Walter “Choker” Campbell was an American musician, and the leader of Motown’s backing band (Choker Campbell & His Band) for artists on tour in the early 1960s.
Born in Mississippi, Choker’s family moved to Michigan when he was five years old. He studied the saxophone under several different musicians. Having left school by the time he was nineteen, Choker got a job at Motown’s Hitsville USA studios, playing with the resident band.
Soon he had become the leader of Motown’s live band (Choker Campbell & His Band). As well as being a talented saxophonist himself, he was the conductor who kept Motown’s first Motortown Revue shows going. Choker Campbell’s Big Band backed many a Motown artist on tour in the early 1960s, from the likes of The Supremes and The Temptations to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.
Choker spent most of his time at Motown on the road, but wanted to cut some studio material of his own. Motown granted the release of Choker Campbell and his 16 Piece Band play Hits of the Sixties in 1964. The album, a collection of live instrumentals by Choker covering some of Motown’s early 1960s hits, spawned one single (“Come See About Me” in America and “Mickey’s Monkey” in Britain). This proved his only Motown release, and left soon after.
He moved to Canada with his band and set up his own record label. There he recorded some more material and continued to play live shows. After several years, Choker moved back to Detroit and remained there until his death in 1993. He had also recorded one single, “After Dark”, for Ian Levine’s Nightmare (Motorcity) Records in 1989.