Thursday, May 21, 2015

Remembering Billy Walker

It's hard to believe that it has been that long ago, but it was on May 21, 2006 that Billy Walker, his wife Bettie, bass player Charlie Lilly and guitarist Danny Patten died in a car accident on their way back from a show in Alabama. Billy joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1960 and was nicknamed "The Tall Texan."

During his career that lasted more than 60 years, he had over 30 songs on the country charts. It's hard to believe but his only #1 was "Charlie's Shoes" in 1962. "Funny How Time Slips Away", which is often associated with Billy didn't even make it into the top 20. "Cross the Brazos at Waco" another classic made it to #2.

In addition to his recording, he also hosted an early country syndicated country music show on television, "Country Carnival." Once in a while, RFD-TV will show it in rotation with episodes hosted by Del Reeves.

I always thought Billy did a great job while at the Opry but like many other veterans, he saw his appearances cut back over his final decade at the Opry. Too bad as even at the age of 77, he still had that great voice and personality that shined on the Opry stage.

To remember Billy Walker, here is a performance from Billy at the Grand Ole Opry.


  1. Billy Walker is one of my all-time favorites. I probably have more of his albums in my collection than albums by any other artist. Like Jack Greene, Billy Grammer, and some others, his voice just got better as he got older. His album "Just for the Hank of it" is one I enjoy a lot. It's a tribute to Hank Snow and Hank Williams. I was able to see him at the Opry several times during his last years. He was alway phenomenal.

  2. Long time readers have probably heard this but here are some of my memories of Billy and Bettie.

    Bettie was in charge of the Golden Voice Awards show during Fan Fair for several years in the early 2000's. They were to raise money for the Performers Benefit Fund, a charity for musicians in medical or financial trouble. You may remember this event was a performance with awards and lunch or brunch with the stars who set at each table with the fans. Bettie did a great job and through those events we were able to meet many folks we would have otherwise never met. Goldie Hill, Billy Grammer. Maxine and Bonnie Brown, Sonny James and many others. It was hard work for Bettie but she seemed to enjoy the end result and was always willing to talk with the fans. One year I provided her with over 100 Lp's to place on the tables to be autographed and taken home by the fans and she also gave my brother a live interview on his Sunday evening radio show.

    At the first event we went to in 2001, I did a black and white pencil drawing of Billy and Ernest Tubb. As it turned out, Bettie ended up with it in the trunk of her car before Billy could see it but she had told him about it. Talking to Billy he mentioned that she had told him and he said he appreciated it and looked forward to seeing it. In a few days, I was back and work and got a call. Billy had called my house and talked with my mother and was told that I was at work. He told her he really wanted to talk to me and ask if he could have my work number. You can imagine how shocked I has to answer the phone and hear Billy Walker on the other end. He said he just wanted to call and personally thank me for the art work and that he really liked it.

    When they passed in 2006, my brother was on the radio that evening and it just happened that I had gone with him but was not at the station when he got word of their passing. He announced it on the radio and I hurried back to the station. We both broke down a wept. The next weekend he did a three hour tribute using the text I had prepared for him. I had just exchanged emails with Bettie the previous week and she had said to let her know the next time we were coming to town and they would have us backstage at the Opry.

    I have heard Billy say many times that he was a pretty rough character in his early days and did some things he regretted. All I can say is that in the last years of his life he seemed to be a very caring person who always had time for his fellow man and was always trying to help people. And he was a great performer to the very end and a loyal Opry member.

    Great memories but they make me a bit sad as I grow older.

    Knightsville, IN

  3. Hi Jim ~

    Yes, Bettie was in charge of the Golden Voice Awards - I attended two years in a row. These awards were held on the General Jackson & I had just a wonderful time. I met Bettie by dialing the phone number to order tickets for the first Golden Voice Awards show not knowing she WAS the go-to person to speak to. We struck up a very nice friendship - with her & Billy in Nashville & me in Chicago. We emailed each other often throughout the year - I met her & Billy while walking through the now defunct Opryland Theme-Park, & after the first awards show I met Sonny James in the parking lot, what a thrill. She worked very hard on this awards show & told me that no media would touch the information for the show because of Fan Fair even though this was just one part of the Fan Fair experience. She tried very hard to put on a great show & in my opinion, she did more than that. I enjoyed this awards show much more than half of what the CMA put out, that is for sure.

    The day I heard that Billy & Bettie passed away, I was shocked to hear of their passing & just so sad & I have missed them a whole lot since. I miss "chatting" with Bettie via email - she was such a sweet woman. And one of the local dj's here in Chicago, who was, at one time on the Chicago country station but has jumped ship to one of the way too many all talk stations here in Chicago was best friends with Danny Patton. Billy had such a GREAT voice, always loved hearing him when he was on the Opry.

    Sad when the Opry "outgrows" these veteran artists, not that the newbies are coming around much. Though I do have to say that I am extremely impressed by how many shows ALL the Gatlin Brothers are appearing. Way to go, Larry, Steve & Rudy! I have lost count how many shows they have appeared on since January 1st? Byron, would you happen to have the total shows? I'm going to say close to 20/25? VERY impressed, AND I am loving hearing Larry's show coming live at the new George Jones Museum. SO much to do in Nashville.


    1. Jeanene,

      We probably rubbed elbows at the General Jackson show. We also caught up with Sonny James just as he was about to step off the sidewalk into the parking lot after the show. I remember it was sure hot that day and the long walk up the ramp to the boat was almost more than our mom could take. There on the sidewalk is also where I talked with Billy as he greeted everyone as they left and thanked them for coming.

      I must say that the last year the GVA was held at the Williamson County Fairgrounds, it was sure a lot different. And that was because Bettie didn't have anything to do with it. As I recall Billy didn't even participate! The GVA was very special for both the fans of the veterans and the veterans too. So many who had nearly been forgotten received some much deserved recognition and found out they still had a lot of fans. Other than the Opry, they were the best times I ever had in Nashville.

      Knightsville, IN