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WILLIE WALKER

Interview at Porretta Soul Festival, 2015


Willie Walker performing at Porretta Soul Festival, 2015 (Photo courtesy of Dave Thomas)

  The setting for the weekend was perfect.  It all started already on Thursday evening, and the first song was I Can’t Stand the Rain, a duet with Sabrina Kabua.  She was the backing vocalist also on an intense and hurting interpretation of Help.  The funky A Lucky Loser closed this short set on the first night.

  On Friday, the opener on the playlist was an old blues romp called I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water, which was followed by a thrilling deep soul ballad titled You Name It, I’ve Had It.  After the heartfelt and powerful A Change Is Gonna Come, the swinging Is That It? made the  audience move and clap their hands, but then it was back to a poignant downtempo song again with If Nothing Ever Changes.  After Help, as an encore we were treated to two uptempo numbers, Read between the Lines and A Lucky Loser.

  Finally on Sunday evening we could still enjoy Help – this time together with Loralee Christensen – and Read between the Lines.  In the all-star finale, a blues standard named Rock Me Baby was squeezed in.

  The paragraphs above make a short report on Willie Walker’s performances at the Porretta Soul Music Festival in late July 2015.  Willie was in Italy for the first time, and especially on Sunday he couldn’t hide his emotions while telling the audience that “this has been one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had.”

On the photo above: The Redemption Harmonizers

THE REDEMPTION HARMONIZERS

  Willie Earl Walker was born in December 1941 in Hernando, Mississippi, but the exact date is followed by a small question mark.  Willie: “My mom says it was the 21st.  I wasn’t born in the hospital, and it was documented on the 23rd.  I didn’t realise that until I moved to Minnesota and was sick in work and I had to produce a birth certificate.  I had already given my birthday as 21st, and they say ‘no, it has to be the 23rd, because that’s what it says here’” (laughing).

  Willie’s nickname ‘Wee’ came into use in the early 60s and it was later solidified by Mr. Quinton Claunch at Goldwax Records.  Neither Willie’s two sisters and three brothers, nor his parents are anyway involved in music.  “I have four children, as of now, and I have seven children, because my wife and I have children of our own.”  Willie plays a little piano, “but I’m not a good player.”

  Willie’s actual hometown is Memphis, Tennessee.  “I moved there two days after my birth.  My mom lived in Memphis.  She went down to Mississippi to see her mom and dad, and somehow I went to see them, too” (laughing).  Willie’s early musical influences include Sam Cooke, Ira Tucker of the Dixie Hummingbirds, Johnnie Taylor and Spencer Taylor of the Highway Q.C’s.

  In Memphis Willie lived in the Lemoyne Gardens projects area.  “It was fun, but it was also learning to survive.  I went back there this May.  I went to my old neighbourhood, and it wasn’t there.  Everything was changed.  It was projects, low-income families.  It was just a block away from the Booker T. Washington High School.”

  First Willie went to Porter Elementary School, then to Porter Junior High and finally to Booker T. Washington in the late 50s, together with Spencer Wiggins and Louis Williams of the Ovations, among others.  “Spencer and I were closer as friends, because we lived pretty much in the same neighbourhood.  Louis lived in Foot Homes, which was the same concept as Lemoyne Garden.  Percy (Wiggins) and Spencer, we went to school together throughout the whole thing.”

  One of Willie’s pals in high school was Roy Webb.  “With Roy we had a group.  We called it the Falcons.  We were singing doowop together.  That’s where we learned our harmonies.”  Roy was also a member of a gospel group called the Redemption Harmonizers, and Willie got involved with them as well, on and off already since 1953.  Roy’s brother Robert Webb played guitar with the group. “There were also James Mabon, Charles Winston and Izadora McGhee.  There were five of us.”  Roosevelt Jamison was also a member at one point.  “They kicked him out.  They thought he was a good singer until they incorporated us.  But he’s a great songwriter.”

  At different points, also James Carr’s and O.V. Wright’s paths crossed with the Redemption Harmonizers, but they never became the members.  In spite of their close ties with Don Robay’s Duke/Peacock family of companies, the Redemption Harmonizers have only one single listed in Gospel Discography (1943-1970), and that was on Halo Records (Halo 24) out of Chicago.  The A-side of the single is a 6/8 tempo song named Why Do Men Treat the Lord the Way They Do, written by Thomas London.  Willie’s most active period with the group fell on the late 50s, so naturally he had nothing to do with that 1967 release.

THE VAL-DONS

  The Redemption Harmonizers travelled all over the south, and on one of those travels at the turn of the 1960s Willie left the group, his link to Memphis.  “The racial tension was way too heavy.  I recognized it, I felt it and I saw an opportunity and I took it.”  Ironically, at that particular moment they were not down south but up north, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  “I stayed with one of the guys, who happened to be the father of James Mabon.  I happened to mention that I like this place enough to stay, and he said ‘well, if you wanna stay, you’re already home’.  So I made that home for about three years” (laughing). 

  Willie became a member of the Royal Jubileers, which was Clarence Mabon’s gospel group.  Besides Clarence and Willie, there were Eugene Scott, Leo Sherrel and John Louise Hall.  “The sixth member was a bass singer, but I never knew his given name.  We called him ‘Cheyenne Body’.”  They didn’t make any recordings.

  Willie’s next move in Minneapolis was to switch over to a secular group.  “I was in a laundromat doing my laundry, and a guy by the name of Timothy Eason was doing his laundry, and he just walked over and said ‘you look like you can sing, can you’?  So we started singing in the laundromat together, and he said ‘you can sing.  I’ll be right back’.  He left and came back with Jimmy Crittenden, and from there we started the group called the Val-Dons.  I stayed with them for 2 – 3 years, until I went to Memphis.  Timothy called me ‘Wee Willie’, and he called himself ‘Tiny Tim’.  I don’t know, how Quinton Claunch got a hold of that” (laughing).

  Starting from 1962, the line-up of the Val-Dons varied throughout the years but mainly included Joe Dibiaso, Timothy Eason, John Booker Arrarondo, Jimmy Crittenden, Jerry Owens and Willie Walker.  Among the musicians there were Willie Murphy on piano and guitar, Walter Smith on piano and Bill Lordan on drums. 

  Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Willie Murphy (www.williemurphy.net) is a local celebrity.  Prior to the Val-Dons, he played in an r&b group called the Versatiles, and later – after stints with the Nobles and Dave Brady and the Stars - he was best known for his band, Willie and the Bees, later also known as Willie & the Bumblebees (more about them below).  Among other things, Willie produced Bonnie Raitt’s first album in 1971.

