Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Yes, Stanley, you are remembered.

I was so happy to learn that Stanley Walker has been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Adam Shull wrote a great piece in Sunday's Paducah Sun about Stanley's career, much of which I did not know. Not only did he play with country rock legends like Ray Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis and Hank Williams, Jr., he did a two-year stint as a session musician at the Grand Ole Opry. And barely missed a chance to join Johnny Cash's band.

When I returned to this area in 1979, people often talked about a singer named Stanley Walker. So one night when he was playing at a bar in Paducah, I went along with friends. And I was glad I did. His voice was wonderful, deep and soulful, kind of a cross between George Jones and Travis Tritt. And his guitar-playing? Well, that was something else.

"He’s great!" I said, "I can't believe he isn't famous!"

In the 1980's, his band played regularly at the Executive Inn. I worked for the city then, and co-workers and I often headed there for Happy Hour on Wednesdays, sometimes staying later into the evening just to hear Stanley play.

Although I didn't know his name back then, I had already seen Stanley play. Years ago, and many times.
I was a junior at Bardwell High School when a bunch of us began going to the play-party in Wickliffe. Unbeknownst to our parents (They drink and do no telling what over there, Mother warned.), Patsy, Karen and I, along with other friends, piled into Billy Byassee's big old black car and headed to Wickliffe on Friday nights. The dances were held in the VFW hall. I think. But I don't know for sure which hall it was.

What I do know is things were really hopping in that big, smoke-filled place, people of all ages having a great time. Ray Smith was a skinny guy, enthusiastic, energetic, and singing like there was no tomorrow. It was obvious how much he loved his music.

One song he always sang was Elvis's Hard Headed Woman, and when he belted out those first few lyrics, everyone hit the dance floor, crinoline petticoats swishing, ponytails bouncing; Old Spice cologne wafting through the air, crew-cut heads bobbing to and fro, and white bucks slipping and sliding across the floor. The air seemed to snap and crackle.

Early on, Raymond Jones, a classmate of mine, played guitar in Ray's band, and when Raymond left, he was replaced with a boy who could really pick the guitar.

That boy was Stanley Walker, and he went on to play lead guitar for Ray Smith's Rockin' Little Angel, which sold several million records. It was recorded at Sun Records in 1961, and there were other songs as well. He toured with Ray Smith, appeared on Hee Haw, did solo recordings. And much more.
Not long ago, Stanley received a letter from Dr. Hank Davis, a music buff in Canada: I really love your guitar playing and think you contributed immensely to Ray’s records.

“I just can’t believe anybody would write that to me,” Stanley told Shull, “I didn’t know anybody knew me anymore.”

I agree with the good doctor; he did contribute to Ray’s records, and I, along with many people in this area and fans all over the world, certainly do remember him.

Congratulations, Stanley. No one deserves this honor more than you.

1 comment:

Sandra Ree said...

Great history, Brenda. Stanley Walker obviously was part of country rock legends. How nice that he was recognized!

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley