The Townsmen have returned. Who are the Townsmen, you ask? Allow me to tell you by clicking here.
(Poster designed by Sean Williams)
After nearly two years of emailing men who don’t really use email and making phone calls to some who only carry flip phones, my dream since the 1990’s finally came true in the form of a rehearsal this past Friday and a show on Saturday.
In addition to the satisfaction of finally seeing my dad perform music with his band, my eyes and ears had pleasure of witnessing the legendary Ray Walker joining the festivities. Back story: Mr. Walker was the bass singer for Elvis’ favorite singing group The Jordanaires and decided, at arguably the height of his career, to hire a band of college kids to back him as a solo act for a number of youth rallies and other events (i.e. tours opening for Conway Twitty and Hank Williams, Jr.). To put his legendary-ness into perspective, his voice is on a very long list of iconic recordings and on an alleged 6+ billion records sold. But a few recordings on which is pipes appear:
ELVIS PRESLEY – Return to Sender
ELVIS PRESLEY – Can’t Help Falling in Love
ELVIS PRESLEY – It’s Now or Never
ELVIS PRESLEY – Viva Las Vegas
ELVIS PRESLEY – Are You Lonesome Tonight?
PATSY CLINE – Crazy
LORETTA LYNN – Coal Miner’s Daughter
RICKY NELSON – Travelin’ Man**
TAMMY WYNETTE – Stand By Your Man
GEORGE JONES – He Stopped Loving Her Today
**I may or may not have harmonized with him on this song during the show on Saturday.
Ray Walker also recorded and/or performed with Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Red Foley, Ringo Starr, Pat Boone, Kenny Rogers and many others. All this to say, it was a remarkable night for me to witness and to cap it all off, it was inside the Historic RCA Studio A, the former workplace of the man who inspired my dad and uncle to buy matching Gretsch guitars and play music.
Ray Walker and the Townsmen in the late 1960’s:
BELOW: First rehearsal in 43 years, in my uncle’s den… roughly 28 hours before performing in front of other humans. This was the first time all of these guys had been in the same room since May of 1971… and for some*, the first time since that day play a musical instrument:
*only the bass player, but still…
BELOW: Ben Fold’s Grand Victor Sound Studio (originally RCA Studio A), built by and operated by Chet Atkins for a number of years. The historic studio is in currently danger of being demolished, which is a complete shame.
In addition to sharing stories of his time with Elvis, Mr. Walker brought documents with him to the studio, detailing some of his recording experiences inside the studio during the 60’s and 70’s: