...Singer, Guitarist and Songwriter...Contemporary and Traditional Folk....Original Songs and Guitar Instrumentals....Old Blues, Rags and Hillbilly.
North East of England, born bred and still resident to date, Eddie Walker was drawn to anything musical in his early years that might have been described as folk or country, be it in school music lessons, on the BBC Light Programme or late-night-listening to Radio Luxembourg! He got the inevitable second-hand acoustic guitar by which time TV was emerging as a strong source of musical inspiration. Folk singers appeared on news interest and even religious programmes as well as shows devoted entirely to this new genre. It was frequently to be found in the popular charts as well, he was hooked and the hunt was on. Word of mouth made tell of clubs in backrooms of pubs where all manner of folk musics were sung by Bob Dylan impersonators and Clancy Brother lookalikes in white Arran sweaters. He discovered the great new songs of Ewan McColl that sounded much older and ‘British’ in style than the those by Americans Tom Paxton and Phil Ochs, whose music then inevitably led him back to find Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie and he understood where Dylan had found his early inspiration. But he found it all captivating music. And his source became the then limited supply of material in his local record shop and he bought albums of Irish rebel songs and old Scottish ballads and those songs he sang at folk clubs throughout the Teesside area, learned from Nigel Denver, Carolyn Hester and Joan Baez. He was 17 and left school, met others in the workplace with similar interest and went off to festivals to see his heroes first hand. Paxton, Tom Rush, Alex Campbell, Trevor Lucas, Martin Carthy, and through his annual visits to the Cambridge Folk Festival heard the legendary ragtime-blues guitarist Rev. Gary Davis, brought over from the USA by Stefan Grossman. And Grossman talked of other guitar legends, Mississippi John Hurt, Big Bill Broonzy and Blind Willie McTell, whose material would become so important to Eddie’s developing performing career, and he loved all the Bluegrass, Old Timey and Hillbilly music he heard there at Cambridge, and he played it all.
His first paid booking was in 1967, aged 18. He teamed up with local guitar and bassman Frank Porter and supported Tiny Tim and Long John Baldry at local night-clubs in front of big audiences. He played on the clubtent at Cambridge and got his first Martin guitar and he heard Steve Goodman and John Prine. In 1975 one of his own newly crafted songs, ‘North Road’, won the Northumbria Trophy for Songwriting at the Newcastle Festival, he was runner-up the following year at the North West Folk Songwriting competition held at Poynton Folk Club and won the Second Edale Bluegrass Festival guitar competition. The acclaim given to his songwritng led to Tyne Tees TV offering a musical slot on one of the first British late-night, phone-in, chat shows, alongside Joan Collins, Lord George Brown and ‘Likely Lad’, Rodney Bewes. In 1977 Ken Woollard gave him a concert appearance on Mainstage 2 at Cambridge for winning the Slough Arts Festival event and booked him again in 1984 and 1990, when he was teamed-up with the great Welsh guitar picker, John James. Alex Atterson booked him regularly for Norwich Folk Festival and gave him great support and encouragement as he turned to professional music-making in 1980.
His first recorded album, ‘Everyday Man’, was released in 1978 followed by a second in 1981, ‘Castle Cafe’. They were released on labels developed by the organisers of the Processed Pea Folk Club at Etton in East Yorkshire, a club that still exists to this day. The title track to ‘Castle Cafe’ had been written a couple of years previous following a tour to the area around Szczecin in Poland in the company of emerging rock giant, also from Middlesbrough, Chris Rea!
In 1981 Tyne Tees TV were searching for songs by up-and-coming writers for their show ‘Songwriter’, presented by Ralph McTell, with Georgie Fame. Eddie’s contribution, ‘Stolen My Heart Away’, was considered the best in very good company, chosen from hundreds of entries submitted by other North East writers and was presented on the show with a small orchestral backing as well as being released as a 45rpm single!
