud, wild and raucous as a Saturday night at a Mississippi Delta throwdown. For another it was instrumental music with the leader howling out catchy phrases.
Junior Walker with his wailing Louis Jordan/Illinois Jacquet inspired saxophone riffs, screeches, honks, flutter-tongue notes, and funky intonation was closer to Stax in temperament than to Motown. There’s something about the rawness of Walker that arouses me (and a bunch of other peoples). All the songs on this set are taken from a 2-CD set called The Ultimate Collection.
By the way “What Does It Take” is my favorite even though “Shotgun” is the classic. It occurs to me that some of the youngsters in our audience may not be familiar with Junior Walker. All I got to say to you is: Enjoy!
—Kalamu ya Salaam
Something we can both agree on
Alright! Now here's something we can both agree on. I listened to these Jr. Walker songs today while I was running and they gave me an extra burst of energy that I needed when I was starting to fall off. Kalamu describes this music just right, so I won't get into that. One quick anecdote though.
There's a new Clarence Thomas biography out. (I know, I know. Stick with me.) I heard an interview with the authors and one thing they mentioned really stuck with me. They related a story in which Thomas said that he wished he was a independent store owner like one of his grandfathers had been, rather than a Supreme Court Justice. That really struck the authors because, as they said, Thomas has reached the pinnacle of his profession. He's one of the most powerful men in American history: there's no where else to go. Not that I got the impression that Thomas would actually give up his legal career to run a little corner store. The point was, Thomas had a sort of nostalgic fondness and abiding respect for what he probably thinks of as "honest work." Rolling the sleeves up and getting one's hands dirty and all.
What's the point? The point is, I have a nostalgic fondness for music like Jr. Walker's. I think of it as "honest" music. No tricks, no games. Very little in the way of metaphors or poetic devices. Just a bunch of cats who know how to play in the pocket and groove hard for the dancers. What you see is what you get. The songs are invariably short and to the point. (At least on record. I bet on stage, Walker and his "Allstars" could play all damned night if the dancers kept dancing.)
Anyway, I have no idea why I thought of Clarence Thomas when I was listening to Jr. Walker's music. Maybe it's because the authors humanized him for me a little and in response I almost felt bad for calling him a snake a couple of weeks back. Almost.
OK, enough about Clarence Thomas. Back to the music....
—Mtume ya Salaam
What!??! A Snake???
Mtume, I and all my snake friends are deeply offended that you put snakes in the same low-life category as Thom-ass Clarence (to quote Baraka's nomenclature for Clarence Thomas). You owe snakes an apology. ;->)
—Kalamu ya Salaam
This entry was posted on Sunday, April 22nd, 2007 at 2:28 am and is filed under Classic. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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