From 1964 to 1968, the British Walkers were one of DC’s top rock bands. They played many nights a week at the Roundtable in Georgetown, released a number of singles, and did some shows in England. Now, due to the efforts of longtime local rockabilly/roots rocker Billy Hancock, they have reunited decades later for some gigs and will be at tiny JV’s in Falls Church for two sold-out shows Sunday and Monday. Led by singer Bobby (also spelled Bobbie) Howard, the group played Motown and Stax covers and some originals inspired by the British Invasion bands—the Beatles, the Who, and the Kinks.
Last Saturday night I was one of the few folks under the age of 60 in a crowd of around 80 people seeing them at Winston’s in Rockville. I would have thought that more young DC rock fans would have been curious to check out the group. Perhaps the hefty ticket price, the lack of publicity, and the not on Metro location kept folks away. The band once featured the late Roy Buchanan (better known for his bluesier efforts and for reportedly being invited to join the Rolling Stones) on guitar. At Winston’s the 67-year-old Howard, the one original member, was joined by onetime Walkers Steve Lacey (drums), Jack Brooks (bass) and Geoff Richardson (guitar, who later was a member of DC band Crank). Billy Hancock sat in with the band on guitar and vocals. Members of onetime DC group Fallen Angels attended the gig as did Kim Kane from the Slickee Boys.
Howard had once played with Link Wray and led a prior group called Bobbie & the Hi-boys, but reportedly had not sung in years. At Winston’s he alternated on vocals with Billy Hancock. Howard apparently needed to rest his voice. When he did take the mic, he sang with a raspy, early Rod Stewart-like blue-eyed soul approach. The group did Bo Diddley’s “Diddley Daddy,” the early soul and rock standard “Shake,” “The Girl Can’t Help It,”and some garage-rocked-up Stax and Motown compositions just like the old days. Ideally, for their second set of reunion gigs, Howard will be able to sing more. Hancock is not bad, but he is not whom people are coming to see.
The British Walkers July 19 and July 20 at JVs, 6666 Arlington Blvd. (Rt. 50) Falls Church Va. (sold out)