Battle Creek Remembers Saxophone Star Junior Walker
Although Junior Walker passed away in 1995, he and his family are remembered fondly by Battle Creek residents.
The Early Days
Marty recalls "He lived just down the street from me growing up. Used to lay in bed at night in the summer and hear him and the All stars jammin through my window screen."
Legendary Battle Creek disc jockey Bill Gray always has the best stories:
Love Junior's music and a great memory of being invited with some of my fellow Keener (WKFR) Jox to spend an afternoon at the El Grotto where Junior and the band were rehearsing. This was back in the 60's and it was awesome.
Bill went on to report "Alan Kemp (Mangum) was the PD at the time and his wife was a teacher at Dudley Elementary School in BC. During her employment at the school she taught several of Junior's children."
Everyone seems to speak well of the kids too. My friend Mary says "[I] Grew up with 2 of his sons, and we were good buddies for years. I still remember getting a call from them from backstage at Kellogg arena back when Foreigner was there telling me to get off my butt and get down there." Phil adds some music trivia: "I work with his son, SUPER NICE GUY. I asked the son who was the nicest guy you ever met of your dad's friends and he said Marvin Gaye hands down."
Worked with him as his tour manager many times in the UK, great entertainer and a true gent, the only downside was he insisted on taking a huge B3 Hammond organ with a Leslie speaker for his keyboard player it was a nightmare trying to get them in the small clubs and stages in the UK, he also had a great collection of classic American cars.
-British Facebook friend-of-a-friend Phil
BJ crossed paths with Autry De Walt Mixon many times: "When I was younger I used to work for an over-night delivery service. Every few months I delivered a letter to him. He told me once it was his royalty check." Wouldn't you love to know how much it was? BJ also says Junior "came into Record Hut all the time when I worked there and into Choker a few times when I was there. Always wore overalls. Nice guy, very down to earth. During that time, (the early 70’s) he couldn’t get booked in the states, so once or twice a year he’d tour in Europe, make a bunch of money, and come back to BC."
Sharing the Wealth
Ask around and you'll see that Autry (Junior) spent much of the money he made in Battle Creek. Andrew brags "Sold him a baseman amp when I worked at Dowdy’s. FULL PRICE, CASH!" I asked about a rock star discount and he laughed "no, just a wad of cash." Paul remembers "I sold him a van when I first started at Heritage Chevrolet."
By all accounts Junior Walker was more like Autry De Walt Mixon during his time in the Cereal City. He didn't act like a rock star, nor did he expect to be treated like one.