Derek Walker's Gone From Airwaves to Dirt Track
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Derek Walker, on the right track
In 2009, KZPS-FM 92.5 fired Derek Walker from their promotions crew. Unfortunately, he was sorely misunderstood by the marketing department's then-head honcho, and was let go after going shirtless for a bit at the end of a 110-plus-degree mid-summer promotional appearance at a biker bar in Terrell. That management honcho has since been replaced with someone considerably more hip and less high-strung.
Still, it's a shame, because he naturally related to the station's core audience. Walker did more on the clock than just put on a station T-shirt and show up to erect the goodies tent. We've all heard Dimebag's "getcha pull," but D-Rock's vocab runs deeper into the scene.
Post-KZPS, Walker kept his chin up, worked in other areas of Clear Channel's Dallas cluster, fixed cars in his family's shop and did a long stint as the promotional director for Ride For Dime and Little Kids Rock. He immersed himself in Fort Worth's rock scene however he could, and more recently has settled in as announcer/host for the local racing scene, scoring steady work everywhere from dirt tracks to hosting special events at Texas Motor Speedway.
Point is, D-Rock is fun to hang out with, injects a lot of social Vivarin into whatever event he's standing in the middle of, and everyone who mixes with him seems to end up a friend.
So, congrats on all going on with you. Seems well deserved.
Livin' the dream, brother. My heart and soul bleed racing and rock 'n' roll.
I understand you've been doing some things with The Rail Club as well?
Never worked for The Rail Club in any official capacity. [Rail Club owners] Buster and Warren really get it. I've always supported and helped promote local music, but when The Ridglea Theater closed, The Rail became a premier music venue in Fort Worth. It's one of those clean, very personal clubs where you can see your favorite local band one weekend, and a big national act the next.
Who sounds awesome out that way? Who should we definitely see?
Oh, I party with everyone! 100 Proof Hatred is pretty heavy and currently in the studio. If you haven't seen Whiskeydick you're missing out. Also, although they're based in Dallas, Messer is doing big things. And Warbeast also just finished a national tour.
Tell us about the dirt track gig, and how it led to a Texas Motor Speedway gig. Was there a musical connection that pointed you in the direction of being a racing announcer?
As far back as I can remember, I've always been passionate about racing of any kind. The ol' man and I built a couple stock cars over the years for the local dirt tracks, but due to circumstances outside my control, I never got any seat time racing. In 2009, I got a call from one of many great friends I made during my five years with Clear Channel Radio Dallas. Knowing how much I'm into racing, he informed me about a broadcast posting seeking a dirt track announcer, and after a business lunch, I had an announcing gig at Boyd Raceway on Fridays and Cowtown Speedway on Saturdays. Couple years later, I got a phone call from Bobby Black, a current promotions manager and on-air jock at CC Radio Dallas. Texas Motor Speedway's advertising/event manager was looking for a "special event talent." I was stoked for the opportunity to get involved. So, after rockin' the crowd and hosting Friday night drags, they asked me to join TMS announcer Brad Gillie. So far they've had me do both fall and spring dirt track championships, a handful of radio spots, and even the big NASCAR race weekends. TMS President Eddie Gossage and the entire staff have been great to me. The organization is like one big family. It's a true honor to be a small part of "The Great American Speedway."
So Clear Channel's rock radio people eventually gave you some real love. I always thought it was a shame when you started to get throttled down over there. I know you've been huge fan of KEGL 97.1 The Eagle for many years.
When I met Rob Zombie at the House of 1000 Corpses movie signing in '03, [KEGL jock] Cindy Scull put me on the air and I knew I wanted to be in radio right then and there. After months of buggin' 'em, they chose me for the "radio apprentice" contest. I was on air with Scull, Robert Miguel and the late brother Mayhem for a week and I had a blast! Got my foot in the door just in time for the only hard rock station left in DFW to flip format. I moved over to KZPS, the classic rock station, from promotions to board operator. By the time The Eagle launched again I was at the helm for major live broadcasts like BFD, Freakers Ball, even KDGE's Edgefests. I figured it was just a matter of time till I earned my shot, and just maybe they'd let me bring back a local music show. Didn't quite happen that way for whatever reason. Regardless, I had a blast and I'm grateful for so many killer times and all the dear friends I made along the way.
Was there music in your youth that inspired your direction in life?
My earliest musical influence actually comes from my mother. She's had a gift for piano since before I was born. I would fall asleep to the sound of her singing and playing. I sang in the school choir until my voice changed. Then I found my dad's album collection. When it comes to concerts, I loved big summer shows outside at Coca-Cola Starplex. One show that really sticks out was Black Sabbath, Zombie, Pantera, Slayer, Godsmack, Primus and Fear Factory.
Tell us a little about Ride for Dime.
Ride For Dime is a 501(c)3, a non-profit charity organization that honors and celebrates the lives of [Alrosa Villa shooting victims] "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, Jeff "Mayhem" Thompson, Erin Halk, Nathan Bray and all our loved ones we've lost along the way. RFD partners with Little Kids Rock to promote music education in public schools, and created the Ride For Dime Scholarship Fund in 2010.
RFD 5, in '09, was definitely one of my top 10 favorite memories. Not only was I promoted to vice president, but I got to join the all-star jam with a bunch of our favorite rockers. Of course Vinnie, Rita and Bobzilla were there, and so as Corey Taylor called us up on stage, the one and only Ace Frehley gave me the fist bump! With everything on my plate at the time last year, I did take some personal time from the day-to-day operations. I have always supported RFD as it has grown from a 20-count motorcycle ride to the nationwide event it has become today.