  The Val-Dons mostly worked the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  “Through our booking agency, Dick Shapiro’s Central Booking, we played in synagogue parties, Bar Mitzvahs and dances.  Dick kept us busy.  Dick expanded and started giving us different jobs after a couple of years, but I wasn’t happy with the group itself.  They weren’t serious enough about it for me.  They were just having fun.  I enjoy fun, but I wanted things to be better than they were, so naturally I left.  Joe Dibiaso was the primary lead singer.  When he left, I did it and Timothy Eason did it.”  A native of New York, Joe Dibiaso returned to his home town. 

  The group even had hopes of recording, when it approached Mercury Records by sending demos of Willie’s and Timothy’s songs.  “Timothy and I went there personally and they signed us up... and nothing happened.  They released us.  I think during that period they were on the decline.  They weren’t as strong as they once were.  I think they had a lot of contracts lying on the table that they couldn’t honour.”

  The Val-Dons, however, survived and actually experienced a second incarnation, although Willie wasn’t involved anymore.  “The group is still going.”  Led by Clifton Curtis, in the early 70s the Valdons were performing again in Minneapolis and they were backed by a group of musicians called Navajo Train.  Their first single in 1971 – All Day Long / Love Me, Leave Me – was released on Twin City Movement.  In 1973 the group relocated to New York, changed their name to Philadelphia Story in ’74 and cut at Sigma Sound Studios one single – You Are the Song (I’ve Been Writing for All of My Life) / If You Lived Here You’d Be Home Now.  Released on Wand 11280, You Are the Song sounds remarkably like Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ If You Don’t Know Me by Now, both vocally and melody-wise.  Their follow-up – People Users / Gotta Get Back – scraped the bottom of the Billboard Hot Soul Singles charts at # 99 in early ’77 (H&L 4679).  The same year the Valdons moved to L.A., but came back to Minnesota ten years later.  Their latest single was released on Secret Stash exactly two years ago, in 2013.  A busy dancer called Stop, Wait a Minute was written by Clifton Curtis and Napoleon Crayton.  This release, however, took place almost fifty years after Willie Walker had left the group and visited Memphis again in 1965.

Quinton relaxing at home, photo courtesy of Steve and Quinton Claunch

QUINTON CLAUNCH

  A noteworthy figure in Willie Walker’s early recording career, Mr. Quinton Claunch was born in Tishomingo, Mississippi, on December the 3rd in 1921, so this December he’ll turn 94!  Quinton Claunch: “I’ve really been fortunate with my health.”  Quinton grew up in the Tishomingo area until he reached his early twenties.  “It was a real small country town, and I grew up on a farm.  I’m a country boy.  My mother and father loved the square dance.  They had a lot of square dances in that area, so they took me to every one.  I went to a corner to listen to the musicians, and I kinda got smitten.”

  Quinton learned to play guitar, and he practised that skill in various country music groups, especially after moving to Sheffield, Alabama, in the early 1940s.  “With Edgar Clayton, who was our lead singer, we got to be real good friends and we joined up, the two of us.  We played all the company functions.”  The twosome also played regularly on a local WLAY station in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. 

  “There was a group in Memphis that we loved very much, so with Edgar we went there to see the show.”  In Memphis they met a fiddle player, Bill Cantrell, who was from the same area as they were.  “After playing together, Bill decided to go back to Alabama with us.  There we formed the group, which we called the Dixie Pals, to begin with.”  The group was soon renamed the Blue Seal Pals.  When working on a 12-station network, they found a wealthy sponsor and ended up getting on WSM in Nashville.  “We got pretty popular on the radio.”

  Quinton moved to Memphis in 1948 and started working as a hardware salesman.  He and Bill had their ‘country bopper’ song, Daydreamin’, released in late 1954.  Under the name of Bud Deckelman with the Daydreamers, the single came out on Meteor 5014.  Still later in 1955 Lester Bihari released on his Meteor label singles by Barney Burcham & the Daydreamers and Jess Hooper with the Daydreamers, but they were studio musicians, not Quinton and Bill anymore.  Gene Darrell “Bud” Deckelman passed away in 1998.

  Quinton, Bill and Sam Phillips had met already earlier, but now the local success of Daydreamin’ made Sam suggest that they work with some of his artists on Sun Records.  Quinton: “I worked with Charlie Feathers, the Miller Sisters and on one of Carl Perkins’ records... and Ray Harris.  Ray introduced us to another guy, who was Jerry Lee Lewis’ cousin, Carl McVoy.  We auditioned him.  We loved him and that’s when we started Hi Records.  I went to see Joe Cuoghi, who owned a record shop, and he promised to finance a record on him.  He asked me, where I would like to record it.  I answered that for a country record we have to go to Nashville for good pickers.  So we did, put the record out and one day we got a call from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for 4,000 records.  They called back and said ‘add 4,000 to that’.  Anyway, they didn’t sell any records, but we had to pay for all those presses” (laughing).  Carl McVoy’s (1931-92) rockabilly version of You Are My Sunshine (b/w Tootsie) was released on Hi 2001 in December 1957, and re-released on Phillips International four months later. 

  The first seventeen Hi singles in the course of two years went practically without a notice. Frustrated, Quinton sold his share of Hi Records in 1959.  Besides country music, Quinton had a liking for rhythm & blues, as well.  “I heard this blues singer, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, on a jukebox in Tishomingo.  I really went for her sound, because country and blues are very closely related anyway.  I moved to Memphis, and I got into rhythm & blues.  In 1962 I started Goldwax and (in 1964) signed up O.V. Wright and James Carr.”

  Together with his partner and co-owner, a pharmacist named Rudolph Valentino Russell - nicknamed ‘Doc’ - Quinton produced some of the most treasured gems of southern soul in the 1960s.  In their roster they had, among others, James Carr, O.V. Wright, the Ovations, Spencer Wiggins, George Jackson and Dan Greer, Percy Milem, Gene “Bowlegs” Miller, Ivory Joe Hunter, Barbara Perry and Timmy Thomas.  “James Carr is a wonderful guy.  He and I were real close.” James died of lung cancer in 2001 at the age of 58.  “I also loved Spencer Wiggins.  He’s a good blues artist.  He’s great.”


Video loaded to YouTube by Barry Fowden. You can listen to his Vintage soul radio show online.

TICKET TO RIDE

  In 1965 Willie Walker made a trip from Minneapolis down to his old home town, Memphis.  Willie: “I was visiting my friends, and Roosevelt Jamison was one of my good friends.  He said ‘guess what, all your buddies are recording.  They’re recording for Goldwax.  Do you wanna go over there’?  Naturally I said yes.”

  Quinton: “Willie was living up north and he just came in to do the records.  I don’t know a lot about him.  All I know he’s a good singer and a very nice guy.  One of my friends, Roosevelt Jamison, introduced me to him.”

