Wally Roker has passed away at the age of 78. As bass singer and one of the leaders of The Heartbeats, he sang on influential seminal R&B recordings including “Crazy for You”, “A Thousand Miles Away” and “Your Way”. The Heartbeats were a tremendous inspiration to other, mainly white vocals groups, that followed, most notably perhaps The Elegants.
Roker continued on in the music business after the group’s demise, including being instrumental in the formative years and success of Sceptre Records including introducing label owner Florence Greenberg to Luther Dixon, who went on to write many of the hits for The Shirelles and other Sceptre artsits. Originally from NY, Roker relocated to LA and, through the 1960s until his death, worked for several labels in promotion and distribution, including ABC and TRC as well as running his own Canyon, Roker, RRG, Soul Clock and Stardom, many under the banner of Roker Record Group. He recently found himself back in the headlines, embroiled in a $155-million-dollar lawsuit after Nina Simone’s ex-husband licensed Simone’s music to Wally against their daughter’s wishes.
Wally was always Wally & the original Heartbeats made occasional returns to the stage to sing their biggest hits for fans with Walter Crump (original Heartbeat Albert Crump’s brother) on lead.
Wally’s health had been failing and he underwent brain surgery in November. He passed away on December 1, 2015.