Say "Jr. & Walker and the All-Stars," and two songs will immediately leap to mind: "Shotgun," their biggest hit, and the classic "What Does It Take (to Win Your Love)." While the two singles have endured, other tracks have received less attention, none more so than the timeless 1965 single "Shake and Fingerpop."
Born Autry DeWalt Mixon Jr. in 1931, the musician earned his nickname courtesy of his stepfather; dubbing the child "Junior," he also allowed his stepson to adopt his surname: Walker. Growing up, Walker heard Louis Jordan's brand of "jump" music, inspiring him to take up the saxophone. In the mid-1950s he started his own band, the Jumping Jacks; his best friend, drummer Billy Nicks, founded his own group the Rhythm Rockers. Occasionally both men would sit in for each other's bands. When Nicks obtained a job at a South Bend, Indiana TV station, he asked Walker to join him. Gradually other local musicians joined the group, now named the All-Stars.
In 1961, songwriter/producer Johnny Bristol discovered the group, recommending them to Harvey Fuqua, who at the time owned labels Tri-Phi Records and Harvey Records. The All-Stars joined the latter, with Fuqua rechristening them "Jr. Walker's All-Stars." Once Berry Gordy bought Fuqua's labels to form Motown, the band underwent one final name change: "Jr. Walker and the All-Stars." In just four years, Walker would record his first and biggest hit: "Shotgun," a track produced by Gordy and featuring two members of the legendary Funk Brothers Motown house band, bassist James Jamerson and drummer Benny Benjamin. Reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the R&B charts, "Shotgun" proved Walker's crossover appeal; his piercing sax and commanding voice transformed the track into an instant classic. Today, Junior Walker may be best remembered for "Shotgun" and the 1969 hit "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love).' However, "Shake and Fingerpop," the third single after "Shotgun," has been largely overlooked by radio.
At the start of "Shake and Fingerpop," Walker's wailing sax immediately grabs listeners, along with a pulsating bass line and staccato organ section. Benjamin's relentless drumming urges the audience to their feet, announcing that the music is kicking off a party. Similar to "Shotgun," "Shake and Fingerpop's" lyrics reference several dances--the jerk, the boomerang (also the name of their second single), and the barracuda. However, Walker is also commanding his girlfriend to go out dancing, amusingly instructing her to "put on your wig, woman." The couple proceeds to the floor, with Walker again encouraging her to "kick off your shoes baby and get in the groove." A lengthy sax solo adds to both the somewhat frenetic pace and the sensuality of the music. Indeed, the relentless tempo entices listeners to abandon their inhibitions and dance, because "when you hear the music, your feet has got to move."
Despite the pure energy of "Shake and Fingerpop," the track mysteriously did not chart as well as "Shotgun." peaking at number 29 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number seven on he R&B charts. Yet the track exudes a dangerously sexy quality that other 1965 R&B records did not possess. Walker's music, a mixture of R&B and jump, encourages fans to surrender to the music without reservation. Just as Jordan's sound urged kids in zoot suits to throw their dance partners in the air, so did Jr. Walker & the All-Stars enticed mid-sixties teenagers to get "in the groove."