When Motown saxophone player and band leader Jr. Walker died in 1995, former label executive Harvey Fuqua — who passed away himself on July 6 — encouraged associate Acklee King to put Walker’s All Stars back together and take them out on the road.
King did, with original All Stars Tony Washington and the late Victor Thomas, and 15 years later the group is not only going strong but has expanded into a more broad-based Motown act.
“What we’re doing now is a whole Motown revue,” reports King, 58, who grew up in Niles and is now based in Big Rapids while the rest of the 10-member ensemble is in the Detroit area. “So people are not just getting Junior’s music, but they’re getting the Supremes, the Temptations, Martha & the Vandellas ... the list goes on and on. That’s what we’re giving them, and we get great responses whether it’s here in America or over in Europe. The Motown magic still works.”
The current edition of Jr. Walker’s Allstar Band taps into more Motown heritage, including singers such as Bernard Gibson, a veteran of Dennis Edwards’ Temptations Revue, while saxophonist Marty Montgomery, who plays Walker’s parts, was in a latter-day lineup of Wild Cherry. And drummer Washington is still part of the band “when he wants to go out,” according to King.
“That’s to Tony’s discretion,” King explains. “He turns 70 this year, so he’s slowing down a little. But there’s always a spot for him whenever he wants to come out and play, and those are very special shows.”
Jr. Walker’s Allstar Band performs at 8:35 p.m. Sunday, July 25, at the Metro Jazz Fest on the campus of Macomb Community College, 12 Mile and Hayes roads in Warren. The free festival runs Friday through Sunday (July 23-25) with performances by Spyro Gyra, Alex Bugnon, Marion Meadows, Mindi Abair and others. Call 586-445-7999 or visit www.metrojazzfest.com.
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