Founder of The Walker Brothers, whose ballads scored many hits in the Sixties
Published 15/05/2011 | 05:00
John Walker, who died on May 7 aged 67, founded The Walker Brothers, the American trio that came to Britain in the Sixties and who briefly rivalled in popularity The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
The Walker Brothers specialised in heavily produced ballads, which -- along with their good looks -- found favour with teenage girls.
The group consisted of John Walker on guitar, Scott Engel on bass and Gary Leeds on drums; they were not related, and each adopted the surname Walker.
Their hits included The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore; Love Her; Make it Easy On Yourself; and My Ship Is Comin' In. Walker and Engel provided the vocals, although the latter was always regarded as the more charismatic.
John Walker was born John Joseph Maus on November 12, 1943 in New York, but the family moved to California when he was three.
He began as a child actor, appearing alongside Betty Hutton in the television sitcom Hello Mom, but in 1957 formed a duo, John and Judy, with his sister. They later met Engel, and, with "Spider" Webb on drums, performed as Judy and the Gents.
John began using the professional name Walker when he was 17. By late 1964 he, Engel and Gary Leeds had formed The Walker Brothers in Los Angeles -- and it was Leeds, who had toured Britain with PJ Proby, who is said to have suggested that they try their luck on the other side of the Atlantic.
"Gary said we could do really well there," Scott recalled later. "I wanted to get out of America anyway and go to Europe because I'd always been a European film freak. I wanted to see if I could meet Ingmar Bergman and a few other people. So the three of us came over and started going slowly broke. Nothing was happening and we were freezing to death. Straight from California to this in February 1965."
In June that year, however, the group had its first big success, reaching the Top 20 with Love Her. They appeared on the television show Thank Your Lucky Stars, on which they were mobbed by female fans, and their next single, Burt Bacharach's and Hal David's Make It Easy On Yourself, went straight to No 1 that August. At Christmas the group was at No 3 with My Ship Is Coming In, and in March 1966 they scored their second No 1 with The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore.
This proved to be the height of The Walkers' popularity. Relations between John and Scott were becoming strained, and in April 1967 they played what turned out to be their last British gig, at the Granada in Tooting. Scott announced that he was leaving the group, John remarking: "If Scott quits then that's it as far as I'm concerned -- he is the Walker Brothers."
John came up with a solo hit, Annabella, and a couple of albums, If You Go Away and This Is John Walker; Scott embarked on his own successful solo career.
In 1975 The Walker Brothers re-formed and attempted a comeback, but in the late Eighties they again went their separate ways. John then moved to San Diego, where he established his own recording studio.
He remained popular in Britain, where he toured as part of a Silver 60s show until his health declined. Last December he was diagnosed with liver cancer, and continued to work until only a few weeks ago.
In 2009, with Gary, he published a book, The Walker Brothers: No Regrets -- Our Story.
John Walker was four times married, and is survived by his fourth wife, Cynthia, two sons and two daughters.