  In Memphis Willie stayed overnight mostly either at Roosevelt Jamison’s, or George Jackson’s place.  Willie: “George kept saying ‘I’m gonna write you a hit’.  For days and days we didn’t even discuss music, and then one morning I wake up, and he says ‘I got it’ (laughing).  It was always something nice.”  Quinton: “George Jackson was a great guy and a terrific songwriter, a wonderful person.  I did everything I could to help him.  I cut several of his songs.”

  Willie signed with Goldwax in 1965, but his first single was released only in August 1967.  Quinton: “We had a lot of people we were working with, and we had to postpone it for some reason.  I can’t recall exactly why.”  The A-side of Goldwax 329 was a funky and gritty version of Ticket to Ride.  Quinton: “I said ‘we got a lot of nerve to cover a Beatles song, but if you wanna do it, we’ll do it’.”  Willie, on the other hand, remembers that the song was given to him only in the studio.

  Produced by Claunch and Russell and cut at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios, the single was flipped with a mid-tempo, emotive number called There Goes My Used to Be.  Quinton: “Roosevelt Jamison wrote the song and he’s a friend of mine, so I did him a favour.  I liked the song well enough to cut it on him.”  Willie: “I loved There Goes My Used to Be, but in Minnesota they loved Ticket to Ride.”  O.V. Wright with the Keys had cut the song first on Goldwax 106 in 1964, and later James Carr recorded his punchy cover, which, however, wasn’t released at the time.

  Released under the name of “Wee” Willie Walker, Ticket to Ride was arranged by Al Dante out of New York.  Willie: “I definitely did like the arrangement and I liked the idea, but I didn’t think it was going to be the song that was meant to be the A-side.  I thought it was going to be the B-side, but it turned out they selected it as the A-side.”

Willie at Porretta Soul Festival, 2015 (Photo by Heikki Suosalo)

THE EXCITERS

  At that point Willie was working on the road with a group called the Exciters.  Willie: “Actually I’ve been doing things with them in ’63.”  This Minnesota group was formed in 1963 as the Gladiators in the line-up of Leroy Hawkins on guitar and later Hammond organ, Arthur Williams on guitar, Jimmy “D” Williams on bass and Herman Jones on drums.  In the latter part of the 60s, Wilbur Cole replaced Leroy and Donnell Woodson replaced Jimmy.

  James Martin, a former gospel singer in the Friendly Five and the Mighty Golden Voices, became the manager for the Exciters.  At the same time he also had his own secular group called the Amazers working the Twin Cities area.

  Later it has been alleged that the Exciters were supposed to play on Willie’s Ticket to Ride.  Willie: “No, they weren’t.  I wanted them to play on some songs that I had written.  For some reason they (Goldwax) didn’t want them on the label with me, because they figured that would cause problems with royalties – which I never got anyway – but I wanted them on the label, because I actually wanted to travel with them.  I also kind of took over the group, because James Martin, who was our manager then, was too busy with his other group (the Amazers).  Herman Jones’ dad wanted to take over the group and I didn’t think he had enough experience at what he was trying to do.  So that created some friction, and I left.  They asked me back shortly after I had done my first record.”

  The only record the Exciters managed to cut was under the name of Jackie Harris & the Exciters on Black & Proud Records 7712, as late as in 1970.  The label was co-owned by Al Perkins.  A busy, James Brown type of a funk number called Do It, To It (b/w Get Funky, Sweat a little) was re-released on Westbound 155.  Jackie Harris, a native of Chicago, Illinois, had in 1965 recorded for Chess (No Kind of Man, Chess 1946), and later he recorded also with the Champions (Work Your Flapper, B&P 7715).  At that point, in 1970, Willie Walker wasn’t involved with the Exciters anymore. 

YOU NAME IT, I´VE HAD IT

  Willie’s next two singles were again produced by Claunch and Russell and released in 1968, but not on Goldwax but on Checker this time.  Quinton: “I liked what we had, so I sent it to them to see what they thought, and they liked it well enough to put it out.”  Willie: “Goldwax was also weakening, so they leased my records to Chess/Checker, so that I could possibly get more attention.”

  This time under the name of Willie Walker, the A-side of Checker 1198 was an impressive and deep southern soul ballad called You Name It, I’ve Had It.  Willie: “I did it last night here in Porretta for the first time in years.”  Indeed, the last time Willie did it on stage was with Curt Obeda & the Butanes in 2009.  

  The song was written by Clarence Shields.  Willie: “He was there in the studio, when I did it.  That was something George Jackson was doing - help other writers to get them into a position, where they can be recognized... and have their music stolen (laughing).  These guys were hungry and needed money.  If you got 200 dollars, it’s a really good song.” 

  The flip was a snappy dancer named You’re Running Too Fast (by Claunch and Russell), not unlike Sam Cooke’s Cupid.  Willie: “Doc Russell’s an amazing man.  He was generous, helpful and very caring – about all the artists.”

WARM TO COOL TO COLD

  Willie’s third and final single in the 60s offered a piercing funk titled A Lucky Loser (Checker 1211), written by Allen Jones and Homer Banks.  This was one of those songs that James Carr also recorded but went unreleased at the time.  James’ 1967 cut was more laid-back.  Willie: “It was chosen the A-side, because it was fast.  The period that came in was all about dancing.”

  For all the deep soul fans it was the B-side that stopped us in our tracks.  Warm to Cool to Cold was composed by a famous country music writer, Gene Dobbins, and it was first released by Roy Drusky in 1966 on his Country Song Express album on Mercury, and later in the early 70s also Earl Gaines and Lois Johnson recorded it, among others.  But Willie first turned this song into an unforgettable deep soul gem, full of emotion, simply his peak recording moment in the 60s.

  Besides those six single sides, there were a few Goldwax tracks that remained in the can.  I Ain’t Gonna Cheat on You No More is an uptempo song that Sam Cooke had recorded in the early 60s and I Don’t Want to Take a Chance is a mellow mid-pacer written by George Jackson.  Both tracks are available on Goldwax Story, vol. 2 (Kent, CDKEND 225 in 2004), and they were probably cut at Fernwood Studios.  Nothing Can Separate Us is funky, whereas Lifetime of a Man – also cut by Stacy Lane and James Carr, shelved again – is a touching, country-tinged deepie by William Cantrell and Quinton Claunch.

  Willie: “All the rest of those songs, except those six sides, were done exclusively with George Jackson.  I don’t remember where those were cut at.  He took me to different places, and I’m glad that he did.”  After those three singles, there were no more releases on Goldwax from Willie.  Quinton: “He wasn’t selling records.  They were good, but they just didn’t sell.”

