Wee Willie Walker

Willie Walker (sometimes known as Wee Willie Walker) recorded his last tracks for Goldwax Records sometime in 1968. Goldwax once housed James Carr, Spencer Wiggins and Louis Williams, among many others. According to my knowledge, Walker had prepared nine sides for the Memphis-based company. This is a strange number and makes me believe that there may be another side. He lived in Minnesota during the recording sessions in Memphis. Although the circumstances are unusual, they are not extraordinary. Life stories can be just as compelling. His voice was the most remarkable part of all this. It was Willie’s car that took him from churches to Jewish Community Centers to Sam Phillips, Studio and Rick Hall’s Fame Studio to Memphis and back to Memphis. Willie described the experience of traveling in a Cadillac with the Redemption Harmonizers in the mid-to late 1950’s. Roosevelt Jamison was the author of “That’s how Strong My Love Is”, a Soul classic. Willie also recorded “There Goes My Used To Be,” now available on The Goldwax Story Volume 1 Kent 203) A photo of Willie as a young boy with the group shows him in a matching suit style of Gospel musicians with a pencil-drawn moustache. I found the fake moustache to be the only dishonesty about Willie. It’s this honesty that makes Willie’s Soul unique. He was even able to clarify the slightest difference when I asked his age. Although he wasn’t actually from Mississippi, he claimed he was born in Hernando in 1941. His mother was visiting him on December 21st, when he arrived. When he moved to Minnesota, he discovered that his birth date was December 23rd. This was most likely the date it was filed. Willie replied, “It is the 21st however. My mother is the one I believe. Willie moved from Memphis to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1960. Redemption Harmonizers had taken him to Minneapolis a few times. He told his band mates that he would stay in Minneapolis on their next trip to the North. Willie Walker, a fellow Harmonizer with family in Minneapolis, defected to Willie. Walker has been living in Minnesota ever since. Willie was connected to Minnesota through his membership in the Royal Jubileers, and he found a home with them. In a laundry mat, he met Timothy Eason who introduced him to secular music. Tim thought Willie looked like someone who could sing, and introduced him to Jimmy Crittenden, his business partner. Tim was also a friend to Dick Shapiro, who was starting Central Booking. The Val-Dons, a band formed from Willie and his vocalist friends as well as a group led by Willie Murphy. Once described as “Little Richard meets El Dorado’s”, they were once called this. Dick Shapiro booked them into Jewish Community Centers around the Twin Cities. Willie experienced some homelessness. He said that he decided to move here because of a summertime impression. He stated that it was his pride that kept him here. He didn’t want to hear his Memphis runnin’ friends tell him so. He did visit, though Pride didn’t stop him. Willie’s first song for Goldwax was recorded in Memphis on a 1965 trip. Willie stated that recording in Memphis was similar to getting a job. It all came down to who you were on the inside. The Goldwax roster featured many musicians who were rooted in Gospel music, like Willie. He signed a contract to Quinton Claunch, and Doc Russell. The fruits of his labor were rewarded by free flights between Minneapolis and Memphis. The package did not include hotel accommodations. Willie would often stay with old friends Roosevelt Jamison and George Jackson. George Jackson was a prolific writer, contributing his talents to hits like Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Makin’ Love,” Clarence Carter’s “Too Weak To Fighting” and Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock.”

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