Jeff Walker, Music Row’s funniest and most buoyant booster, died Monday night (Aug. 24) at a Nashville hospital soon after returning from a Florida vacation with his family. His age has not been disclosed.
Officially, Walker was CEO and president of AristoMedia Group and Marco Music Group, but among the hundreds of close friends he made during his career, he was the guy who was the most enthusiastic and inventive about any branch of the country music business he touched — whether it was radio, publicity, marketing, management, music video and dance club promotion, music publishing, recording or international outreach.
In a business rich with “characters,” Walker still managed to stand out.
Possessed of a thick Australian accent, mischievous smile and nose for inside news, he was the one everyone managed to chat with before leaving the party.
And no one escaped a conversation with Walker without being blitzed by his nonstop — and often hilariously convoluted — puns. He would have been the most amusing commentator on his own passing.
Born in Australia and educated at Sydney University, he moved to Nashville in 1974, following in the path of his father, the noted conductor and orchestra leader, Bill Walker, who had already become well known as music director of The Johnny Cash Show.
Trained in accounting, Walker initially worked at Price Waterhouse in Nashville. He subsequently joined his father at the family-owned Con Brio Records label and then formed his own company, Aristo Music Associates, in 1980.
He was a trailblazer in promoting music videos as a distinct and promotable form of entertainment and was widely acknowledged for his unrelenting efforts to make country music more popular abroad.
Walker labored diligently for years as a board member and officer of the Country Music Association and Country Radio Broadcasters.
Among his many industry honors were the CMA President’s Award, Country Radio Broadcasters President’s Award and recognition from entertainment trade groups in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
A family man in the most loving sense of the term, he married Terri Hollowell, who was once a recording artist for Con Brio. Their children are now both mainstays at Aristo — Jon Walker as vice president of digital services and Christy Walker-Watkins as vice president of publicity.
Funeral arrangements are pending.