David Walker Built Cabinets For The Stones, Saw Devo Melt Down and Witnessed Freddie Mother Fucking King
David Walker is a common sight at local festival shows, one of those guys entrusted to hold things together at Deep Ellum Arts Fest and Bro Fest. Before that, he was a stage manager at the House of Blues and, in the '70s, got his start with Showco, the Dallas-based concert production company, building cabinets for the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney.
For some stage managers, being curt comes with the job. Walker, however, couldn't be more pleasant while running his stages. He also really seems to go out of his way to treat our local talent with care and respect.
While stage manager seems to be appropriate term for what you do, I'd say you're the guy who takes care of everybody. What do you suppose led you to be the motherly type towards the performers?
Mother-fuckerly type at times! But yes, there are typically a lot of balls in the air at downbeat: front of house, monitors, lighting directors, video, stage hands and bands all have to be on the same page at the same time when the curtain opens. Being a guiding hand for all the players is a task more easily accomplished by being nice rather than harsh. To be successful and have a great show takes cooperation and encouragement. It's how I'd want to be treated if I were wearing those shoes.
Regardless, you must have witnessed plenty of colorful and dramatic moments.
There have been so many of both. Seeing Bob Casale of Devo melt down prior to doors opening at the venue on New Year's Eve, 1989, was quite the memorable moment. We all have our days, don't we? It was a triumph and a bummer that Brave Combo couldn't pull off their set at Deep Ellum Arts Fest this year due to the rain. Their professionalism and dedication compelled them to put on an acoustic set, to a handful of fans, in spite of it. Moments like that keep me waking up for work.
Was there a childhood epiphany that pointed you in the direction of music? A show or a song, maybe?
My epiphany was 1972, at a local elementary school dance. I was 12. Walked into the back door of the gym at M.T. Reilly elementary school and was behind the backline.The garage band du jour was playing "Sookie Sookie" by Steppenwolf. When it ended, guitar guy looked at me and said, "Hand me that, please," as he pointed to his other guitar. Bam.
Where did you get your initial training for all this?
Whenever a Showco client performed in Dallas, I would go watch the load-in, hang with the roadies, and learn. I had the great fortune of being hired at Showco as a cabinet carpenter in 1977. I built things for the Rolling Stones, Jackson Browne, the Bee Gees, Wings. Paul - excuse me, "Sir" Paul McCartney - tapped me on the shoulder one day as he was touring the shop. We were building the complete custom PA for Wings Over America. He asked what I was doing, smiled and walked away. See what I did there?
I see what you did. It's a very strenuous job. Hard to be the nice guy, but you seem to pull it off. Did you learn from a mentor?
Yes, I did. My grandfather, Herman Cox. Machinist, family man and keeper of my back when times called for it. And every day, every experience lends something to your abilities. Some have taught me how NOT to be, as well.
Best all-time live DFW performer you've ever witnessed?
Hands down, no one can argue about this one regardless of taste: FREDDIE MOTHER FUCKING KING at the old Mother Blues. For a show in the formative years, I saw The Nervebreakers and The Toys at the Northpark Holiday Inn, I think in 1976. It was just after the Nervebreakers had opened for the Sex Pistols at Longhorn Ballroom. Great and inspiring. It turned me on to punk rock. I spent a few years as a member of The Loco Gringo "tribe" and that was informative as well, however sadly.
The most exciting new DFW acts you've seen recently?
Menkena, The Monco Poncho, The Virgin Wolves and Caterpillars.