John Walker, the founder and namesake of 1960s pop stars The Walker Brothers, has died of liver cancer, according to the Associated Press. He was 67.
Born John Maus, he began using the surname “Walker” in his teens (some accounts attribute this to his wanting to obtain a fake ID in order to play in nightclubs), and performed both as part of the John And Judy duo with his sister, with musicians like the Beach Boys’ Dennis and Carl Wilson (whom he reportedly taught how to play guitar), and with his friend Ritchie Valens, with whom he was so close he served as a pallbearer at his funeral. In addition to doing session work with people like Glen Campbell and Phil Spector, Walker also dabbled in acting, landing bit parts in the movies The Eddy Duchin Story and The Missouri Traveler, as well as a recurring role on the sitcom Hello Mom.
After Walker met bassist Scott Engel and drummer Al “Tiny” Schneider—who was soon succeeded by Gary Leeds—they formed The Walker Brothers Trio in 1964, with each member adopting the “Walker” name. Although having some early Hollywood success that included the “Pretty Girls Everywhere” single for Mercury and an appearance on Shindig!, they were soon persuaded that they would have more luck in swinging London, relocating later that year in a counterstrike to the British Invasion sweeping America. Their next single, “Love Her,” became their first genuine hit, followed by “Make It Easy On Yourself” and “My Ship Is Coming In,” songs that combined Scott’s soulful baritone with sweeping, Phil Spector-ish orchestra arrangements—a dapper sound that quickly made them stars in the U.K. Their most-recognized song, 1965’s “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” embodied the Walker Brothers’ approach—wistful and romantic, strong and suave, it seems to endlessly crescendo without ever losing its power.
The band split up in 1968 as Scott’s popularity increasingly pushed him to the forefront, causing tension between him and John, who still saw himself as the leader. As Scott Walker embarked on a successful string of solo albums built first on his love of chanson singer Jacques Brel and then an increasingly idiosyncratic experimentalism, John Walker followed a more traditional path, releasing the minor hit solo single “Annabella” and the albums If You Go Away and This Is John Walker. The original Walker Brothers reunited in 1975, releasing the albums No Regrets and Nite Flights, but broke up again soon after.
John continued to tour England occasionally as part of various 1960s revival shows, and in his later years founded his own recording studio, publishing company, and record label. In 2000, he began releasing solo albums again, beginning with that year’s You and followed by The Silver Sixties Tour 2004 and 2007’s Just For You. His final release was 2007’s Songs Of Christmas And Inspiration, although he was reportedly still planning to work on new material at the time of his death. With drummer Gary Walker, John released the 2009 autobiography The Walker Brothers: No Regrets—Our Story, which offered anecdotes from his colorful life, everything from touring with Jim Hendrix to run-ins with Humphrey Bogart and Walt Disney. He leaves behind a legacy of some of the most stylish music ever committed to record.
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