Saturday, September 27, 2008



"Bunker Hill" was born David "Dave" Walker on May 5, 1941 in Washington, D.C. Between (and before) his music career David earned distinction as a professional boxer or rather a prize-fighter. Was he good or not - let his statistical score tell its own language: "He was a contender in 25 fights as a heavyweight, and his record was 18 wins, five losses and two draws, with 19 of these fights viewed on network TV. He also spent some time as Archie Moore's sparring partner..." (as mentioned in Billboard Magazine).

In the late 1950's Mr. Walker joined to a Los Angeles-based vocal-gospel group The Sensational Wonders. In 1959, he became a member of the Mighty Clouds Of Joy - the same band, that captured Billboard's pop and r'n'b-charts through the 1970's and the 1980's.
Bunker Hill never released a full album of songs. The band itself was actually gospel singer David "Dave" Walker from the Mighty Clouds of Joy backed by guitar Renaissance man Link Wray's group, the Ray Men. Originally called "Four H-Stamp," the name of the group was an in cognito slice of Americana created by the Ray Men to keep Walker's name and signature voice (singing decidedly ungospel numbers) under wraps.

Set up by Wray and his producer brother Vernon (aka Ray Vernon), Walker and the Raymen toured the Washington club scene and recorded several singles in Link's home-made studio.

Released under the Amy-Mala label, "Hide and Go Seek Pts 1 and 2" (at 4:35, the song was too long to be released on one side of a single) became Bunker Hill's first and biggest hit, reaching #33 on the Billboard Top 100 and staying there for 13 weeks, as well as reaching #27 on the rhythm and blues charts in 1962. Filmmaker John Waters later immortalized the song in his 1989 film Hairspray and described it as "the very best song to dance the Bodie Green to" -- a lewd gyrating dance he and friend Bonnie Pierce used to dance at the mixers sponsored by their Catholic Youth Organization.

The popular single was followed by "Red Riding Hood and the Wolf/Nobody Knows" later in 1962 and "The Girl Can't Dance/You Can't Make Me Doubt My Baby" in 1963. Neither matched the chart success of "Hide and Go Seek," but the soulful vigor of Dave Walker's voice is not to be missed, whether he's ripping through dance numbers ("Red Riding Hood") or B-side ballads ("Nobody Knows", "You Can't Make me..").

Though a full album was planned (Amy-Mala had some unreleased material reportedly in their archives), the project was shelved and abandoned as Walker returned to the Mighty Clouds and, much later, retired to Houston, Texas. After that, the trail on the voice of Bunker Hill runs cold. Hoppula wrote that Walker is presumed to have passed on sometime in the 1980s, but there's no documentation online to confirm or deny that.

Almost 50 years later, the "outlaw" nature of Walker's collaboration with the Raymen seems to continue. You won't find this man's life story on wikipedia or his songs on iTunes. Instead, his memory and his music is privvy to a handful of disc jockeys, music collectors and enthusiasts.

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