The Walker Brothers – American Hitmakers in England

by Malcolm Tatum
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While the United States was enjoying the influx of England's finest during the British Invasion of the early 1960's three American boys were coming together in Los Angeles to form their own beat group. Little did they know that their major source of success would be in the very land that was currently dominating the American charts.

During 1964, John Maus, Scott Engel, and Gary Leeds began to jam together, with an eye toward playing some club dates and maybe getting a share of the rock and roll pie. Unfortunately, things just didn't seem to happen for the trio on their home turf in the States, so early in 1965 the group adopted a new moniker – The Walker Brothers – and headed for London.

The fact that the three boys were unrelated really made no difference to the British pop fans, who seemed to take to the Walker Brothers with an enthusiasm that had eluded the group in the United States. In a very short time, they had played several prestigious venues around Great Britain and had secured a recording contract with Philips Records. Their first single release "Love Her" had enough steam to crack the British Top 20 in June of 1965. Moving quickly to build on this modest success, Philips immediately had "Make It Easy on Yourself" rushed into release.

By August of 1965, "Easy..." had entered the British Top 10 and eventually made it all the way to the Number One spot. In a stroke of irony, the boys also found themselves with their first American hit, when Smash Records was awarded the rights to release "Easy..." stateside. The American release got the Walkers into the American Top 40 by the end of the year, topping out at # 16.

With this sort of initial success, the Walker Brothers were being touted as the next international phenomenon. And while it is true that they continued to churn our more British Top 10 hits during 1966, they only managed one more American charting single, "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" which peaked at 13 on the American charts in May of 1966. In the UK, "Sun…" made it to # 1, but it would be the last time the Walkers made the British Top 5, although they did enjoy several more hits.

By 1967, internal dissension was tearing at the group. It was pretty obvious that their last single of 1966 ("Another Tear Falls" which peaked at # 13 in October of 1966) would most likely be their final release. Official notice of the breakup came in late 1967, with the announcement that all three of the Walker Brothers were planning their own solo releases in the upcoming year. Interestingly enough, Scott Engel was the most successful, recording under the name of Scott Walker. During 1968 and 1969, he placed three singles in the Top 20, with his "Joanna" making it to # 7 on the British charts in March of 1968.

Today, very few people remember the Walker Brothers. Those who remember "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More" tend to think of the group as a one hit wonder. The truth is they did something that was rarely done in the Sixties: establishing themselves first as pop stars in England and then enjoying a small degree of crossover success in the United States. In a time when British acts were making it big in the States and most American acts did not approach Britain until they were well established, the Walker Brothers remain a very interesting footnote in the development of pop music during the era.

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