Charlie Walker (1926-2008) was an eminently likeable pop-honkytonk singer whose career peaked in the late 1950s through the early '70s. He sang weepers and novelty songs and stuck to a pretty simple, straightforward style that was a welcome contrast to the lavish excesses of the Nashville Sound. Here's a quick look at his work...
Charlie Walker "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down" (Box Set) (Bear Family, 2000)
This 5-CD box set is intriguing for a variety of reasons... mainly because it profiles a hardcore honkytonker of years gone by who fell out of the public eye a long time ago... Walker is best remembered for two big hits, "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down", which was an irresistible late-'50s smash, and "Don't Squeeze My Charmin", a less-vigorous novelty song from 1967. This is, of course, one of those anxiety-provoking, overly-definitive Bear Family fetish items: five CDs worth of Walker's material is probably too much for practically anyone, but then again, where else are you going to find this stuff? Part of the problem is that Walker himself was so stylistically limited -- his vocal range makes Ernest Tubb seem like Pavarotti, and even during his early-'60s aesthetic prime, most of Walker's records sounded a lot alike. Still, when he hit his mark, he was awesome, and some of his best songs, such as 1964's "Last Call For Alcohol" never made it onto the now-scarce best-of vinyl LPs that are the only other place you can find his music these days. There are certainly a lot of gems on this set, but again, Bear Family might do us all a big favor if, in addition to the giganto box set, they'd also put out a killer 30-song single CD collection.
Charlie Walker "Greatest Honky-Tonk Hits" (Koch/Audium, 2003)
Well, if Bear Family won't, maybe Audium will...! At last -- the first-rate, single CD best-of that Charlie Walker's work cried out for all those years! This album is really quite a gift to American honkytonk fans, bringing back some of the finest music the style had to offer in its late '50s peak... Highly, highly recommended, one of the best hard country reissues of its time. Run, don't walk, to snap this one up!
Charlie Walker "Don't Squeeze My Sharmon" (Country Harvest, 1991) (MP3)
Charlie Walker "Country Style" (Vocalion, 1968) (LP)
Much like Columbia's "Harmony" imprint, the Vocalion label was used by Decca Records as a budget-line oldies label which in the case of their country reissues often featured some real gems of early hillbilly material. That's certainly the case on this zingy set of early tracks by honkytonker Charlie Walker, who had recorded for Decca in the 1950s and was at his commercial peak -- on the competing Epic label -- when this disc came out. The guys at Decca were cashing in on the leftovers in their vaults, but the real joke is that these tracks from 1954-56 are catnip for hard country collectors. Not that Walker ever really lost his edge, but it is fun to hear him imitating Hank Williams and Kenny Roberts, chasing after a hits by sounding like the stars of an older era. Good stuff!
Charlie Walker "Greatest Hits" (Columbia, 1961)
Charlie Walker "Close All The Honky Tonks" (Epic, 1965)
Charlie Walker "Born To Lose" (Epic, 1966)
Charlie Walker "Wine, Women And Walker" (Epic, 1966)
Charlie Walker "Don't Squeeze My Sharmon" (Epic, 1967)
Charlie Walker "Greatest Hits" (Epic, 1968)
Charlie Walker "He Is My Everything" (Epic, 1969)
Charlie Walker "Recorded Live In Dallas, Texas" (Epic, 1969)
Charlie Walker "Honky Tonkin' " (Epic, 1971)
Charlie Walker "I Don't Mind Goin' Under (If It'll Get Me Over You)" (RCA Victor, 1972)
Charlie Walker "Break Out The Bottle, Bring On The Music" (RCA Victor, 1973)
Charlie Walker "Greatest Hits" (Corral, 1977)
Charlie Walker "Golden Hits" (Plantation, 1978)
Charlie Walker "Texas Gold" (Plantation, 1979)
Charlie Walker "Charlie Walker" (MCA-Dot, 1986)
Hick Music Index