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Texan Billy Walker enjoyed a long, albeit not always madly successful career when it comes to Billboard hit single but he remained a favourite of the traditionalist. After starting out in 1949 he was spotted by Hank Thompson, and by 1951 Walker was a resident of the Shreveport Louisiana Hayride. A deal with Columbia records followed, and though it took a number of years for him to hit stride the label stayed loyal, and in 1962 he repaid them big style with his one and only Country No1 “Charlie’s Shoes”. Although he did come close half-a-dozen times or more prior to his chart days waning. Like with a good few more acts, he found the 1970s a time of many changes in the country music world. Gone was the Nashville Sound as it gave way, in some quarters to a more contemporary slant as pop and rock infiltrated the music of Music city.
“Charlie's Shoes" followed a top-30 hit single of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Times Slips Away”, and though he wasn’t exactly burning it up Walker remained consistent,and though becoming a forgotten figure radio wise Stateside he did enjoy a resurgence in his career in the 1980s in the UK and Ireland. Walker was pure country, and with his amiable persona a big favourite this side of the pond. I recall him sharing the bill with fellow Grand Ole Opry stalwart Jean Sheppard and having an active UK Fan Club in operation.
Among the finest songs on offer Walker gives his interpretation of “There Stands The Glass”, a sweet duet with Jeanette Hicks “Which One Of Us Is To Blame” and with the Crickets in attendance “On My Mind Again”. Plus for those sold on old time country fiddle, “Mr. Heartache” is something you will want to play time and again! Of an upbeat uplifting feel “I Can’t Keep The Girls Away” by L.J Butler is likewise a gem.
Walker evaded death in 1963 when he gave up his plane seat for Hawshaw Hawkins (the flight Patsy Cline was on and lost her life, alongside Cowboy Copas and the above noted Hawkins) but wasn’t so lucky in 2006. For on returning from a gig in Alabama he lost control of the van he was driving, both him and his wife and a member of the band were all killed.
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