  There was also a rumour about Curtis Mayfield wanting to sign Willie Walker and record him on his Curtom label, but Quinton was asking too much for the contract.  Quinton: “That is absolutely untrue.  I never talked to Mayfield, and he didn’t make me offers.  I wouldn’t have held Willie back.”  The rumour may derive from the fact that neither Willie, nor the Exciters, but the group James Martin was mainly managing at that time, the Amazers, jumped on an opportunity and recorded a sweet and powerful ballad named It’s You for Me (written by Napoleon Crayton and b/w Without a Warning) on Thomas Records (1638) out of Chicago in 1968.  And this particular single was in fact produced by Curtis Mayfield.  Actually it was a re-recording of their churchier version of the same song four years earlier on Bangar 00639.  Willie: “I wasn’t a part of that.  The Exciters was my group.”

Q'man & James Carr signing the contract with SOULTRAX Record Label 1999

SOULTRAX

  Goldwax ceased its operations in 1969.  Quinton: “Bell Records was distributing our label and it ran out.  Also I had a partner I couldn’t put up with, so I left.”  At that point Goldwax wasn’t sold to anybody.  Quinton: “I didn’t sell it then.  It was later on, late 90s.  I sold all the master tapes and everything to Ace Records in London.”

  In 1982 Quinton and Bill Cantrell produced Al Green’s gospel album, Precious Lord (on Myrrh 6702).  Bill was the same fiddle player - and later a member of the Blue Seal Pals - that Quinton had met in Memphis in the 40s. 

  In 1982 Quinton also produced Willie Hightower in Memphis, but those twelve tracks became available only in 2007 on a Japanese P-Vine collection called Quinton Claunch’s Hidden Soul Treasures (PCD25052).  The other artists on this 19-track CD are Jerry L, Ollie Nightingale and Joe L. Thomas.  Just recently, this October, Willie Hightower performed at the Ponderosa Stomp Festival in New Orleans.

  The same year, in 1982, Quinton and Johnny Nash created music together.  Quinton: “One day in 1982 Johnny Nash was at Al Green’s studio and found out that I had done an Al Green album.  He called and said ‘I’d like to do a country album’.  He came from Houston, Texas, to my office twice to pick up the songs.  I took him over to Nashville to use the best musicians available over there to cut that album.  Johnny said that he would pay for the session, so that was real good news.  We cut that album, and he was tied up with the Columbia Records at that time.  He wanted 75,000 bucks front money on the album and I wouldn’t pay it.  He still has the masters in Houston.  Every time I’m in Nashville, they ask ‘what happened to that Johnny Nash album’?”

  In 1990 Goldwax was re-launched by Elliott Clark, first in co-operation with Quinton.  Quinton: “He was a bogus guy.  I worked with him for three months and I saw what he was, so I walked out of there, too.  He didn’t buy the old Goldwax catalogue.  He did some things unlawful.  He released some masters that he shouldn’t have done.” 

  Produced by Quinton and Roosevelt Jamison, in 1991 they released James Carr’s comeback album, Take Me to the Limit (Goldwax 1991).  Quinton: “I hadn’t seen James Carr in a while, and I got to thinking.  I ran him down and asked him how he’d like to do another album.  He said ‘let’s try it’.  I brought him into a little studio down in Iuka, Mississippi.  It wasn’t a first-class studio – substandard quality, really.  Anyway, I put out an album on him.  It didn’t do that well, and he had some mental problems.”

  James’ next album, Soul Survivor, was released in 1994, but now on Quinton’s own, newly founded label, SoulTrax.  Until 2001 Quinton released as many as ten CD albums on SoulTrax by such artists as Toni Green (Mixed Emotions in 1998), the Jubilee Hummingbirds featuring James Carr (Guilty of Serving God in 1994) and Vernis Rucker (Stranger in the Sheets in 1994).  Quinton: “Vernis was part of the Ace deal.  They took her but they couldn’t do anything with her.  She was a fantastic artist.”    Jerry L’s Last Word in Lonesome was the last CD in 2001.  Quinton: “He’s a super guy, but his records didn’t sell.  But he’s a real nice guy.”

  Quinton put SoulTrax on a hold, but in 2013 he revived it.  Quinton: “I had gotten tired and everything and I was just pushing my SoulTrax company.  Then I ran into this guy, Alonzo Pennington (on the pic right).  One of my friends in Kentucky called me and said ‘I heard a guy in a club last night that you really ought to listen to.  He’s great’.  I said ‘tell him to send me a tape to let me hear his voice’.  I got a band together and did this album with him, Born with Nothing.”  The CD was released in June 2014, and it was followed by Deep-Down this year (http://www.soulexpress.net/deep5_2015.htm#alonzopennington).  “He’s a great entertainer.  He’s going to be real good at blues.  That’s where his forte lies.” 

  Quinton: “Rhythm & blues is going downhill slide over here.  It’s hard to get radio stations to play like they used to.  You don’t have any full-time blues stations anymore.  Blues doesn’t get enough exposure.  There’s a market for it, but you don’t get airplay.”

  “I love B.B. King.  He was going to record one of my songs, but he died before he got to do it.  I’m going to do that on Alonzo – ‘you call yourself slick, but you can stand another greasin’.  I wrote that.”

Heikki and Willie, photo by Juhani Laikkoja

THE OTHER WILLIE WALKERS

  There has been some confusion caused by other singers that also recorded under the name of Willie Walker in the 70s.  One with a lighter voice has a 1972 single on the Atlanta-based Eutor Records, You Didn’t Know Me / Tell Me Baby, It’s Gonna Be Alright http://www.sirshambling.com/artists_2012/W/willie_walker_eutor/index.php.

  More gruff-voiced Willie Walker recorded for Willie Mitchell.  In a group called T-99 he was the lead singer on a fine deep soul ballad named Sweetness Ain’t Sweet No More (Hi 2213, in 1972, b/w We’ve Got Everything).  Three years later he appeared on Pawn, a subsidiary of Hi (I Love Her / Sweet Thing, Pawn 3809), and after three years he was back on Hi again (Reaching for the Real Thing / Love Makes the World Go Round).  According to Martin Goggin, in early 2000s this Willie was a minister in the Memphis area.

  He’s also believed to be the vocalist on some George Jackson produced demos for the Sounds of Memphis label (If You Never See Me, Run Around, Two Paces ahead of Love and You’re Gonna Miss Me Baby).  Willie: “I remember all those songs, but I had nothing to do with them.”

  Although these days Willie is a full-time entertainer, still in the 60s and 70s music wasn’t enough to support him.  “I worked in corrugated box manufacturing.  I worked with them from ’63 till ’78.”


