to buy the
new CD from...
Walker & The Butanes
Right Where I Belong
here to go to the reviews
year's best deep-soul album...Howard Tate, your comeback ass has just
Hicks - Village Voice (US)
would have been proud to release this recording.
Claunch, co-owner of Goldwax Records (US)
Willie Walker CD hasn't been off my deck. I didn't think I'd hear
real soul music like this in 2004! Brilliant! This CD will blow everyone
away. An absolute 24-carat gem.
Ellis of Juke Blues (UK)
the kind of album the worst nit-picker can't find one thing wrong
with. Except that eventually it's over. Curt Obeda wrote everything,
coming up with cold-blooded killer material -- sharp lyrics, fresh
melodies and chord structures rich in dynamics. Combine this with
Willie Walker and The Butanes performance, then talk about chained
lightning. Trust me: if you can't feel this music from the top of
your head to bottom of the toes, someone should notify your next of
kin, 'cause you're already dead and just don't know it.
Hobbes - Insight (US)
had seen Willie around town since I began gigging in local bars. While
I was hanging out with "blues guys" like Mojo Buford, Lazy
Bill Lucas and Big Walter Smith, Willie always seemed to be with guys
who were known as good musicians but I didn't think were very good
blues players. While we were drinking beer and bourbon and listening
to Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters and BB King, Willie was drinking brandy
and singing Sam Cooke. When I first asked about him I was told "that's
Willie Walker...he's a great ballad singer," almost like he was
a great buggy whip maker. Apparently what he had didn't interest us
guys much. After a couple of years on the local scene our band
had begun adding a few Little Willie John and Tyrone Davis songs even
though no one could really sing them well. After a short stint in
Big Walter Smith's band I moved to Chicago, got much deeper into the
soul music bag, and returned home occasionally seeing Willie around
the local bars. We were friendly but not friends.
July of '87
the Butanes trio was hired to play behind John Lee Hooker. Unbeknownst
to us Willie was hired to sing the opening 45 minute set with us.
As we were leaving the basement dressing room the promoter asked us
what we had decided to play with Willie. We told him John Lee wasn't
coming up until after our set. "No, with Willie Walker,"
he asked again. That was the first we knew that Willie was on the
show. We replied that it was a surprise and he would have to wait.
We walked to the stage and there was Willie looking good in a suit
asking what the plan was. I told him the plan was for us to play the
first half of the set without him then call him up. Since we didn't
know any of Willie's material we asked him what he would like us to
call him up on. We settled on "Can I Change My Mind"
20 minutes or so it was time to call Willie up. Being only a trio
we didn't really have the full sound of the original recording but
Willie was singing great and we were having fun. Willie next called
a slow blues in A, which turned out to be Sam Cooke's version of "Little
Red Rooster." After huddling for a little while we came up with
"Turn On Your Lovelight" to end Willie's part of the show.
He sang well, the
band was happy and the crowd response was very strong. We said we
should all do this again soon and the Butanes turned our attention
back to our next set with John Lee Hooker.
short time later a 6 piece version of the Butanes was backing Little
Johnny Taylor at the Blues Saloon. LJT had played with us prior to
the Hooker show, done a great job and we were looking forward to his
return. Unfortunately a strange event occurred to either start him
drinking or cause him to continue an earlier binge (accounts differ)
and the first set did not go well. Willie was in the house and I asked
him if he would like to sing a few to open the last set. He agreed
and somehow LJT decided he should sing with Willie- or "cut"
the local guy- or who knows exactly what... it did not work out well
for Mr. Taylor. After a few songs Johnny retreated to the dressing
room to be called up once it was "star time." Willie sang
great again and after we were done for the night we said goodbye to
Willie and said we should all do this again soon.
this time we were working a few shows with vocalist Maurice Jacox.
Maurice often had conflicts with our dates because he also worked
with another group from Duluth - the Wingtips. We phoned Willie to
see if he had any interest in filling in for Maurice and/or performing
a set we had scheduled as a ten piece band at a Christmas party. We
set up a few rehearsals but (again accounts differ) things never got
off the ground with Willie. Maurice mostly cut his ties with the Wingtips
and began working regularly as the front man in the Butanes Soul Revue.