In 1983 with the release of his 3rd album, ‘Red Shoes On My Feet’, on his own newly-formed label, Ragged Records, he presented a theatre show of the same name at the Edinburgh Folk Festival and the Aberdeen Alternative Music Festival, to great acclaim in the national press. This show features the music of many of the guitar-picking, singing greats from the early half of the 20th century, both black and white, that laid the foundation for Elvis Presley to show what little divide there might be between black southern blues and white mountain hillbilly. Alongside the country style of Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Familly, Merle Travis and Doc Watson Eddie plays the old ragtime blues songs of Broonzy, Hurt, McTell, Gary Davis and Blind Arthur Blake. His guitar picking is impressive and the entertainment value irrepressible! He released his fourth solo album in 1985, ‘Picking My Way’, which was more of the same mix of old country blues, rags, hillbilly and original songs and instrumentals. The album was dedicated to his all-time guitar picking hero, Steve Goodman, who had died the previous September.
His national touring of Britain eventually led across the Channel to Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Croatia and Slovenia and was to include Ireland, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg as well, after teaming-up in 1988 for a seven-year relationship with John James, in ‘Carolina Shout!’. John had contributed to ‘Picking My Way’ and the partnership seemed a natural extension. They chose a repertoire as diverse as the Louvin Brothers and Hank Williams to Chuck Berry and Bobby Vee. Incredibly entertaining to all who heard and saw the stage show Eddie contributed the rhythm guitar and vocals. They made two albums together, ‘Carolina Shout! and ‘Sidesteppin’, both still available from John’s label, Stoptime Recordings.
In 1986 he made the first of several trips to Hong Kong to play their 3rd Folk Festival. A return there in ‘88 to play the Arts Festival Fringe led him South and East to the Auckland Festival in New Zealand and a national tour there. Later that year he made his first of many appearances since, at the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe. Further tours to Hong Kong eventually took him on to Bangkok in Thailand. He was returning to his hotel there, through the still-busy city after a successful concert, when he spied an elephant relieving itself by the side of the road. He turned to his wife and travelling companion, Judy, and said "you don’t see that very often on the way home from a gig in Middlesbrough". She turned to him and said "how would you know, you haven’t been home in 20 years!"
Carolina Shout! finished touring in 1995 and Eddie returned to exclusively solo work and the making of a video concert album, ‘Live At The Albert Hole!’, recorded at the famous Albert Inn Folk Club in Bedminster, Bristol. Re-establishing his solo career especially in his native North East England became a priority. He made contact with clubs that he hadn’t played for many years especially throughout Durham, Tyneside and North Yorkshire’ and the warmest of welcomes was afforded him. The repertoire and guitar skills had developed and the latest recorded offering, ‘Mind To Ramble’, was now showing a vocalist of some quality and maturity.
The year 2000 saw the 175th birthday celebrations of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Eddie had provided the music for Stockton Council’s pageant performed in at the 150th celebrations in 1975. This time he was to resurrect his song, ‘North Road’, as a contribution to the wonderful railway song album, ‘A Full Head Of Steam’, released to coincide with the celebrations. The album review in Living Tradition said; ‘........and thence to the best song I’ve encountered for a while , Eddie Walker’s stunning ‘North Road’, which tells of a father taking his son to see ‘The Barren Land of Earth and Bricks’ that was once the heartbeat of a railway town’.
So after 25 years another accolade was heaped on a piece of writing and performance by this folk singer and guitarist for a song which had been singled-out all those years before at the Newcastle Festival in 1975.
Eddie Walker continues to write and to travel and to perform that mix of contemporary and traditional folk, blues and country that has kept him playing for more than 35 years and working professionally at it for more than 20 of those! He can be contacted direct at his Middlesbrough base, 33 The Grove, Brookfield, Middlesbrough, Cleveland, England, TS5 8DT. Tel. +44 (0)1642 59 37 80 or e-mail to; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ragged Records and Simon Music Publishing are exclusive Eddie Walker companies.
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