It’s as if his modesty prevents him from discussing himself or his career.
Instead, James Carter Walker Jr., better known as J.J. by millions, prefers to point to the others on the 70s Soul Jam bill coming to the Mann Music Center on Aug. 2.
“Why do you want to interview me,” Walker asks. “You’re better off talking to The Stylistics (one of the groups on the bill) rather than me. They’re from Philly, love the city, and have a great background. They’re Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famers. It’s really their show. I’m not doing much, just acting as the emcee for the event. No big deal. So I really don’t have much to say.”
Ah, but he does. Walker, an actor and comedian, is probably best known for portraying James Evans Jr., the oldest son on the CBS hit television series “Good Times.”
The series ran from 1974 to 1979, and propelled the young Walker to instant stardom. His signature saying, “Dyn-O-Mite,” was mimicked by old and young alike.
“But that was a long, long time ago,” Walker insists, still hoping to talk about The Stylistics or one of the other groups on the bill.
But he’s eventually worn down by the insistence he is met with and begins to open up about his many, many decades in show business.
Ironically, Walker, who was born in New York’s tough South Bronx neighborhood, didn’t start out to be an entertainer.
Instead, basketball was his primary interest. But later, giving up on the idea, he eventually went to work at a small radio station where he proved to be a funny guy and a good writer — both of which motivated him to try standup.
“And through the years I worked with many great people, a lot of big names who were certainly better known than me. In those years I was also acting as the emcee,” Walker explained.
He also explained that growing up he was never a particularly funny person. “I was just a regular kind of guy who was very, very lucky,” Walker said.
Discovered by the late comic and Philadelphian David Brenner who saw that Walker was much more than just lucky, he suggested Budd Friedman give him a break, and Walker quickly took over Friedman’s Improv stage as a regular. Later, all his hard work paid off and he was named “Comedian of the Decade” by Time magazine.
He’s also written books, produced record albums, appeared in films, and is still going strong — although he doesn’t much like to talk about all that.
“I would say one of the highlights of my career was working at the Apollo with such wonderful and talented people as Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Richard Pryor, just to name few,” Walker says. “I was never as big as they were or as popular, but it was a wonderful experience.
“Today,” he concludes modestly. “I would describe myself as a working road comic. That’s about the extent of my talents. But I still love it.”