Johnny Walker on March 7, 1997 (Photograph by John Anderson)
Former KLBJ deejay Johnny Walker, thought to be probably the most vibrant and revered personalities in Austin rock radio for greater than a decade, handed away Monday on the age of 68.
His sister, Sissy Walker, confirmed to the Chronicle at this time that Walker had suffered a collection of strokes in current months that brought on a gradual deterioration in his well being. The impactful voice on Austin airwaves was born Darek Walker and grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana. He’s survived by his son, Tyler.
Household and buddies nonetheless related to the music enterprise are within the early levels of planning a memorial live performance for Walker.
Sissy Walker appreciated her brother to the “hippie all the time in search of the following van trip to the following present.” After working in radio throughout Lubbock, Albuquerque, Reno, and Spokane, Wash., Walker landed in Austin in 1987 as a part of a Z102 morning present referred to as The Breakfast Flakes. Walker then moved to KLBJ in 1991, the place he discovered his true house on the town’s most important rock & roll station.
Johnny Walker on September 19, 2002 (Photograph by John Anderson)
His profile grew largest throughout his KLBJ afternoon present, the place he was an avid supporter of native acts comparable to Soulhat, Joe Rockhead, and lots of extra. Soulhat’s “prolonged bone” nine-minute minimize of the tune “Bonecrusher” turned a staple of Walker’s Friday broadcasts, performed at 5 pm to mark the official finish of the work week for listeners.
Dale Dudley, who labored alongside Walker at KLBJ, says: “It turned a convention the place that tune was going to be performed at the moment, similar to in small cities they’d play the nationwide anthem at midday. However his factor about him was about, ‘OK, you are off from work, so go have a celebration and reside it up.’”
Dudley and others praised Walker’s distinct on-air character that got here throughout the airwaves as genuine and sincere.
“He’d kill me for saying this, however I feel a part of his success was due to his Texas accent,” says Dudley. “He wasn’t a giant nation fan, however he was an enormous rock & roll fan and was capable of switch that over. It made him extraordinarily listenable and nice [at] doing interviews.”
Walker’s standing at KLBJ suffered after the Johnson household offered the station, and a gaggle of sister stations, to Emmis Broadcasting in 2003. The next 12 months, Walker was moved to part-time with a pre-recorded night present, and was launched for good in 2007 On the time, in a characteristic titled “The Final Rock & Roll Deejay: KLBJ cans the legendary Johnny Walker,” the Chronicle‘s Kevin Brass wrote:
In some ways, it was the top of an period. Walker is a member of a disappearing breed of hard-rock deejays, grounded in Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers, who lived the music as a lot because the bands and followers. On the air, they have been conversational and sincere, making it OK to share tales of late-night live shows, hangovers, and one toke over the road, candy Jesus.
Walker by no means returned to radio, working in gross sales whereas additionally pursuing appearing and voiceover work in subsequent years. He additionally handled the restoration from an earlier collection of strokes that impacted his well being.
“For him it was all the time music,” remembers his sister Sissy. “He began on radio in Albuquerque after which he got here to KLBJ. For no matter cause, [Lady Bird Johnson] and him actually acquired alongside, and at loads of KLBJ occasions she would ask that he escort her. It was such an odd relationship, the freaky rock & curler and the dainty first girl, however he very a lot liked that household earlier than the station was offered.
“I liked being part of the tradition of music with the station, and supporting all the pieces it delivered to individuals and the evolution of reside music in Austin.”
Loris Lowe, former KLBJ deejay now at Austin Metropolis Limits Radio, met Walker when he was on air on the Lubbock nation station KLLL-FM and co-owned a small recording studio. They reconnected in Austin, the place they each labored at KLBJ in the course of the station’s Nineties at this time. Lowe remembers KLBJ bus journeys to live shows in San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas, which she describes as “insane events on wheels” led by Walker.
“He was simply so rock & roll – a no-holds-barred and utterly sincere man with no pretension in any respect,” says Lowe. “He was humorous and have become a giant buddy to loads of native bands as a result of he had such a giant following. These rockers might relate to that, as a result of he lived the life.
“A number of deejays placed on airs, however he was all the time plain spoken and talked concerning the issues individuals might relate to love partying… and being hungover.”
Andy Langer, a longtime deejay on KLBJ’s sister station Austin Metropolis Limits Radio, recollects Walker’s behavior of studying off the departing flight occasions on the Monday after South By Southwest to rejoice the town’s residents taking Austin again from music and tech business outsiders. He describes Walker as “kind of the mayor” of a long-gone Downtown Sixth Road music scene dominated by rock golf equipment, the place he was often called probably the most avid supporters of native bands.
“The good thing about being the afternoon man and never having to get up to do morning radio is that you could possibly be out till 2am or later each evening,” says Langer. “For a man like him, he was out seven nights per week for months on finish. On these days, you could possibly actually stroll out and in of 5, six golf equipment clustered downtown on any given evening. And Johnny had the flexibility to stroll and wave his approach by means of the entrance door.
“He was an advocate for these bands, whether or not it was Soulhat, Little Sister, Joe Rockhead, and later the Ugly People. He was the man there proper in entrance of the stage, who the following day performed these artists on the radio for the remainder of the town to listen to.”
Former KLBJ program director Jeff Carrol introduced Walker to the station from native basic rock channel Z102 (KPEZ FM), and was charged with decreasing Walker’s function underneath the brand new possession group in 2004 earlier than terminating him in 2007. Carroll says Walker was loud and staunch in his assist of native music, which helped him join with listeners whereas he pushed towards the established order of economic radio’s shrinking playlists.
“He was all the time concerned within the music, knew the musicians when he’d exit to exhibits, and all the time wished KLBJ would play deeper cuts from all of the artists. I can keep in mind him in conferences arguing that is what we would have liked to be doing,” says Carrol.
“He’d come throughout as this large bear of a person, however in actuality he had this large coronary heart and was a teddy bear, doing charity occasions and plenty of issues individuals did not know. They’d understand him as this rock & roll dude who performed arduous rock on KLBJ, and inside he was much more than that.”