Born Wayne Paul Walker, December 13, 1925, Quapaw, Oklahoma
Died January 2, 1979, Nashville, Tennessee

Wayne Walker was a prolific songwriter, with no less than 526 titles in the BMI database, 23 of which have won BMI awards. He was less successful as a singer, though he made some fine recordings, both in the rockabilly and the country field. Born in Oklahoma, Walker was raised in Kilgore, Texas, before moving to Shreveport, Louisiana. He worked as a vacuum cleaner salesman, fire escape salesman, car salesman, and roofer while getting his music career off the ground. He appeared on the Louisiana Hayride, where he met Tillman Franks and Webb Pierce and with their encouragement he was soon placing his songs with local artists. With Pierce he wrote the song "How Do You Think I Feel", which was first recorded by Red Sovine in early 1954 (Decca 29068), but the best known version is of course by Elvis Presley, on his second LP. It was on the Louisiana Hayride (KWKH Studio in Shreveport) that Wayne recorded his first single, "Now Is the Time For Love"/"You Got the Best of Me (I Got the Worst Of You)" (Chess 4860), released in October 1954. Also recorded for Chess in Shreveport (in January 1955) was "Love Me" with Jimmy Lee (Fautheree), a genuine rockabilly classic. Though written by Walker, it was credited to Stan Lewis. Unfortunately, this is the only record by the team of Fautheree and Walker, whose partnership lasted less than four months. But occasionally they would still cooperate, most notably on the song "Sweet Love On My Mind" (basically an adaptation by Wayne of Jimmy's song "Living In A Dream World"), which was first recorded by Johnny Burnette's Rock 'n' Roll Trio on July 5, 1956, and then, three weeks later, by Jimmy & Johnny (Jimmy Lee Fautheree and his younger brother Lynn).

Also in July 1956, Wayne made his second solo recording, the excellent rockabilly song "All I Can Do Is Cry" (ABC-Paramount 9735), which was also recorded by Johnny Bond (1957). He was now living in Nashville where he had signed as a songwriter with one of the major publishing houses, Cedarwood Publishing (co-owned by Jim Denny and Webb Pierce). But Wayne's career as a singer was far from over yet. In 1957 he signed a contract with Columbia Records and had at least four singles released on the label, the best of which were "Bo-Bo Ska Diddle Daddle" and "Just A Walkin' Around". This was followed by stints at Coral (1958), Brunswick (1959) and a few small labels in the 1960s.

As a songwriter, Walker had his first major hit in the autumn of 1956, with "I've Got A New Heartache", which Ray Price took to # 2 on the country charts. (Price would score another # 2 with a Wayne Walker composition in 1964 : "Burning Memories"). Wayne's biggest pop success was "Are You Sincere", a # 3 hit for Andy Williams in 1958 **. Other notable songs from Walker's vast catalogue include "Teenage Wedding" (co-written with Mel Tillis and recorded by Johnny Angel - in reality Jimmy Lee Fautheree - Faron Young and Tillis himself), "Ain't I'm A Dog" (Ronnie Self), "Cut Across Shorty" (Eddie Cochran), "Little Boy Sad" (Johnny Burnette), "The Cajun Queen" (Jimmy Dean), "Hello Out There" (Carl Belew), "Leavin' On Your Mind" (Patsy Cline), "Memory # 1" (Webb Pierce) and "All the Time" (Billboard Song of the Year Award, 1967, recorded by Jack Greene). According to William Savage's "Singing Cowboys And All That Jazz", Walker produced a song every three days. He saved none of his most commercial songs for himself, though, and never scored a hit under his own name. Perhaps one reason that he didn't make it as a singer was that he never got over having stage fright and hated travelling. Writing songs was his real passion.

Walker was married for fifteen years to Ernest Tubb's daughter, Violet (nicknamed Scooter Bill), but they divorced in 1973. He died of cancer six years later, on January 2, 1979. He had been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 1975, along with (among others) Marty Robbins and Marijohn Wilkin, with whom he wrote "Cut Across Shorty".

** In his liner notes for the Bear Family CD "That'll Flat Git It # 13", Colin Escott writes that Walker lost half of the rights to "Are You Sincere" in a poker game to Mel Tillis. He did gamble away half of the publishing (before the song became a hit), but not to Tillis, but to Lucky Moeller, a booking agent in Nashville. See the story as told by Wayne's daughter Capri at http://porterwagoner.net/forums/Porters_Message_Board/posts/20388.html

More info : http://rcs.law.emory.edu/rcs/artists/w/walk7600.htm
Acknowledgements : Colin Escott, Bill Millar, Shaun Mather, Alexander Petrauskas.


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