Pure Dynamite: (L to R) Mark Parker, Jody Johnson, Alfred Johnson, Willie Walker, George Neal, Andre Broadnax and Wilbur Nichols

WILLIE AND THE BUMBLEBEES

  Willie Murphy of the Val-Dons fame formed Willie and the Bumblebees in 1970, and a year later their line-up included Willie himself on bass, Russ Hagen on guitar, Stephen Bradley on drums, John Beach on keyboards and a 3-piece horn section.

  Willie Walker joined them in 1971, because Willie Murphy didn’t want to be the only vocalist in the group.  Willie: “It was easy with them.  The guys were great players and we rehearsed a lot.  I was the only one that didn’t do any drugs, and they were always way out there.  Certain guys didn’t seem to remember what we worked on in rehearsals the day before and - after spinning the whole day, working on it - they came back and we had to start all over again.  We did a number of benefits.  We didn’t get any money, and I was like ‘hey, I don’t mind doing benefits to help out, but when am I going to benefit me’?” (laughing).  The Bumblebees was a mixed band.  “The drummer was black, and me.  I worked with them on and off for a couple of years.”

  Along with a joint album with “Spider” John Koerner entitled Music Is Just a Bunch of Notes in 1972, the Bumblebees released still at least two albums - Honey from the Bee on Sweet Jane Ltd (SJL 4107) in 1978 and Out of the Woods on Sound 80 (S80-DLR-107) in 1980, but Willie Walker wasn’t on any of these anymore.


The Bound Band, L to R: Assa Birch, James Harry, Richard "Dicky" Lowe, Willie Beamen, Willie Walker, Wilbur Cole

THE BOUND BAND

  A former member of the Exciters, Wilbur Kenneth Cole, had formed the Bound Band in the latter part of the 70s.  “It was a great group, although we didn’t have the technology for sound, and it was way too loud.  Nobody could hear what I was doing.  It was on and off for twenty years plus with that group.  The members are still around, but the name is not still around.  Actually the group that I have now is a branch from the old Bound Band.  I changed the name, because I want to get away from that ‘bound’.  I now call the group We “R”.

  “Salt, Pepper and Spice came after that, a bunch of musicians that I knew well.  I became a part of the new project that they were putting together, but they didn’t have any idea of the direction where they wanted to go.  I named the group, because there was nine of us – three white, 3 Hispanic, 3 black; that’s how I came up with the concept ‘Salt, Pepper and Spice’ (laughing).  They didn’t have any idea about where they would gonna get work.  I turned to Dick Shapiro, who was doing well with his Central Booking Agency, because I was a part of his beginning.  I called him up and he said ‘I can give you jobs’.  ‘But you need to hear the group’.  ‘No, I know you’.  So he started booking us, and consequently I became the leader of the band.”

  Along with Mark Parker, Jodi Johnson and George Neal, Willie next worked with Pure Dynamite and Solid on Down.  “That was my group after Salt, Pepper and Spice.  Pure Dynamite and Solid on Down are the same group.  Pure Dynamite played in 1979, and I changed the name to Solid on Down in the early 80s.”  Willie, however, never played in a group called the Esquires, as stated elsewhere. 

  Willie: “I was on a hiatus in 1981-1987.  There wasn’t any group willing to invest needed time.  Generally, though, all the musicians I have worked with in the past have left positive impact in my life.”  In the 80s, as well as still in the 90s, Willie worked as a health care provider at New Harmony Health Care.


Canoise, 1996: L to R Pat Curto, Larry Seisse, Willie Walker, Neil Dunning, Robert Coates

CANOISE

  A Minneapolis pop-rock group called Canoise was formed in 1965 and the first incarnation lasted till 1974.  During that period they recorded four singles: Something I Could Do in 1966 on IGL, Oh No, Not My Baby on Sonic in 1967, You’re No Good on Sonic in 1968 and Look Inside on Trim in 1971.  Every now and then they were known alternatively also as Zarathustra. 

  Canoise had a reunion in 1981 in the line-up of Bob Coates, Pat Curto, Neal Dunning and Larry Suess, and in the 90s they had as many as three CDs released: Now and Then (in ’93), Plugged in (’95) and The True Story (’97).  In 2005 they were inducted into the Minnesota Rock Country Hall of Fame, and more grandiosely into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

  Willie joined the group in the 90s.  “That’s the group that kind of resurrected me, got me out of the retirement.  I’d gotten sick of musicians, period!  Nobody wanted to put the work in.  Canoise, they were great musicians and it was enough to keep me interested.  They would do weddings and private jobs frequently.”  Willie wasn’t singing on any of their records, but “all of them was on my very first CD.”

  “From that, some of the same guys wanted to form the group Where’s Willie.  People were always asking ‘where was I’, so they put together a group Where’s Willie in the 90s, but it didn’t work.”

Willie and Curt Obeda, photo courtesy of Doug Knutsen, photo-illustration by Dan Miggler

THE BUTANES

  Curt Obeda, the leader of the Butanes (www.thebutanes.com), and Willie Walker had actually met already in the 1970s, but they played together for the first time only in 1987.  Willie: “We’ve known each other for a number of years.”  Curt Obeda: “When I first asked the other musicians about Willie, I was told ‘that’s Willie Walker... he’s a great ballad singer’.  Apparently what he had didn’t interest the ‘blues’ guys much.  I began actively booking gigs with Willie and the Butanes in 2002.”


L to R: Steve Fazion, Sue Newton, Robert Coates, Willie Walker, Pat Curto and Larry Wiegand

    On the Butanes website, Curt tells an interesting story about Willie working together on stage with Little Johnny Taylor in the late 80s, backed by the Butanes Soul Revue.  Willie: “That was an interesting night.  Little Johnny Taylor was having a good time, as we all were.  When singing together on stage, he thought he was going to push me out of the way, but I took the song a few levels beyond where he wanted.  It did work against him, because he finally looked around at me and said ‘bye’ and left the stage” (laughing).  Curt: “LJT had too much to drink and sang Part Time Love three times on the first set.  Willie was at the club and we asked him, if he could sing a couple of songs with us to help out.  Willie sang a final song and the Butanes stayed on stage and called a few other musicians up before calling LJT for a few songs – including Part Time Love – to finish the night.” 


L to R, Robert Coates, Willie Walker, Bruce Pedalty, Larry Hoffman, Unknown, Unknown

THE FIRST ALBUM

  Willie’s first record since 1968 came out on Curt Obeda’s Haute Records in 2002.  The self-titled Willie Walker CD (Haute 1108) includes material both from the late 80s, and the 90s with Canoise.  Willie: “It was a project that I was trying to do on my own - and with Robert Coates, who was a member of Canoise.  During the bad times, when I was out of work and didn’t have insurance, Bob Coates just happened to be the doctor (laughing).  He was kind of looking out for me.  I mentioned to him that I was trying to get this CD done.  I realised I was in over my head financially, and he said ’can I help you here’?  I said ‘that’s what I’m getting to’ (laughing).  I just put in what I had, and he just took over the project and finished it for me.” 

