A Biography of Charlie Walker: His Life and His Music

About the Late, Great Country Star

Charlie Walker
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Charlie Walker was born on November 2, 1926, in Copeville, Texas. He grew up on a farm and spent his days picking cotton, and he was introduced to country music and Western swing from an early age. He was making a living performing live by the time he was 17. Walker sang in honky tonks throughout Dallas, and he soon became a vocalist for Bill Boyd's Cowboy Ramblers.

He continued to perform with the Cowboy Ramblers until he enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a disc jockey for the American Forces Radio Network while he was serving in Tokyo. After serving two years, he settled in San Antonio in the early 1950s and began working as a disc jockey at KMAC, a local radio station.

Walker became one of the nation's top 10 country music disc jockeys. He received one of the highest honors from the state of Texas in 1962: Favorite Son of Texas. He stayed with the station for 10 years and built such a reputation for himself that he was inducted into the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame in 1981. 

Walker's Beginnings

Walker had been working successfully as a disc jockey for a few years, but he couldn't shake his passion for singing and he decided to pursue a music career. He signed with Imperial Records in 1952 and recorded a few singles: "I'm Looking for Another You," "Out of My Arms" and "Stay Away from My Head." None of them picked up enough traction and the label subsequently dropped him.

He signed with Decca in 1954 and produced the minor hit "Tell Her Lies and Feed Her Candy." The song was not the biggest hit of his career, but it did get him a lot of credit and was popular enough to put him on the radar. He finally achieved national recognition with the song "Only You, Only You" in 1955. 

He released a few more mediocre songs with Decca and briefly signed with Mercury in 1957, releasing "Dancing Mexican Girl" and "I'll Never Let It, Show." Then Walker departed Mercury and signed with Columbia in 1958. His first big hit came when he released "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down," penned by the then unknown Harlan Howard. Howard was a forklift operator in a California printing factory at the time. Walker's recording of his song became a smash hit, selling millions of copies, and helped launch each of their careers.

Walker's Career

Walker never achieved the same commercial success after "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down," but he didn't stop making music. He released a string of follow up singles but Columbia didn't consider him a financially viable artist. They dropped him in 1963.

He bounced back with "Close All the Honky Tonks" the following year after signing with Epic. In 1967, he released "Don't Squeeze My Sharmon," a novelty song inspired by a Charmin toilet paper commercial catch phrase. Walker was finally invited to join the Grand Ole Opry that same year. His stage presence and witty songs made him a favorite at the Opry and he spent 40 years performing there.

Walker continued to record music throughout the 1970s. His last charting single was "Odds and Ends," released by Capitol Records in 1974. He also made his first film appearance in the 1985 Patsy Cline biopic "Sweet Dreams."

His Legacy

The Grand Ole Opry and country music both lost a dear friend when Walker passed away on September 12, 2008, in Hendersonville, Tennessee. He had been diagnosed with colon cancer just a few months before. He was 81 years old.

Walker's love for country music showed whenever he took the stage. He toured every state in the U.S., as well Norway, the U.K., Japan, Italy, and Sweden. No other performer will ever be able to fill the shoes of this talented entertainer. He is one country music artist whose legend lives on.

Recommended Discography:

  • Charlie Walker - Greatest Honky Tonk Hits (1961)
  • Born to Lose (1965)

Popular Songs:

  • "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down"
  • "Don't Squeeze My Sharmon"
  • "Close All the Honky Tonks"
  • "Who Will Buy the Wine"
  • "My Shoes Keep Walkin' Back to You"