Motown raided the juke joints for Junior Walker’s biggest hit. The song is propelled by Victor Thomas’s Hammond organ as much as Walker’s sax, and is closer to the Southern styling of Booker T. and the MGs and King Curtis than the Motown sound.
At the time, Walker was better-known for his playing than his singing. Initially, a studio singer was booked to sing Walker’s response to the fad dances of the time, like “The Jerk” and “The Watusi.” When the singer failed to arrive, Walker reluctantly stepped behind the mic to cut what he thought would be a guide vocal. Producer Berry Gordy prevailed on Walker to leave the track as-is. Gordy’s judgement was accurate, as the song shot to the top of the chart and inspired several similar singles, including Curtis’ “Memphis Soul Stew.”
Walker’s quartet is rounded out by the sharp guitar punctuation of Willie Woods and the solid backbeat from drummer Benny Benjamin. – by Joel Francis