  From those days, Willie also fondly remembers Doug Knutson, a photographer.  Curt: “I introduced Doug to Willie at a Famous Dave’s show in either late 2002 or 2003.  Doug is an accomplished photographer and shot us for all three of the Butanes CDs with Willie, as well as our most recent disc.”

  Curt: “Willie’s CD was released without a label and I allowed him to use my vendor number to sell the CD at a local record store.  They didn’t sell many CDs, but I recall I collected the payments before turning the money over to Bob Coates.”

  With real live players backing, the music varies from blues and soul to standards, even pop.  Willie: “There was only one original song, If Nothing Ever Changes, which is the title track of my new CD (in 2015).  That was written by the keyboard player, Bruce Pedalty.”

  On the blues side, there are Robert Cray’s Bad Influence, Willie Dixon’s Spoonful, the fast and swinging I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water (Eddie Miller, for one) and two songs interpreted by Johnny Adams, Body and Fender Man and One Foot in the Blues

  Familiar soul hits include the Spinners’ I’ll Be Around, Ann PeeblesFeel like Breaking up Somebody’s Home, Marvin Gaye’s and Tammi Terrell’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – here Willie does a duet with Sue Newton Gladys Knight & the PipsNeither One of Us, Billy Ocean’s Caribbean Queen and Harold Melvin & the Blue NotesIf You Don’t Know Me By NowYou Send Me & For Sentimental Reasons and Since I Fell for You can be counted as standards, whereas the Eagles’ I Can’t Tell You Why is pure pop.

  Curt Obeda: “I had no input into what songs were recorded, the musicians or the mix.  I believe my guitar overdubs to be the final recording done prior to mixing.  Willie asked me to finish the last three songs, so I drove over to the studio a few days later and cut the stuff.  I made one take through each of the songs and they told me they were done.  I hadn’t even got the headphone mix to my satisfaction and they were calling the session complete.”  Those three songs overdubbed with Curt in a studio owned by “Johnny O” were Breaking up Somebody’s Home, Body and Fender Man and I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water

RIGHT WHERE I BELONG

  Curt: “As I left, Willie told me he owed me a favour, as I did the session for free, and a few months later I had him come over to my house and sing on some demos of mine.  I have set up the recording equipment in my house, and record and mix in my living room and dining room.” 

  Colin Dilnot is an U.K. entrepreneur and a big fan of soul music, and in 2003 he started searching for Willie.  Willie owes him a lot for the release of his second CD, Right Where I Belong (One on One 761955/Haute; in 2004), which is a masterpiece with powerful singing, Curt’s impressive songs and the Butanes’ professional playing.

  Curt: “A few months after those demos, Colin Dilnot was in touch with me through the Yahoo Southern Soul group asking about Willie.  I sent him the demos and he said he was interested in shopping them around for us.  I think we were all frustrated, when people Colin thought of as friends didn’t even give the stuff a listen, or put off telling us yes or no – always a delay – so he put together a label to release our recordings in Europe (One on One).  Once Colin sent an advance, I put together the sessions and Right Where I Belong was released.  Without Colin’s guidance and financial support we would have never recorded or released the CD.”

  Curt Obeda and the Butanes are backing Willie up on fourteen new songs.  Initially they planned to use also some covers or new songs from George Jackson and Willie’s former brother-in-law, Eugene Williams, and others, but - since nobody provided any - they ended up using Curt’s songs. 

  Curt: “We already had a number of demos done, before I was contacted by Colin.  Later on Colin arranged with his friend Jaap Hindriks for the Butanes to back Willie Walker and Laura Lee in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and still later in Japan P-Vine Records licensed Memphisapolis and they contacted me to perform a handful of shows with Willie, arranged through P-Vine.  They also recorded us for a potential live CD.  I have never heard the recordings and I doubt it will ever be released.”  Curt and the Butanes with Willie also visited the Lucerne Blues Festival in Switzerland, mostly because one of the organizers liked the song Cry, Cry, Cry on the Memphisapolis CD.

  You can read more about the making of Right Where I Belong CD and Willie’s own comments on it at http://www.soulexpress.net/williewalker.htm

  Willie’s third CD, Memphisapolis (Haute 1110), was released in June 2006.  Again with Curt and the Butanes, it is equally as impressive as its predecessor and it was created with the same roots-digging concept. As before, all thirteen new songs were written, produced and arranged by Curtis Obeda.  Willie talks about this CD at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep206.htm#williewalker.

HOOCHIN WITH LARRY

  In June 2008, a 9-track CD entitled Hoochin with Larry was released on Semaj Music STP (199713) out of Saint Paul, Minnesota.  Semaj Music was founded the first of 2006 to work in the fields of r&b, pop, rap, reggae, hip-hop, urban and relaxing - “helping artists to achieve their social media goal with the power of sharing.”  The man behind Semaj and also a producer is a man by the name of Al Demmings.  Willie: “These days I hear from Al once in a great while, not very often.”

  Willie: “I have a friend, who used to live in Minnesota but lives now in Baton Rouge.  He’s a magnificent bass player and a damn good songwriter as well.  His name is Johnny B. Willis. He had written these songs and he came to Minnesota from Baton Rouge.  He knocked on my door and said ‘I want you to sing these songs for me’.  And so I did.  I thought his intention was to find somebody that was established on a label to do it.  I would have preferred to do some of it over.  I thought we were just making a demo, but he decided he liked it the way it was and asked me, if it was alright to release it on me, and I said ‘fine, go ahead and do it’.  There were no live musicians on there.”

  Hoochin is a nice CD with southern soul type of laid-back music.  On the opener, a groovy mid-tempo dancer called My Type, programmed horns is the most irritating element, as well as on some other tracks, too.  The other five mid-tempo movers are all easy and likeable.  First there’s a toe-tapper called You’ve Been LyinHard Working Woman bears a resemblance to the Johnnie Taylor sound, while Lost a Good Thang is a quite catchy, swaying number.  Trouble has Latin elements to it and the concluding track is a floater named That’s the Way (to Treat a Woman).

  All three ballads – Hoochin with Larry, Home Alone and Life Time of Pain – are touching, each in its own way, and if you’re only able to distance yourself from hearing the programming you’re bound to enjoy memorable melodies and Willie’s soulful singing.

LONG TIME THING

  For his next CD, Long Time Thing (Haute 1111; in 2011), Willie collaborated with the Butanes for the third time.  This time the music is leaning more heavily on bluesoul á la Bobby Bland and swinging rhythm & blues á la Ray Charles .  You can read more about the CD at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep2_2011.htm#butanes.  Curt still adds that five of the sixteen originals feature Michael B. Nelson’s big band arrangements and ten horns.

