Bill Walker, Nashville Force as Conductor and Arranger, Dies at 95

NASHVILLE — Invoice Walker, a conductor and arranger who turned a musical pressure in Nashville, scoring common recordings for nation stars like Marty Robbins and Connie Smith and serving as musical director for Johnny Money’s primetime tv selection present, died on Could 26 at a rehabilitation facility close to right here. He was 95.

His demise was confirmed by his daughter-in-law Terri Walker, who mentioned he had developed pneumonia after latest knee substitute surgical procedure.

A classically educated pianist, Mr. Walker orchestrated blockbuster hits like Eddy Arnold’s “Make the World Go Away” (1965) and Sammi Smith’s “Assist Me Make It Via the Night time” (1970). Each information reached No. 1 on the nation chart and crossed over to the pop Prime 10.

He additionally served as arranger and conductor for, amongst many different recordings, Donna Fargo’s “The Happiest Lady within the Entire U.S.A.,” a chart-topping nation single that stalled simply exterior the pop Prime 10 in 1972.

Within the course of he had a hand in shaping each the luxurious, subtle Nashville Sound of the 1960s and the soulful “countrypolitan” sensibility that got here after it.

Empathy and class had been his calling playing cards, together with a knack for plumbing the emotional coronary heart of a track, a present that was nowhere extra evident than in his work on “Assist Me Make It Via the Night time.”

“Take the ribbon from my hair,” Ms. Smith implores her lover as Mr. Walker’s gossamer association caresses the ache in her voice.

His sympathetic strings likewise lent pathos to George Jones’s lovelorn “He Stopped Loving Her Right this moment,” a No. 1 nation hit in 1980.

“You’re there to make the artist sound good, to not present how intelligent you might be,” Mr. Walker mentioned of his philosophy of recording in a 2015 interview on the Nation Music Corridor of Fame in Nashville.

“That’s how I used to do it,” he continued. “It didn’t matter if the artist was a hillbilly singer from again within the woods someplace or Perry Como. You give them the identical consideration it doesn’t matter what.”

William Alfred Walker was born on April 28, 1927, in Sydney, Australia, the eldest of three kids of Alfred and Beryl (Gabb) Walker. His father was a dairy farmer, his mom a homemaker.

William started taking part in the piano at age 5 and shortly began taking non-public classes. Whereas in highschool and school he carried out in golf equipment and taught himself the rudiments of arranging by listening to common recordings on the radio. He acquired his formal coaching at Sydney College’s Conservatorium of Music, graduating in 1955.

In 1957 he moved to South Africa to change into the musical director of the Johannesburg division of RCA Information, the place he launched 23 largely instrumental albums of pop and Latin music that featured him on piano backed by giant and small ensembles.

He additionally produced classes for the nation famous person Jim Reeves, who inspired him to maneuver to Nashville; Mr. Walker arrived the weekend Mr. Reeves died at 39 in a fatal plane crash, in July 1964.

He began working with Mr. Arnold and helped revive the singer’s profession at a time when ballad singers had been being eclipsed on the nation chart by artists like Buck Owens and Roger Miller, who had been extra attuned to up-tempo rock ’n’ roll.

Mr. Walker later turned down an opportunity to succeed Chet Atkins as head of the Nashville workplace of RCA earlier than changing into the musical director of “The Johnny Money Present” on ABC-TV in 1969. There, he helped deliver Southern tradition to dwelling rooms and dens throughout the nation by collaborating with Mahalia Jackson, Roy Acuff, Louis Armstrong and an array of different friends.

He additionally wrote and performed the association for Mr. Money’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” a stay recording from the present that went to No. 1 on the nation chart in 1970. Mr. Money sometimes signed off every episode of his program with the salutation, “Goodnight, Mr. Walker!”

After The Johnny Money Present ended its run in 1971, Mr. Walker spent the subsequent 20 years working as an unbiased producer for singers like Ferlin Husky and Wanda Jackson and managing his personal label, Con Brio Information. Within the early ’70s he labored with Ray Charles and Loretta Lynn for an NBC tv particular.

From 1991 to 1998 he was the musical director for “The Statler Brothers Present,” a preferred musical selection present on the Nashville Community. He remained energetic as a producer and arranger into the 2000s, writing scores for TV specials and flicks at a time when session musicians relied totally on improvised, or “head,” preparations.

Mr. Walker is survived by his spouse of 51 years, Jeanine (Ogletree) Walker, a former Nashville session singer; a daughter, Beth Walker; a son, Colin, from a earlier marriage; his sister, Julianne Smith; his brother, Robert; and 13 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren. Two sons, Jeff and Peter, and a daughter, Lisa Gibson, all from earlier marriages, died.

Mr. Walker labored with ensembles on at the very least 4 continents, together with studio professionals on the East and West Coasts of the US. For the preparations that he composed, although, he most popular the intuitive, less-is-more method of the session musicians he first encountered in Nashville within the 1960s.

“That’s the factor with Nashville gamers,” he mentioned in his interview on the Nation Music Corridor of Fame. “All of them pay attention to one another and so they be a part of within the licks. It’s the stuff you possibly can’t write. You’ll be able to solely give them the thought and allow them to go along with it.”

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