I was thrown for a loop. Typically, a publicist will send a writer all kinds of free crap to get a review into the local press before a musician blows through town. So, confused and thinking maybe I should call another number, I asked, "Are you his manager, booking agent, or publicist? Is there someone else I should call?"
"Oh no," the man said. "I do everything. This is the house."
I'll never be certain whose house it was and I definitely don't know that this man (whose name I never caught) really does handle "everything," but I'm convinced of one thing: His end of the conversation (and his lack of press kits) was no phony act to convince me of Walker's Texas authenticity. It was the simple truth. He just didn't have any marketing materials on hand. After all, you don't release 30 good records over a span of 40 years without learning to ignore the bullshit sometimes.
Walker is a man who walked away from a major-label record and started his own company. He's a musician who spends his birthday each year celebrating with fans. He actually did ride off on a motorcycle with a guitar strapped to his back - a real-live Texas troubadour.
And even when he settled down, it wasn't in that glittering musical casino called Nashville, but in Austin, Texas. There he built a new breed of music amid a stellar community of artists, including friends such as Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Which raises the question - why isn't he as famous as his Austin outlaw counterparts? Why, despite hoards of devoted listeners and a string of hits, hasn't everybody heard of him?
It might just be that he's been too busy making music to bother with mainstream fame, because for four solid decades he's been touring, writing songs, and staying married to the same woman, which, I suppose, hasn't left a ton of time for sending out press kits. Walker has been living a life in music, not building a lucrative empire.
Of course, even if you aren't a die-hard fan of Austin's music scene, you probably do know Walker (without knowing you know him) for his hit single "Mr. Bojangles," which has become an easy-listening standard over the years, one of those songs that gets stuck in your brain in an elevator. But even if you are an expert on outlaw country - which has given birth to most of the twang-and-bang worth hearing since the early '70s - you probably don't know that Walker has spent recent years in the nonprofit sector, building his own foundation. With hundreds of thousands of dollars donated from shows and sales, he plans to build the American School for Popular Music in his adopted hometown, to preserve and perpetuate distinctly American music. Because, like music itself, education and preservation are worth it.
So I'll forgive him his disorganized office and the fact that I didn't score a free CD. Hell, I'll even forgive him for introducing Jimmy Buffet to Key West (which he did), and forever subjecting the rest of us poor souls to the ubiquitous "Margaritaville." Because Walker is a believer in music, a hard worker, a down-to-earth guy, and the sort of man who seems to know that some things - old friends, family, and music - matter in life. And the rest is pretty much bullshit.
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I'm pretty sure he was 19.
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