20 ESSENTIAL ALBUMS
What: The debut album by Motown’s grittiest recording act, a source of hits throughout the ’60s on the aptly-named Soul label. Most of the time, Walker took his combo on the road to play for the people.
When: The title track was recorded in December 1964, and released the following month. By March, it blew its way to No. 1 on the Billboard R&B best-sellers – the first of four consecutive Top 10 hits there for Walker and his soul mates. By April, “Shotgun” was in the Top 5 of the pop charts, too. (For more on Jr. Walker & the All Stars, read here.)
Where: Most of Shotgun was cut at Motown’s original studio in Detroit during 1964-65, with Walker’s band and some help from the Funk Brothers. One track was recorded and released in 1962, when the saxman was signed to singer/songwriter/producer Harvey Fuqua’s record label.
Why: Walker’s style appealed to the boss: Berry Gordy produced or co-produced most of Shotgun. “His saxophone sound was like nobody else’s,” said Gordy. “All we had to do was get a good sound balance in the studio and just wait. He could put together some of the damnedest lyrics you’d ever heard – and come out with a smash.”
What else: Mick Jones of British-American rock band Foreigner was a Jr. Walker fan, recruiting him to play the sax solo on their 1981 smash, “Urgent.” The Motown soul star even gigged with Foreigner a couple of times, including a major show at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
What are the 20 most essential Motown albums? It’s a difficult choice, but this is ours, picked and presented through the course of this 60th anniversary year. Each album is featured with its background story, keyed to a relevant date in its history. This is not a countdown, leading to a “winner.” It’s just a way to showcase some of the finest music ever made. After all, isn’t that why you’re here?