  Curt: “Long Time Thing was actually scheduled to be released after our return from Japan in time for Christmas, but Hoochin with Larry came out in June, so I sat on the recording, until a few people bugged me enough to finally put it out” (in 2011). 

  Curt: “The Butanes released a CD of Louisiana style music that I sing on 18 months ago, Upper Bayou.  I’m also considering a new CD for our 10-piece band, The Butanes Soul Revue, that is really the band that backed Willie on the CDs, but has a different singer.  The Butanes play every Thursday at a club in Minneapolis and when Willie is in town he sings with an acoustic guitar earlier.  While we occasionally see him leaving as we’re arriving, he infrequently stays long enough to sing with us.”

Willie Walker, Willie West & Paul Metsa - Backstage at Music Box Theatre 9-16-2010

LIVE ON HIGHWAY 55

  Paul Metsa (www.paulmetsa.com) is a renowned singer, songwriter, guitarist, storyteller and a bandleader in Minneapolis, where he has lived since 1978.  He was born on the Iron Range in the northeastern section of Minnesota.  Paul Metsa: “My great grandfather, John Metsa, was from Ylitornio, Finland.  Besides soul and blues, I also am most known over here for writing original stuff for variety of styles.”  The Finnish word ‘metsa’ means ‘forest.’


Paul and Willie, photo by Howard Christopherson

  Paul’s first Minneapolis band was Cats under the Stars, after which he kicked off his solo career in 1984 with the Paper Tigers album.  He has received seven Minnesota Music Awards, and in 2011 he published an autobiography called Blue Guitar Highway (www.blueguitarhighway.com), which was later turned into a musical.  So far he has released five solo CDs and two with Sonny Earl.  One of those joint CDs, No Money Down (MFC 1033), includes as a bonus a 10-minute DVD with two of Paul’s songs, the title tune and Whiskey or the Rain.  Paul is on guitar and vocals, and Sonny on harmonica and vocals.

  Especially Paul’s songwriting is widely acclaimed – he’s even being called “a poetic protest singer” – and one of his most memorable recent songs is Jack Ruby, a captivating folk song with thought-provoking lyrics.  The best way to get acquainted with Paul’s music is his 17-track CD entitled Blues, Ballads & Broadsides – “studio and live recordings 1982-2012” (MaximumFolk.com, MFC 1034; 2012).  Jack Ruby is included.

  Paul has in the can a live CD that he produced called Paul Metsa Gives you the Willies, with Willie Walker and Willie West.  Paul: “It hasn’t been pressed yet.  That show was taped four years ago in the Music Box Theater in Minneapolis.”  Incidentally, a year ago Willie West’s latest album, Lost Soul (TRCD008), was released on Timmion Records out of Finland - https://youtu.be/mZg5LJhH0Nk.

  In 2013 Paul Metsa and Willie Walker recorded a joint CD, Live on Highway 55 (Maximum Folk.com, MFC 1035; www.paulandwillie.com).  Again there are familiar tunes from the blues and country world - I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water, Goodtime Charlie’s Got the Blues, House of the Rising Sun.  Majority of the program is covers of often-recorded soul hits - Ain’t No Sunshine, My Girl, Blowin’ in the Wind, Bring It on Home, When a Man Loves a Woman, A Change Is Gonna Come - and the rest belong to the bag of Americana songbook: Blowin’ in the Wind, Fever, Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out and What a Wonderful World

  Willie: “I enjoyed it.  It was just the two of us.  It was a birthday party and we thought just to record it live and see how it comes out.  It’s just two musicians, or... one musician and one singer (laughing).  That’s the CD we carry around with us to sell.”  Recorded at Clarity A/V Event Center in April 2013, the atmosphere is warm and intimate, even laid-back, and the music reminds you of many recent ‘unplugged’ albums.  Paul: “With Willie we still play weekly.”

  In October 2013 Willie Walker was inducted into the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame.  Willie: “It was very special.  Nice people came up with that.  I sang there, too.”

  As you’ve probably noticed from above, Willie has worked with many bands during his career, and one of the more recent ones is Igor Prado Band (http://igorpradoband.com).  Willie: “I’ve done two tours in South America with Igor and his group.  They’re two of the best times I’ve had in my life.  I’m looking forward to going back.” 

  Willie’s main band today, however, is We “R”.  Willie: Actually four years ago I renamed the band.  That’s when I was leaving the name ‘Bound’ behind.”  The current members are Ron Maye (drums, lead vocals, back-up vocals), Steve Jones (keyboards, trumpet, back-up vocals), Jesse Mueller (keyboards), Johnny Timm (bass guitar), Scott Ives (lead guitar) and Michael Johnson (sax).  They come from Minnesota, Chicago, Memphis and even Jamaica.


IF NOTHING EVER CHANGES

  This year Willie came up with an impressive new album, which made many a southern and deep soul fan still believe in the survival of uncompromised, emotional and simply soulful music.  Produced by Rick Estrin of the Nightcats fame and Christoffer “Kid” Andersen and recorded at Kid’s Greaseland Studios in California, for the release of If Nothing Ever Changes (LVF 1004) and other similar ventures, Jim Pugh created a new label, www.LittleVillageFoundation.com.  Besides Jim on piano and organ, Kid on guitars and Rick on harmonica, there are six other rhythm section musicians, eight horn players, four background vocalists and a 3-piece string section – on one track only.  Also some other players make a visit only on certain tracks.  But the sound is full and authentic.

  Willie: “We were together with Rick on a cruise.  Rick was featured on the cruise, and I was supposed to be a passenger.  I was sitting in with them.  Somewhere midway in the cruise, Rick and Kid Andersen approached me and said ‘would you come to California and record with us?’ and naturally I said ‘yes’.  And that’s what we did, in March, a year and a half ago.  We didn’t have any idea, how we’re going to release it, and Jim Pugh had this thing with an organization that was trying to come together called Little Village Foundation.”  Under that banner the CDs were pressed and all the artwork done.  In the first place, a mutual friend by the name of Julia Schroeder introduced Willie to Rick Estrin.

  The opening track on the album represents punchy and gritty Miami-based funk, as Willie covers Willie Clark’s and Clarence Reid’s driving and horn-heavy Read Between the Lines, which Michael Burks also recorded three years earlier, just before he passed away... and on the advice of Rick Estrin.

  Next we have a great and almost painfully slow version of Help, a Beatles song and here a duet between Willie and Curtis Salgado.  Tina Turner used to sing this song in the same slowed-down style on stage in the 80s, and she also cut it for her Private Dancer album in 1984, but on the record it didn’t come off as well as expected.  Willie succeeds much better with his passionate reading.  “I love the way we did it.  It’s my favourite on the CD.  Rick Estrin actually chose all the songs, except for one – the title song.  That was a Bruce Pedalty song.” Willie released his first version of If Nothing Ever Changes on his debut CD in 2002, and here Willie’s slow and bluesy interpretation sounds like something that Bobby Bland might have done.

