Lost but not least! Jr. Walker – Back Street Boogie (Whitfield Records)
Born in Blytheville, AK, sax player/singer Junior Walker came to recognition in the early 60’s. This when signing on Harvey Fuqua‘s Soul label by the time it got acquired by Berry Gordy. It’s during this period that he, alongside his group – the All Stars – would reach his peak. Meanwhile comin’ up with classics such as ‘Shotgun’, ‘(I’m A) Road Runner’ and ‘Shake And Fingerpop’. But also ‘Pucker Up Buttercup’ and ‘What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)’.
Disbanding his group, he went on to sign a solo deal on Norman Whitfield‘s Whitfield Records back in 1979. Eventually delivering ‘Back Street Boogie’ as the opening cut to his album of the name. One of those intoxicating psyche funk grooves with production work by the latter and the presences of Sharon Brown and Stargard on the backing vocals. Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to get the same acceptance on his own. Therefore seein’ ‘Back Street Boogie’ comin’ to the attention of only a happy few at the end. Beginnin’ with yours truly.
Never too late though to get your hands on this unsung goodie…
Diagnosed with cancer, Jr. Walker sadly died in Battle Creek, MI, aged 64 on Nov. 23, 1995.
– Contemporary Music may not have become what it is without Norman Whitfield‘s contribution. As a matter of fact, he might pretty well be the first producer ever who established a sound / an approach as a trademark…
Hailing from Harlem, NY, he and his family relocated to Detroit where he started working with Motown’s head Berry Gordy. Aged 19, he progressively established himself as in charge of the quality control department. A position which allowed him to determine which songs would or would not be released, prior to join the label’s in-house songwriting staff.
He would find his niche in the production though. When he came to collaborate with Marvin Gaye on the memorable ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ back in 1968. Then with Edwin Starr, 2 years after, crafting ‘War’ for him. But even more when he took over Smokey Robinson‘s role as the main producer for The Temptations back in 1966.
From then on, he took the group to a brand new dimension. What he did was changing the nature of the songs, from love matters to the social issues of the time, such as war, poverty and politics. But also experimenting sound effects and production techniques. Eventually getting the group into a darker infectious sound blending psychedelic Rock and Funk. From this liaison which lasted until 1975, came gems such as ‘Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’ back in 1966. But also ‘Cloud Nine’ and ‘Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)’. Not to mention the memorable ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’, ‘Plastic Man’ and ‘Law Of The Land’…
Whitfield parted ways with The Temptations coz’ they disliked how he put more emphasis on the instrumentation instead of their vocals. And also because they wished he wrote more romantic ballads for them. This therefore led him to leave Motown and launch his own Whitfield Records imprint. From then, he convinced The Undisputed Truth and Jr. Walker. Respectively producing ‘You + Me = Love’ and ‘Back Street Boogie’ from them. Then Rose Royce who were Edwin Starr‘s backing band while at Motown.
He most likely scored his biggest success ever with ‘Car Wash’ for the latter. A cut which won Whitfield a 1977 Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album. He soon after also composed the theme song for the 1977 motion picture ‘Which Way Is Up?’, performed by Stargard.
Among his biggest productions as well, the mellow ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’ by Rose Royce. And also ‘Do Your Dance’ and ‘It Makes You Feel Like Dancing’. Not to mention ‘Is It Love You’re after’. A jam which British producer Mark Moore sampled on ‘Theme From S-Express’ back in 1988.
Whifield underwent treatment for diabetes and other ailments at Los Angeles’s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in 2008. He fell into a coma, briefly improved, but sadly succumbed to diabetic complications on Sept. 16, 2008, aged 68.