Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Brother Charlie Walker
Longtime 'Opry' member Charlie Walker dies
By PETER COOPER •
Grand Ole Opry member and famed disc jockey Charlie Walker, whose shuffling, twinkling "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down" remains a country music standard a half-century after its recording, died Sept.12 in Hendersonville. Mr. Walker was 81, and had recently been diagnosed with colon cancer.
"The Grand Ole Opry family will miss our friend and Opry member," Pete Fisher, the Opry's vice president and general manager, said in a statement. "We are truly grateful for all of the musical moments he has shared with us on the Opry stage and over the airwaves as a disc jockey."
In 1958, Mr. Walker decided to record "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down," from the pen of an aspiring songwriter named Harlan Howard who was a forklift driver at a California printing factory. The song became Mr. Walker's signature hit and it was Howard's first commercial writing success. (Howard went on to write more than 100 Top 10 country hits and to become a Country Music Hall of Famer.)
Mr. Walker, a Grand Ole Opry member since 1967, made music that was rowdy enough for barrooms and that offered humor and edge. He often worked the latest part of the show on Saturday nights, and his was a voice of honky-tonk comfort for late-night patrons and radio listeners. Music dominated his life
He was born in dusty Copeville, Texas, and began singing when he was in high school. His interest in music continued even through his years in the United States Army. In 1951, he went on the air at a country station in San Antonio, and he became one of the nation's most important country disc jockeys. He was inducted into the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 1981.
Not content merely to play the hits of others, Mr. Walker began his own career as a recording artist. "Tell Her Lies and Feed Her Candy" became a regional hit, and he made the national charts with the Decca single "Only You, Only You" before hitting big for Columbia Records with "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down."
Among Mr. Walker's most interesting records was a countrified cover of the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women." He also took advantage of a popular toilet paper commercial and recorded a song called "Don't Squeeze My Sharmon." The song wasn't a major hit, but it drew smiles.
Mr. Walker's skills extended to the movie set. He played singer Hawkshaw Hawkins in the 1980s Patsy Cline biopic, Sweet Dreams.
At the Opry, Mr. Walker sometimes carried notes to remind himself to send shout-outs to individual audience members who were visiting the program for the first time, or to those celebrating a birthday or anniversary.
Fisher said that this weekend's Opry shows would be dedicated to his memory.
Visitation for Mr. Walker was Tuesday at Hendersonville Funeral Home, Johnny Cash Parkway in Hendersonville. A Masonic service followed
His memorial service took place Wednesday at the Bluegrass Baptist Church in Hendersonville.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the Al Menah Shriners in Mr. Walker's memory.
Al Menah Shriners
P.O. Box 78545
Nashville, TN 37207
Mr. Walker is survived by his wife, Connie; his 10 children, Ronnie, Cindy, Arthur, Charlie III, Elissa, Charlene, Catherine, Christina, Carolina and Charlton; and by 15 grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and one great-grandchild.