Producer, guitarist and songwriter Billy Joe Walker Jr. died Tuesday (July 25) in Kerrville, Texas. He was 64 and had long been in ill health.
Walker was an early champion of singer Bryan White and produced his first three albums. He also produced Travis Tritt’s platinum-selling Down the Road I Go, as well as projects for Pam Tillis, Billy Ray Cyrus, Tracy Byrd, Mark Chesnutt and Collin Raye.
As a songwriter, Walker scored hits for Eddie Rabbitt, among them the No. 1 “I Wanna Dance With You” and the No. 3 “B-B-B-Burnin’ Up With Love.” Other artists who cut his songs included John Anderson, Trisha Yearwood, Tanya Tucker, Billy Currington and Jerrod Niemann.
A native of West Texas, Walker taught himself to play guitar and read music while still a youngster. At 14, he left home to pursue a music career. He first played in bar bands around Oklahoma City and then moved to Los Angeles.
There he did session work for such acts as Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard and the Beach Boys. Subsequently, producer Jimmy Bowen induced Walker to move to Nashville, both to do session work and record as a soloist.
In Nashville, Walker served as sideman for the Dixie Chicks, Ray Charles, Randy Travis and Hank Williams Jr., among many others.
As a solo artist, Walker recorded seven jazz/new age guitar albums between 1987 and 1994 for the MCA, Liberty and DGC labels, the highest charting one of which was Warm Front in 1993.
Funeral plans have not been announced.