L.A. trio were a smash in mid-'60s England
Singer-guitarist John Maus, whose L.A.-bred pop trio the Walker Brothers attained major chart success and induced hysteria in ’60s Swinging London, died May 7 in Los Angeles.
Known professionally as John Walker, he was 67, and succumbed to liver cancer.
Born in New York, Maus moved to California with his family in 1948. Sidelined by a childhood sports injury, he taught himself to play guitar and other instruments. He started up a duo with his sister Judy; the siblings took the handle “Walker” to replace their frequently garbled given name (pronounced “Moss”).
Augmented by singer-bassist Scott Engel and drummer Al “Tiny” Schneider, the act began performing as the Walker Family, and became the Walker Brothers after Judy’s departure. Mainly playing the hits of the day, the group drew notice as the house band at Bill Gazzari’s eponymous Hollywood clubs.
The Walkers’ profile rose when they became a house act on the ABC pop series “Shindig.” Their lineup was solidified with the addition of drummer Gary Leeds, formerly with P.J. Proby and the Standells. Signed to Mercury Records, the trio decided to relocate to England, where the music scene was exploding; Leeds’ father financed the move with a $10,000 loan.
The handsome threesome was a nearly immediate smash in the U.K. Their soulful hits, produced in an opulent Phil Spector style by Johnny Franz and featuring lead vocalist Scott Walker’s aching baritone, flew to the top of the charts in 1965. While their remake of Jerry Butler’s “Make It Easy On Yourself” and the Bob Crewe-penned “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” only reached the top 20 in the U.S., they vaulted to No. 1 in Blighty.
The Walkers logged several other big singles and three albums, and staged several riotously received British tours (the last of which featured another expat, Jimi Hendrix, as the opening act) before Scott Walker’s solo ambitions broke up the band in 1967. Maus cut two solo albums, “If You Go Away” (1967) and “This is John Walker” (1969).
The trio regrouped in 1975 to record three more albums; the highly experimental “Nite Flights” (1978) ended the act for good.
Maus’ later solo discography included “You” (2000). He performed the Walkers’ hits as part of the Solid Silver Sixties Tour, and released a live album in 2004.
He is survived by his wife and four children.