Phillip Walker
@ Orrie's, December 6, 1996
Have you ever attended a blues show and said to yourself...boy am I glad I came tonight? Well, this was one of those nights! Some blues shows are OK, some are good and a few are exceptional. Phillip Walker's show in December at Orrie's falls in that exceptional was one of those rare shows that grabs you right from the opening song and doesn't let go until you are ushered out after closing time.

Phillipe Walker
Photo © 1997 by Tom Asp
All rights reserved
Phillip Walker and the band were just finishing up Hideaway when I arrived. They followed with a rousing, dual saxophone rendition of Bill Dogget's Honky Tonk, and didn't look back the rest of the night. Got My Mojo Working was done with a jazzy, swing feel and a funky Working Girl Blues, from Phillip Walker's most recent CD by the same name followed. The 2nd and 3rd sets highlighted several more songs from his recent album and also featured Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, a song Robert Cray also had a hit with. Phillip's voice was in fine form at this point.

One of the "many" highlights of the evening was the R&B sounding Hello My Darling...a great song and even more enjoyable performed live -- this is my favorite cut from his new CD and turns out to be the first single recorded by Phillip in 1959. Then we were treated to a great solo with Phillip Walker doing some Texas country blues of Lightnin' Hopkins (one of his influences along with T. Bone Walker, Gatemouth Brown and Robert Johnson -- you will also find hints of BB King and Elmore James as well as many other guitarists in his playing). A Johnny Guitar Watson song followed and when the band launched into Linda Lu, it was the two sax players, not the lead guitar player, who took a spirited tour through the audience...they were having a great time -- just as much fun as the audience! This song rolled right into the crowd rousing The Blues is All Right followed by Stormy Monday (done with one of the best sax arrangements I have heard) and the set ended with Caledonia. After the audience wouldn't let them leave they encored with Dust My Broom. Listening to Walker's playing you could almost swear that he was using a slide just like Elmore James, rather than playing in his two finger style. This was really great blues from a truly great blues legend.

Phillip Walker's band was just like one big happy family. Drummer Johnny Tucker has been playing with Walker for 38 years! Boy was he having fun the entire night. He really got into the show, with a big smile on his face he was bobbing and weaving and swinging to the groove the whole night...what a pleasure it was to watch him much energy.

Saxophonist James Thomas has been with Walker for 15 years, plays great sax and really loosened up during the third set were he and Tucker were swinging to the same inner rhythm. Jerry Abrams, the baby of the family plays an entertaining bass and has been with the band for 4 years. He has recently also been playing with Ike Turner & Johnny Otis. Tonight we were also privileged to have a second sax player, Bobbie Lester, who is from the Twin Cities and plays on a regular basis with Ray & Glover. Bobbie and James are two fine sax players and really added a special touch to this show.

Here are some interesting sidebars about Phillip Walker. He featured the late William Clark along with Harmonica Smith on his tour to the Twin Cities in 1983. This past summer he joined long time friend Long John Hunter on stage at the Chicago Blues Festival (this was the first time they had performed on stage together since 1958). In 1953, in Port Arthur, Texas as he was walking down the road and a car pulled up and someone asked if he was that guitar player they had heard turned out to be Clifton Chenier. Walker spent the next 3 and a half years touring with Chenier.

Walker's Gibson guitar is autographed by his friend Bruce Willis. He says Willis is a very good harmonica player and has a club in Haley, ID, called The Mint. He has a small role in a recent Whoopie Goldberg film. He also performed in and wrote a song for another movie last year that has not been released yet. His first album was released in 1973 on Playboy (re issued on Hightone) called Bottom Of The Top. Other albums include: Some Day You'll Have These Blues; Live At The Pit Inn; Crawl Back To LA (with Lonesome Sundown); Tough As I Want To Be (on Rounder); Blues from 1988 (which featured his recording of Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark); Big Blues From Texas (1988 on JSP); and Working Girls Blues (1995 on Black Top).
Keep The Blues Alive!

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Copyright © 1996, 1997 by Ray M. Stiles
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