Bradley Walker Reflects on His Surprise Top 10 Country Album & Singing at Joey Feek's Funeral

Russ Harrington
Bradley Walker

Bradley Walker admits that nobody was more surprised than him at the opening week numbers of his new album, Call Me Old Fashioned, which entered the Top Country Albums chart at No. 9.

“To have that high of a debut on the country chart, on all the charts, it just blew me away on the very first week,” the Alabama native said. “And, with not having a single out on country radio, it’s really amazing. It makes you feel good.”

Walker is known to fans of the The Joey+Rory Show for his guest appearances. He also was a close friend of the couple, with Rory Feek co-producing the new record, which includes a duet track with the late Joey, “In The Time That You Gave Me.” She had recorded the track for a future project, but Feek suggested to Walker that he use the song on his album.

“When we were thinking about songs for the record, I asked Rory if he had plans to do anything with their recording of it. If he did, I didn’t want to touch it. He immediately said that he loved the idea of me recording it. Then, he asked me how I would feel about turning it into a duet.

“When we went into the studio to cut, we got to that song, and we had to record it in the same vein that it was recorded when she sang it. We played her version so the musicians could get it in their head. We were sitting there listening to it, and it was so hard. Once we put the voices together, it’s still hard to explain. You’re proud of it, but it’s still tough. Rory gave me a gift with that, and it’s something that I’m going to have forever.”

Over the past few years, Walker -- wheelchair bound with muscular dystrophy -- bonded with the Feeks on a very personal level. Still, Walker wasn’t ready for a phone call that Rory made to him in early March -- for several reasons.

“The night she passed away, Rory called me. He asked me if I would sing at her service. As a singer, anytime someone asks you to do that, it’s always an honor. That’s a tough time for anyone, and for them to think of you and your voice to be there and be a part of that, it’s just special. But, when it’s someone like her who was such a dear friend, and someone who I respected so much as a singer, that’s something that is very tough to do. I knew immediately that it was going to be very emotional. But, there’s only one answer you can give, and that is yes.”

The musical story of Bradley Walker begins in his native Alabama. A mutual friend introduced him to The Oak Ridge Boys when he was four, and it led to the beginning of a lifelong friendship – one that recently brought the singer full circle via his signing to Gaither Music Group, also home to The Oaks.

“Last month, we went to Indiana, and filmed a new Gaither Homecoming that will be coming out next year, and they were a part of it. For us to all be sitting in the same room together doing that all these years later is amazing. Things like that are where you know that only the good Lord can make come back around.”

Born with a disability that would burden many children, Walker said he was not allowed to feel any differently about himself growing up.

"That just comes from being raised how I was. I was told never to let my situation keep me from doing what I wanted to do. I was raised to never use my challenges to get any special treatment. If I did that, I would have gotten myself into some big trouble. I’m blessed to have a wonderful family that has supported me through all my dreams and everything. Things might have been a little more of a challenge, [but] it’s never stopped me from pursuing the things I love, especially music.”

Walker grew up enamored of classic country artists such as George Jones, Mel Street, and Vern Gosdin. He admits that set him apart from a lot of his classmates in high school. While they were listening to AC/DC (“I didn’t understand it,” he says), he was hooked on the sounds of Merle Haggard. “I love anything that has a lot of emotion, and I’ve tried to carry some of that on, I guess.”

Call Me Old Fashioned contains many songs that are packed with feeling, such as a cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me Lord.” When asked what he thinks about the lyrics that the icon put to paper over forty years ago, Walker didn’t miss a beat.

“We’re not worthy. I think that’s why the songs strikes such a chord, especially in my life,” he says. “I’ve been so blessed to have so many of my dreams come true in music and family. We’re not worthy of that. It just comes out and asks the question of why are blessed so much when we don’t deserve it? It also acknowledges that you know where those blessings come from. I started singing that song when I was three or four years old, and I had no idea what it said. But, as I got older, you realize what it all means, and you believe it.”

Another highlight from the disc is the powerful story song “The Toolbox,” a song that Walker says he was attracted to instantly.

“That was written by a dear friend of mine up in Kentucky named Dennis Duff. I did the original demo. He had written the song, and was trying to get some guitar vocals down on it. A good friend of mine, Randy Kohrs, got us connected. I went up and started singing the song. I just fell in love with it. My granddaddy on my mama’s side was a mechanic. So I grew up around him working on cars in his shop all the time. Having that kind of background helped me connect with him."

In addition to the album, there is also a DVD of the same title available that serves as further introduction to Walker. He says that even though he has done television before, a production of his own was a little bit different.

“We recorded that at Joey+Rory’s studio out on their farm, and that was a very stressful time. It was fun, but the stress comes from the fact that you’ve got one time to go in and make it as good as you possibly can. There were a lot of family and friends in the audience that night, so it was a real special time. It was the first time since Joey had passed away that any music was made in there. The next day, Rory and I did the interview portion, which turned out well,” he says, adding that more television might be in his future. “Maybe down the road we can do more of that."