Nashville Producer Billy Joe Walker Jr. Dead at 64
After a prolific career in Nashville, producer, songwriter and musician Billy Joe Walker has died. He was 64 years old when he passed away on Tuesday (July 25); CMT reports that his health had been declining for a number of years, but a specific cause of death has not been specified.
A man of many talents, Walker Jr. was known for his work as a producer, writer and session musician, and produced projects for artists ranging from Pam Tillis to Billy Ray Cyrus. In the studio as a player, he worked with Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell and more. A West Texas native, Walker Jr. also served as a sideman for fellow Texans the Dixie Chicks, as well as for Randy Travis and others.
Walker Jr. taught himself to play guitar and read music as a child and, at the age of 14, left home to pursue a career in music. He started out in bands in the Oklahoma City, Okla., area, then headed to Los Angeles, Calif., to work as a session musician. While there, producer Jimmy Bowen convinced Walker Jr. to move to Nashville to further his career as a session musician and pursue a career as a solo artist.
As an artist himself, Walker Jr. released seven albums, all in the jazz / New Age guitar vein, for multiple labels. As a songwriter, he earned cuts by Tanya Tucker and Billy Currington, among others; his biggest hits came from Eddie Rabbitt, who took "I Wanna Dance With You" to No. 1 in 1988.
Travis Tritt, who worked extensively with Walker Jr. throughout his career, revealed the death of his longtime producer on Twitter: "I'm so devastated to learn that my long time producer, Billy Joe Walker Jr. passed away this morning,” said Tritt. “Such a brilliant talent gone too soon!”
Upon learning the news of Walker Jr.'s death, a number of Nashville musicians expressed their sympathies, including session musician Brent Mason: “Woke up this morning to the news of the passing of Billy Joe Walker Jr.,” writes Mason on Facebook. “One of the most talented guitarists I've ever worked with and a dear friend for years. We played lots of music together.”
No details on funeral services for Walker Jr. have been announced yet.
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