Thursday, July 22, 2010

Phillip Walker 1937-2010

2007 Pocono Blues -822, originally uploaded by NoVARon.
This picture from the 2007 Pocono Blues Festival was the last time I saw singer and guitarist Phillip Walker, who passed away today July 22, 2010 at the age of 73.

Delta Groove, the last label he recorded with sent out the following brief obituary:

"Born February 11, 1937 near Lake Charles, Louisiana, in the small town of Welsh, Phillip Walker's earliest musical influences came via the Cajun and Creole rhythms he heard as a youngster. A second cousin to Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and huge admirer of T-Bone Walker, Phillip began making a name for himself in the early 1950s with his first recording session backing pianist Roscoe Gordon. At the age of 16, Walker left home to tour with Zydeco king Clifton Chenier (who incidentally gave the young fledgling Walker his first bona fide guitar) and never looked back.

After relocating to Los Angeles in 1959, Walker cut his first side as a bandleader; the storming "Hello My Darling", produced by J.R. Fulbright for Elko Records. His first full length album didn't appear until much later though. With the help of long-time supporter and producer Bruce Bromberg, Walker cut the excellent LP "The Bottom of the Top" in 1973 for Hugh Hefner's short-lived Playboy label. Over the next three decades Walker's musical career continued to pick up steam with numerous recording projects for HighTone, Black Top, Rounder, JSP and Alligator Records.

In 2007, Randy Chortkoff signed Phillip Walker to Delta Groove Music and released the critically acclaimed CD "Going Back Home". The recording session featured the renowned guitarist going back to his roots and exploring the rich musical history of Louisiana, Texas and West Coast Blues on classic material by Lowell Fulson, Ray Charles, Lonesome Sundown, Lightnin' Hopkins, Champion Jack Dupree and Frankie Lee Sims among others. Going Back Home was later awarded Best Album of 2007 in the New Recordings / Contemporary Blues category by the Living Blues Awards Critics' Poll."

I (Ron) have been a fan since the Playboy Album that was produced by Bruce Bromberg. Highlight's included the rock and roll of "Hello My Darling," a down home country rendition of Lightnin' Hopkins' "Hello Central," and a terrific gritty rendition of Sam Cooke's "Laughing & Clownin'. Bromberg produced a number of his best recordings, some appearing on Rounder with "Tough As I Want to Be" being a particular favorite of mine. Bromberg also united him with swamp blues legend Lonesome Sundown for another album, "From LA to L.A." He was also part of the "Lone Star Shootout" with fellow Gulf Coast blues masters Lonnie Brooks and Long John Hunter. Walker also did a fair amount of session work for Bromberg, most notably on excellent recordings by Johnny Shines and Eddie Taylor as well as other sessions with legends like Percy Mayfield.

I was fortunate enough to have known this gentleman and true blues master whose moody, grainy performances were in the same vein as the late vocalist Al King and the great Lowell Fulson. What a fine person who should have been a household name. May his music live on forever.

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