After a year we
called Willie to sing on our anniversary show and he attended and
sang well but nothing came of it.
A few years later
Maurice informed us he would be unable to make any of our upcoming
dates as he had been cast in an opera. Singer Percy Strothers had
been coming around to our Wednesday night Soul Revue shows so we spoke
to him about filling in for Maurice. I had worked with Percy back
before I left for Chicago, and again after, and knew Percy is unfortunately
quite prone to blowing out his voice so we knew we needed more help
and also phoned Willie. All rehearsals went great this
time, Willie and Percy would split the nights' vocals and we could
handle all the dates currently on our calendar plus more as this routine
sounded good! Around this time Maurice informed us the opera was off
and he could make all the gigs. The club owners told us they preferred
to have Maurice do the shows if he was available as he was the singer
the fans would obviously expect. So that we didn't waste all
our work we performed as the Butanes Soul Clan at the Cabooze with
Percy, Willie and Maurice each doing a set. The board tape from that
night somehow didn't get turned over while Willie was on stage so
we have a very incomplete version of his set. We did however bring
the Soul Clan to perform for a local cable show and have a short tape
as proof of the existence of the band. Willie missed the next Soul
Clan show a few weeks later and we never scheduled another one. Once
again the chance for Willie and the Butanes to work together slipped
in 1993, disenchanted
with the "local scene," the Butanes mostly disbanded the
Soul Revue and began concentrating on touring work with Earl King
and Al Rapone. We also returned to the Blues Saloon as the backing
band for many great artists. A show with James Carr led to us being
booked as the "house band" at the 1996 St. Louis Blues Heritage
Festival. The next year the promoter asked me about obscure performers
deserving a set on the fest and I answered Willie Walker. He was very
intrigued, knowing much more about Willie's background than I did.
Willie not only appeared on the fest with us but his photo with bass
player John Lindberg on stage dominated page 2B in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
where the festival review was placed. Nothing came of this either...
We spent a few
years sporadically trying to track down Willie as his number had changed
since the St. Louis show. I finally reached him through Arnellia's,
a St. Paul club that occasionally features the likes of Bobby Rush,
Clarence Carter and Denise LaSalle. Willie called, we spoke for a
while, and I told Willie that I occasionally had some interesting
things pop up so he should keep in touch. A few weeks later I tried
to reach him but his number was once again disconnected with no further
information available. I started the process over but had no luck
acquiring his number.
this time a friend of mine, Paul Metsa, began booking Famous Dave's.
He called and tried toconvince me to play a few dates but I wasn't
very interested. I suddenly thought of Willie. I played a few cuts
over the phone of Willie singing with the Butanes for Paul and he
was very impressed. We started looking harder for Willie as we wanted
to speak to him about working with us again but I had no luck tracking
him down. I came home one night to find a message on my answering
machine and it was from Willie- but it was not intended for me! Willie
had misdialed when calling local studio owner/guitarist known as Johnny
O and instead dialed Obeda, Curt. The message was long but didn't
end with a phone number. I realized that Willie was the last person
to call my number so I "star 69ed him." Willie picked up
the phone and we discussed the Famous Dave's opportunity. Thank goodness
I listen to Clarence Carter or I wouldn't have known about that telephone
feature! We've been playing sporadic Thursdays, honing our show, ever
here to download Willie Walker & the Butanes' promo pack
here to read the review of Willie's new CD from The Minneapolis
here to read the article on Willie in the Chord
here to read edited liner notes from a rare compilation of Willie's
of Willie's song on The Goldwax Story (CDKEND 203)
much of this information is incorrect but Willie's performance contained
on this disc is great!
Willie Walker cut great music all over Memphis without scoring a
hit of any consequence, but his riveting revival of There Goes My
Used To Be (previously seen inhabiting the down deck of OV's That's
How Strong...) shows that he - like other Memphian label-hoppers
here such as ex-Volt distaffer Dorothy Williams, former Sun man
Jeb Stuart and arranger/saxblaster-about-town Gene "Bowlegs"
Miller - deserved the kind of contemporaneous appreciation that
they'll now be afforded thanks to this release...
review of The Goldwax Story containing Willie's version of
"There Goes My Used To Be."