  From Eddie Hinton’s songbook they have chosen a fast stomper called Everybody Meets Mr Blue and a rolling and melodic toe-tapper named Hymn for Lonely Hearts.  “Actually I had never heard of Eddie Hinton until we were recording.”  Mr. Blue is musically influenced by Otis Redding and Eddie did it first on his Letters from Mississippi album in 1986, whereas Hymn derives from the Dear Y’all CD in 2000.


Willie Walker at Porretta Soul Festival, 2015 (Photo courtesy of Dave Thomas)

NOT THAT I CARE

  After an intense bluesoul reading of Bobby Rush’s I’ve Been Watching You - which first appeared on the Moving South album by Southside Movement in 1975 - we can enjoy another ballad gem.  Cindy Walker’s poignant and melodic country-soul song titled Not That I Care is as touching as it gets.  “I listened to a Willie Nelson version, before we recorded it.”  Wilburn Brothers recorded the song already in 1963 on Decca, and Willie Nelson’s version derives from 2006. 

  Is That It? is – surprise, surprise! – a swinging jazz number.  “Rick Estrin wrote that, and he did the arrangement.”  The second song Rick wrote and arranged is a pretty soul ballad called What Love Can Do, with a full orchestration.  Rick also co-wrote with Kid an uptempo jump number called Hands of Time, which may bring Hi-Heel Sneakers to your mind.

  I Don’t Remember Loving You is another delightful country-soul ballad, sweetened with strings and background vocals.  “That is a beautiful song.”  Written by Harlan Howard and Bobby Braddock, the song was first cut by a country artist John Conlee in 1982, and later in the soul genre we remember fine versions by J. Blackfoot and Walter Jackson.  Finally, there’s Calvin Arnold’s song Funky Way, which he himself recorded for Venture in 1967.

  Willie’s own favourites on the CD are Help!, If Nothing Ever Changes and I Don’t Remember Loving You.  “The CD is a little deep.  You got to really think about what you’re listening to.”  Indeed, this deep and soulful CD requires your concentration, as well as attention from as many true soul fans as possible, because it simply is one of the best releases in 2015.

  “When I’m around in Minneapolis, I perform at the Minnesota Music Cafe every second Sunday, which is enough for me.  I don’t want to sing too much in the same place.  And I play at a place called Crooners.  They’re both really comfortable places.  Between that and what Paul Metsa and I do together, I have a pretty nice busy week.”  Willie also keeps performing abroad.  Only recently, in mid-November, he was one of the star performers at the Lucerne Blues Festival in Switzerland.  But first and foremost, do yourself a favour and get absorbed in the sounds of If Nothing Ever Changes.

WILLIE WALKER DISCOGRAPHY

SINGLES

(label # / titles / year)

Goldwax 329) Ticket To Ride / There Goes My Used To Be (1967)

Checker 1198) You Name It, I’ve Had It / You’re Running Too Fast (1968)

Checker 1211) A Lucky Loser / Warm To Cool To Cold (1968)

ALBUMS/CDs

(title / label # / year)

WILLIE WALKER (Haute 1108) 2002

Bad Influence / Body And Fender Man / One Foot In The Blues / Spoonful / I’ll Be Around / I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water / You Send Me (& For Sentimental Reasons) / Feel Like Breaking Up / Since I Fell For You / I Can’t Tell You Why / If Nothing Ever Changes / Ain’t No Mountain High Enough / Neither One Of Us / Caribbean Queen / If You Don’t Know Me By Now

WILLIE WALKER AND THE BUTANES: RIGHT WHERE I BELONG (One on One 761955) 2004

I Don’t Mind At All/ (We Gotta) Put Out the Fire) / Careless / No Longer For Me / Right Where I Belong / Give As Good As You Get / Sometimes Love’s Not Enough / I Don’t Know If I Can Make It Through / Change / Crying To Do / I Understand / Down For The Count / Ain’t It Funny / I Feel It

WILLIE WALKER AND THE BUTANES: MEMPHISAPOLIS (Haute 1110) 2006

What’s It Take? / I Won’t Be Lonely / Sweet (The Yeah, Yeah Song) / The Dream For Me / My Baby Drives Me Crazy / Real Love / The Last Time / Exactly Like Me / Just Wait Til I Get Home / Cry, Cry, Cry / Opposites Attract / I’ll Get To You / Thanks For Being There

HOOCHIN WITH LARRY (Semaj Music STP 199713) 2008

My Type / You’ve Been Lyin / Hoochin With Larry / Home Alone / Hard Working Woman / Lost A Good Thang / Life Time Of Pain / Trouble / That’s The Way (To Treat A Woman)

THE BUTANES FEATURING WILLIE WALKER: LONG TIME THING (Haute 1111) 2011

Long Time Thing / It Ain’t Your Ladder / Let’s Fall In Love / How Long You Think You Got? / You’ve Never Had A Love Like Mine / Drift To Sleep / Do It Yourself / I Just Don’t Believe / I Want To Be The One / Dirty Deeds / If You Expect To See Another Day / I’m OK / A Little Piece Of Mind / She Lifts Me/ Betrayed / Crawl Inside A Bottle

PAUL METSA & WILLIE WALKER: LIVE ON HIGHWAY 55 (MaximumFolk.com, MFC1035) 2013

I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water / Ain’t No Sunshine / My Girl / Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues / House Of The Rising Sun / Blowin’ In The Wind / Bring It On Home / When A Man Loves A Woman / Fever / A Change Is Gonna Come / Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out / What A Wonderful World

WEE WILLIE WALKER: IF NOTHING EVER CHANGES (Little Village Foundation, LVF 1004) 2015

Read Between The Lines / Help! / Everybody Meets Mr Blue / I’ve Been Watching You / Not That I Care / Is That It? / I Don’t remember Loving You / Funky Way / What Love Can Do / Hands Of Time / If Nothing Ever Changes / Hymn For Lonely Hearts

(http://www.weewilliewalker.com; Interviews conducted on July the 25th, November the 1st and 8th;

Acknowledgements to Willie Walker, Quinton Claunch, Curt Obeda, Paul Metsa; Graziano Uliani, Dave Thomas, Juhani Laikkoja; Colin Dilnot, David Cole, Debbie Dixon, Julia Schroeder, Will Gilbert, Eric Foss, Danny Sigelman, Mike Elias, John Ridley, Hitoshi Takasawa and Martin Goggin)

© Heikki Suosalo





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