A Rockapaedia Obituary
Band: The Walker Brothers
John Walker died aged sixty-seven of liver cancer at his Los Angeles home on 7th May 2011. He was survived by his fifth wife Cynthia and their two children and three grandchildren.
John Walker, birth name John Maus, was born in New York City, the son of John Joseph Maus Sr., who was of German extraction, and his wife Regina. With his parents and his older sister, Judith, he moved to California in 1947, at first settling in Redondo Beach and later in Hermosa Beach. He began learning saxophone, clarinet and guitar as a child, and by the age of 11 also began acting and appearing in TV talent shows. He had a role in a regular sitcom, Hello Mom, and small uncredited parts in the movies: The Eddy Duchin Story in 1956 and The Missouri Traveler in 1958. He became a friend of Ritchie Valens, and was an honorary pallbearer at Valens' funeral. In 1959 the family moved again, to Inglewood, where he made the acquaintance of future Beach Boys members David Marks and Dennis and Carl Wilson, helping to teach them guitar. He began using the name John Walker at the age of 17, because he was frustrated with how people pronounced his real name.
From 1957 onwards, John worked as singer and guitarist with his sister, as the duo John and Judy. They recorded several singles for the Aladdin, Dore, Arvee and Eldo labels between 1958 and 1962. In 1961, they formed a backing band and performed as John, Judy and the Newports, until the band split up after an engagement in Hawaii. They then met Scott Engel, who had been playing bass in The Routers, and, with drummer "Spider" Webb, formed a new band, Judy and the Gents. John obtained an ID card in the name of John Walker, in order to perform in clubs around Los Angeles while under the legal age to do so. In 1963, Walker and Engel, with two other musicians, toured the Midwest as "The Surfaris", although the group included none of the musicians who played on the Surfaris' records. John Walker released his first solo record, "What a Thrill", on the Almo label, with The Blossoms as backing singers. He formed The Walker Brothers in 1964, with himself as lead vocalist and guitarist, Scott Engel on bass and harmony vocals, and Al "Tiny" Schneider on drums. John and Scott were signed as a duo by Mercury Records, and recorded their first single, "Pretty Girls Everywhere" in Los Angeles. There they became a leading attraction at Gazzari's nightclub, and appeared on the Shindig! TV show developed by Jack Good, and then on a weekly TV show, Ninth Street A Go Go. Late in 1964, they met drummer Gary Leeds, previously of The Standells, who had recently toured the UK with singer P.J. Proby, and who persuaded them that they would have greater success in England. Before leaving, they recorded their second single, "Love Her", overseen by Nick Venet and arranger Jack Nitzsche, with Scott Engel taking the lead vocal part for the first time. With financial backing from Leeds' stepfather, Walker, Engel and Leeds travelled to the UK in February 1965 for an exploratory visit.
In the UK, "Love Her" was released on the Philips label, an affiliate of Mercury, and reached number 20 on the UK singles chart. John and Scott signed a new recording contract, and, with Leeds, began performing live in England, to considerable press attention and with growing numbers of - predominantly female teenage - fans. Their next record, a version of the Bacharach and David song "Make It Easy On Yourself", produced like their other British recordings by Johnny Franz, reached number one in the UK chart in September 1965. Over the next two years the Walker Brothers became - with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones - one of the most popular groups in the United Kingdom. Their second British number one, "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" in 1966, was also their biggest hit in the US, where it made number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.
During this period, The Walker Brothers played some performances with The Yardbirds; John eventually sold guitarist Jeff Beck the 1954 Fender Esquire used on many of the Yardbirds' most famous recordings from Spring 1965 to early 1966. [
The Walker Brothers split up in early 1968, principally as a result of tensions between jhn and Scott, after a UK tour in late 1967 which also featured Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens, and Engelbert Humperdinck, followed by a tour of Japan. John Walker then began performing solo with a backing band. He released a single, "Annabella", co-written by Graham Nash, which reached number 24 on the UK singles chart, and an album, If You Go Away. Later solo singles on Philips, and then on the Carnaby label owned by Mervyn Conn, were less successful, as was a 1969 album, 'This Is John Walker'. In 1971, he recorded an album co-produced by Bill Wyman at the Château d'Hérouville in France, but it was never released. Two years later, he toured briefly with singer Jimmy Wilson and a backing group, as The New Walkers, before they split up.
Late in 1974, he agreed with Engel and Leeds to reform The Walker Brothers. In 1975, they released an album, No Regrets. The title track was taken off as a single and rose to number seven on the UK chart in early 1976. They recorded two furt her albums together, Lines in 1976 and Nite Flights in 1978. They undertook some cabaret performances, although Engel, by now more usually known as Scott Walker, was reluctant to sing live; the group's contract with GTO Records ended and, according to John Walker, the group "just drifted apart".
In 1986, John took part in a 1960s revival tour, before finally moving from England to San Diego. He took an electronics course, and became a technical consultant to manufacturing companies, while developing his own recording studio. He also began writing and composing material, mainly for other artists, and formed his own publishing company, Arena. In 2000, he set up his own record label and released a CD, You. He toured Britain again as part of a nostalgia package tour in 2004, and released an album, Silver Sixties Tour 2004, as well as resuming extensive touring in his own right. In 2007, he released two new CDs, Just For You, a collection of love songs, and Songs of Christmas and Inspiration. He toured the UK again in 2009, as part of an "oldies" package, and in 2010 with the Dakotas, whose original line-up backed Billy J. Kramer in the 1960s.
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