They weren’t British, they weren’t brothers and their real names weren’t Walker, but Californians Scott Engel, John Maus (a one-time child actor) and Gary Leeds were briefly huge stars in England, and small ones in their native USA, at the peak of the British Invasion.
Engel and Maus were playing together in Hollywood in 1964 when ex-Standells drummer Leeds suggested they form a trio and try to make it in England. He had earlier toured the UK as the drummer with P J Proby and felt that the Walkers could prosper in such an environment – and they did . . . with surprising swiftness.
In March 1965 their first single – Pretty Girls Everywhere – emerged on the Philips label. The record flopped, but in June, Love Her (a Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil number) put The Walker Brothers into the Top Twenty for the first time.
They appeared on the Thank Your Lucky Stars TV show, were mobbed in best teen idol tradition, and when their next single, Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s Make It Easy On Yourself, came out in August, it went straight to #1.
The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore repeated the feat the following year, and the group also had UK hits with My Ship Is Coming In, (Baby) You Don’t Have To Tell Me, Another Tear Falls and others.
For a few months, they experienced frenzied adulation almost on the level of The Beatles and Rolling Stones, though in America (where they rarely performed), only Make It Easy On Yourself and The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore entered the Top 20.
While The Walker Brothers looked the part of British Invaders with their shaggy mop tops, they were in fact far more pop than rock – and they didn’t play on most of their records.
With producer Johnny Franz and veteran British arrangers like Ivor Raymonde – who also worked with Dusty Springfield – they favoured orchestrated ballads in a studied attempt to emulate the success of The Righteous Brothers (who also weren’t really brothers).
Although (Baby) You Don’t Have To Tell Me and Another Tear Falls made the Top Twenty, there were signs that the three Americans might be heading their separate ways.
Gary had been recording as a solo act – notching up mini-hits with You Don’t Love Me and Twinkie Lee – while relations between Scott and John were becoming strained.
In April 1967, some months after a comparative flop with Stay With Me Baby, the Walkers played what proved to be their last British gig – at the Granada, Tooting. Scott then stated his intention of leaving, claiming that he couldn’t take the pressures anymore.
Later, in the dressing room, a despondent John Maus told the press, “If Scott quits then that’s it as far as I’m concerned. He is the Walker Brothers. I just don’t know him anymore. I’ve known the guy for four years and now I can’t even talk to him”. By the time the next Walkers single – Walking In The Rain – came out, there was no group to promote it.
Scott and John had moved into the recording studios for sessions that would produce solo hits in Jackie and Annabella respectively, while Gary – after a seven-month lay-off – eventually began working with a group called Rain.
Scott went on to release a series of British Top 10 solo albums but ultimately nobody knew what to do with him. One of his later albums had a quote from Albert Camus (a French Algerian author, philosopher and journalist) on its sleeve, contained songs about Stalin and Satan, and didn’t sell shit.
A few years later Scott was back on the Batley Variety trail, singing for his supper.
The Walker Brothers reunited for a while in 1975 which produced a final British hit (No Regrets) but generally disappointing music.
John Maus passed away in 2011.