Herb Walker remembers his days at Chess

The Sun Times have been talking to Herb Walker, pictured, foreground, a long time Chicago musician who worked with Tyrone Davis and many other recording artistes.

“I was working at Johnson Products on 83rd Street,” Walker said before a “Golden Soul” dress rehearsal. “I packed and moved 42,000 jars of Afro Sheen in one day and got a pat on the back. They said they had never run that fast before. That was my last day. All I ever wanted to do was play music.”

Family Soul merged with Thunder to create a large sound that fueled Davis’ biggest hits. Walker said, “We augmented his band, me and his guitarist L.V. Johnson [the late nephew of Elmore James]. I produced two of L.V.’s albums. We went up to a 12-piece band with a six-piece horn section. It was really powerful.”

How does Walker describe Chicago soul to a new generation?

“The younger cast members were not aware of these artists,” said Walker, 62. “Chicago soul has earthiness. And if they didn’t use horns, they put the strings out in front and they were thick. They had a purpose. … You never realize how many people came to Chicago to record here because of Curtis and Chess Records. When I was 19, I was an intern at Chess and I worked there five days a week. I could sit in on any recording session. That’s how I got close with Phil Upchurch. I’d see Ramsey Lewis, Maurice White, … Minnie Riperton.”

In 1980, Walker moved on to work at the late Carl Davis’ Chi-Sound Records, where he played with Walter Jackson, the Chi-Lites and Major Lance.


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