Some significant artists and songs for this year of Motown…
Junior Walker & the All Stars
Junior Walker (Autrey DeWalt Jr.) Sax/deceased 1995
Willie Woods – Guitar
Vic Thomas – Keyboards
James Graves – Drums
Born in 1942. Walker was inspired to take up the saxophone by the jump blues and R&B bands he heard in the early 50s. In his mid-teens, he formed his first instrumental group, the Jumping Jacks, adopting the stage name Junior Walker after a childhood nickname.
By 1961 he had achieved a prominent local reputation, which reached the ear of label owner and former Moonglow, Harvey Fuqua. He signed Walker to his Harvey label, allowing him free rein to record a series of raw saxophone-led instrumentals.
In 1964 Walker followed Fuqua to Motown, where he perfected a blend of raunchy R&B and Detroit soul typified by his 1965 hit, “Shotgun“.
With repeated saxophone riffs and call-and-response vocals, “Shotgun” established Walker as the label’s prime exponent of traditional R&B, a reputation that was confirmed by later hits like “Shake And Fingerpop” and “I’m A Road Runner“.
The latter was produced by Holland/Dozier/Holland, who also encouraged Walker to record instrumental versions of hits they had written for other Motown artists.
Walker’s style became progressively more lyrical in the late 60s, a development that reached its peak on the 1969 US Top 5 hit, “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)?”
This also marked the pinnacle of his commercial success, as subsequent attempts to repeat the winning formula were met with growing public indifference, and from 1972 onwards the All Stars recorded only sporadically. Hot Shot in 1976, produced by Brian Holland, marked a move towards the burgeoning disco market, which was confirmed on two further albums that year.
It is not included in the Motown hits collection, but I will include “Pucker up Buttercup” one of my all time favourites (see Post: Motown 1967 for audio track).
Kim Weston (born Agatha Natalie Weston, December 30, 1939, in Detroit, Michigan) is an African American soul singer, and Motown Records alumna.
She was signed to the record label in 1963, scoring a minor hit with “Love Me All the Way” (R&B #24, Pop #88).
One of her biggest solo hits with Motown was “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)” (R&B #4, Pop #50, 1965; later covered by The Isley Brothers, Blood, Sweat & Tears and The Doobie Brothers).
Another Motown biggy for Kim was “Helpless” (R&B #13, Pop #56, 1966; previously recorded by The Four Tops on their Second Album LP).
Her biggest claim to fame was singing the classic hit “It Takes Two” with Marvin Gaye in 1966 and her later recording of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.
It was the success of “It Takes Two” with Marvin Gaye that caused Motown to seek Tammi Terrell to replace her as his singing partner, which spawned even more success for the label.
Weston left Motown in 1967 and later sued the label over disputes about royalties. She and her then-husband William “Mickey” Stevenson (former A&R head at Motown) both went to MGM Records.
Weston cut a couple of singles for MGM, “I Got What You Need” and “Nobody”, which went largely unnoticed due to lack of airplay and promotion.
She made an album for the label, This Is America, which included her popular version of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” This was released as a single and featured in the movie Wattstax. All the money from the single was donated to the United Negro College Fund.
The Elgins were an American vocal group on the Motown label, active from the late 1950s to 1967. Founding members Robert Fleming, Norbert McClean, and Johnny Dawson recorded for Motown as “The Sensations”, “The Five Emeralds”, and “The Downbeats” before adding Saundra Edwards (Mallett) and adopting the name “The Elgins” in 1964.
With Edwards on lead vocals, the group recorded several singles for Motown from 1965 to 1967, including the hit “Darling Baby” (1965).
Another hit in 1966 was “Heaven Must Have Sent You” (1966). Both of these were written and produced by Motown’s main production team, Holland-Dozier-Holland.
The group disbanded in 1968, by which time Edwards had been replaced by Yvonne Allen, although its members periodically recorded covers of its hits for Ian Levine’s Motorcity Records record label in the UK.
Recordings of the band, including the album, Darling Baby, all the singles and unreleased recordings up to 1968, can be found on The Motown Anthology released in 2007.
Edwin Starr (January 21, 1942 – April 2, 2003) was an American soul music singer. Born Charles Edwin Hatcher in Nashville, Tennessee in 1942, Starr is most famous for his Norman Whitfield produced Motown singles of the 1970s, most notably the number one hit War.
In 1957 Starr formed a doo-wop group The Future Tones and began his singing career. Starr lived in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s and recorded at first for the small record label Ric-Tic, and later for the famed Motown after it absorbed Ric-Tic in 1968.
The song which began his career was “
Agent Double’O’Soul” (1965), a take-off on the James Bond films which were popular at the time.
He recorded more soul music for the next three years before having an international chart-topper in “25 Miles” (1968). As of 2005 it is one of only two Starr songs on oldies radio.
The biggest hit of his career, which cemented his reputation as a great soul artist, was the anti-Vietnam War protest song “War” (1970). A rousing tour-de-force, the vocals to “War” were – according to Starr – recorded in one take: an accomplishment which might make modern artists quail with apprehension. In explanation, Starr remained characteristically modest, explaining that he’d been allocated little studio time, so had to give each song his best shot.
On April 2, 2003, at the age of 61, Edwin suffered a heart attack and died in his home in Bramcote near Nottingham. His brother Angelo Starr is now fronting The Team, the band Edwin had been touring with.
Other Great Hits of 1965…