‘Music calls and that’s where my heart goes’

Webster City man to be inducted into Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

— Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Teresa Wood
Many of the Oldies but Goodies, featuring ballads, blues, DoWop and soft rock were on the program last week when Maurice Walker-Jules performed in Fort Dodge. A professional musician for over 50 years, Jules will be recognized for his Lifetime Achievement when he is inducted into the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Arnolds Park at the end of August.

Maurice Walker Jules will be among those honored by the Iowa Rock and Roll Music Association when it recognizes the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2019 inductees at Arnold’s Park on Aug. 31 to Sept. 1.

After more than a half century of making music, it is fitting that the Webster City resident be inducted into the Hall of Fame for his lifetime of achievement.

The 70 year old Jules now lives in Webster City, but he grew up in Memphis down the block from a legendary music studio. It was a flip of the coin that brought him to Iowa. When Jules and his wife Mary (Heller), a Sioux City native, contemplated retirement, she chose Webster City and he picked Memphis.  She won the toss and the couple has lived in Webster City for 20 years.

“My history goes way back,” recalled Jules of his music career.

Jules was exposed to a wealth of talented artists while growing up in the Memphis neighborhood where the famed Stax Recording Company was located. The studio was home to legendary singers such as Otis Redding and Issac Hayes and it served as an inspiration to many singers who gathered on the street corners to harmonize and sing Doo-Wop, explained Jules.

Maurice Walker-Jules sings a variety of songs from the 50s and 60s, including Rhythm & Blues, ballads and country but admits Do Wop is his favorite because that is the genre that first sparked his interest in music.

Jules and his siblings spent their summer vacations with relatives in Queens, NY, Jackson, MS, Las Vegas, Gary, IN, Los Angels and Chicago. While in Chicago, Jules got his first taste of performing when his father enrolled him in dance school.

“God bless his soul, that is where my music career started,” confessed Jules.

After he graduated from junior high school in Memphis, Jules convinced his grandmother to let him attend high school in Chicago. Again, Jules was surrounded by talent and he started his own musical group called The Lovers in 1963. Their local hit, released as a 45, was called “Do This For Me.”

He started his career singing and playing guitar, but eventually “put that down and kept singing.”

And sing he did. Using a voice that still spans seven octaves, Jules has been a member of several other groups over the years including The Players and Maurice and the Radiants, which scored two hits “Voice Your Choice” and “Ain’t No Big Thing.” They performed their hits on the national television program “The Beat.”

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Teresa Wood Troy Martens of Fort Dodge visited with singer Maurice Walker-Jules after his performance last week in Fort Dodge. In the background is Jules' manager Penny Becker. At 70, Jules performs several shows throughout central Iowa every week.

After high school, Jules returned to Memphis and joined the group The Glitters and performed on several national television show including the Della Reese Show, Swing Swift, Soul Train, The Gong Show and The Harry Whitfield Show.

After gaining such exposure, the Stax Recording Company enlisted Jules as a studio back-up singer.  The gig gave him the opportunity to work with artists such as The Mad Ladds, The Ovations, Issac Hayes, Johnny Taylor and John Blackfoot Colbert.

The 1970s found Jules working at the Philadelphia International studio where he sang back-up for the Blue Magic, The O’Jays, the Stylistics and Barry White.

“Also in the early 70s, I worked with the Esquires with their one hit wonder ‘Get On Up,'” explained Jules. “One of our most memorable performances was at the KRNT Theater in Des Moines, Iowa.”

Jules went international in the late 1970s when he performed with Morris Jefferson and the Premiers. They recorded an album which inspired “The Spank” dance craze and they toured Europe, Canada, China, Germany, Italy and Australia, he said.

After touring for four years with the Premiers, Jules returned to the States and started working with The Sargent’s Redd Army Band, a funk/reggaee group. The band was nominated for a Grammy Award as the new funk group of 1984 for their hit “Funky Town” but lost to a youngster by the name of Michael Jackson, who swept all the awards that year, quipped Jules.

During the 1980s, Jules toured with several other bands including Lipp’s Inc. He sang with The Sensational Inspirational Gospel Singers of North Carolina, which later shortened its name to New Beginning. The group toured the gospel circuit and its album “Moving On Up Heaven’s Way” went gold.

In 1992, a former bandmate from Sargent Redd Army Band asked Jules to help finish a recording for Soni DaDa, a soft rock band.  After the recording was completed, he was invited to join them on a world tour.

“Not only am I a vocalist, I also have great acting chops,” Jules confided.

Over the years, he has worked as an extra in several movies including “The Blues Brothers,” “Wildcats,” “Double Jeopardy,” and “Gladiator” where he rubbed elbows with thespians such as John Belushi, Wesley Snipes, Ozzie Davis, Ashley Judd, Goldie Hawn and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

“I played the sheriff in the ‘Blues Brothers’,” he said and was a street performer in “Double Jeopardy.” The “Gladiator” movie he appeared in was a kick-boxing movie, not the one with Russell Crowe, he explained.

But despite those excursions into acting, music and song have always been the soundtrack to his life.

“Music is the voice of the soul”, said Jules and he answered that call whenever is beckoned. He graduated from college and worked as a civil engineer, but music was his number one priority.

“Music calls and that’s where my heart goes,” confessed Jules. “My heart is with music.”

Even at 70, he found it hard to give up his love of music.

“I tried to retire in 2001, but it just didn’t take,”, Jules said. Several old bandmates lured him back into performing with the Midwest Rock & Soul Revue. Over the years, the group has also opened and closed the downtown Clear Lake summer season.

Jules continues his solo singing career, performing several shows weekly throughout central Iowa with his Maurice Walker-Jules Experience and he performs in the duo JJ Inc. with Jeff Bockoven.

“I’ve been blessed,” said Jules on receiving the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honor. “I’m impressed that they even knew about me.”

While Jules performs at several venues in Webster City and holds the honor of being the first entertainer at Webster City’s initial Farmers’ Market, he prefers to keep a low profile by puttering in his garden.

“Many people don’t know me,” he smiles. “But I’ve been right here all this time.”