1966 Jr. Walker & The All Stars – How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
Autry DeWalt Mixon Jr. was born in Arkansas and grew up primarily in South Bend, Indiana. He formed his own band, The Jumping Jacks, while still in high school in the mid-fifties. He later joined The Rhythm Rockers, a band started by his friend Billy Nicks.
A number of personnel changes followed. When Billy was drafted into the army, the group moved to Michigan and became The All Stars. They signed with Harvey Records in 1961, and the label changed their name to The Jr. Walker All Stars. In 1964, the group signed with Motown and became Jr. Walker and the All Stars.
The group released several unsuccessful singles over the next two years before they recorded a song Junior wrote, Shotgun. Junior sang lead vocals and played saxophone on the record. The song features only had one chord! The single reached #4 on the Hot 100 and topped the R&B chart in 1965.
The band had a string of top ten hits on the R&B chart, but did not do as well on the Hot 100. Their highest charting single on the Hot 100 for the next four years was a remake of a song that Marvin Gaye took to #6 on the Hot 100 in 1965. The band’s version of How Sweet It Is peaked at #18 on the Hot 100 in 1966 and reached #3 on the R&B chart.
The most successful recording of How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) came out in 1975. James Taylor released his version in 1975, and the single reached #5 on the Hot 100 and topped the Adult Contemporary chart. David Sanborn supplied the sax solo, and supporting vocals came from Carly Simon (who was married to James at the time). Oldies radio seems to prefer playing that version rather than the two earlier versions, to the point where I can hardly stand to listen to it again.
Hit singles kept coming for Jr. Walker and the All Stars through 1972. The band had seven more top forty singles on the Hot 100 and 14 more top forty singles on the R&B chart. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love) took the group back to #4 record on the Hot 100 in 1969. The single also topped the R&B chart, the first time the group reached that spot since their success with Shotgun.
Cancer took Jr. Walker from us in 1995.
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