Don Walker (musician)

Don Walker (musician)
Don Walker
Birth name Donald Hugh Walker
Born 29 November 1951 (1951-11-29) (age 59)
Origin Ayr, Queensland, Australia
Genres Rock
Hard rock
Pub rock
Alternative country
Occupations Musician
Instruments Piano
Years active 1973 -
Labels Mushroom Records
Universal Music Group
Associated acts Cold Chisel
Tex, Don and Charlie
Website Official Site

Don Walker (born 29 November 1951) is an Australian musician and songwriter known for writing many of the hits for Australian pub rock band Cold Chisel. He played piano and keyboard with the band from 1973 to 1983, when they disbanded. He has since continued to record and tour, both solo and with Tex, Don and Charlie, and worked as a song-writer for others. In 2009, he released his first book.

Richard Clapton describes Walker as, "the most Australian writer there has ever been. Don just digs being a sort of Beat poet, who goes around observing, especially around the streets of Kings Cross. He soaks it up like a sponge and articulates it so well. Quite frankly, I think he's better than the rest of us."[1]

Walker is considered to be one Australia's best songwriters.[2][3]


Early life

Donald Hugh Walker was born in Ayr North Queensland to a farmer father and schoolteacher mother.[4] He lived on a cane farm his father owned on Rita Island on the Burdekin River until the age of 4.[5] His family later moved to Grafton, where a local piano teacher taught him, "a little bit of Chopin.....a lot of Fats Waller repertoire, and also Winifred Atwell."[4] Later, he, "got into organ and the main influences were Stevie Winwood's 60s stuff and Ray Manzarek."[6]

Having completed a degree in physics in the 70s, Walker was working for the Weapons Research Establishment, modelling airflow for F-111s, when he formed Cold Chisel.[7]

Walker moved to Kings Cross in Sydney in 1976, and stayed there for three decades.[8] Local landmarks are mentioned in many of his songs.

Cold Chisel

From the earliest days Walker was the creative songwriting force for Cold Chisel. He became known for his passionate and raw lyrical observations on the Australian society and culture of the time. His songwriting credits include the hit singles "Flame Trees," "Saturday Night," "Choirgirl," (a teary ballad about abortion) "Breakfast At Sweethearts," "Cheap Wine," and the iconic Australian Vietnam war song "Khe Sanh" (voted the 8th greatest Australian song of all time by the Australian Performing Rights Association in 2001).[9] Many of these songs still receive airplay on Australian radio to this day and have become ingrained in Australian music culture.

During his time with Cold Chisel he produced his first work outside the band, the soundtrack to the Australian movie "Freedom", directed by Scott Hicks. The soundtrack was released as an album and featured members of Cold Chisel and Michael Hutchence.

Post-Cold Chisel

After Cold Chisel disbanded in 1983, Walker had a five year hiatus before resuming recording and performing using the name "Catfish." Ostensibly a band, Catfish was in effect a solo project, featuring Walker on vocals, keyboards and penning all the songs. Catfish featured various backing musicians, such as Charlie Owen, Ian Moss, Ricky Fataar and David Blight, a much-admired harmonica player. Performing as a singer live for the first time, Walker recalled it initially being, "so hard I had to get half-happy on alcohol to manage it."[10]

The first album, Unlimited Address, released in 1989, showed a jazzier, Eastern European side to Walker's songwriting, reflecting his travels during the previous years.[4] Despite being critically lauded, sales were moderate, the album reaching number 49 in the national charts.[11] The next album, "Ruby," was a return to Australia in sound and lyrical subject matter. Again, it was well received by critics but sold relatively poorly. The track "Charleville" was later to receive country music awards when covered by Slim Dusty.

In early 1992 Don performed an acoustic live performance for alternative radio station JJJ with Charlie Owen, James Cruickshank and Tex Perkins.[12] In 1993 Tex, Don and Charlie released their first album, "Sad but True" on Red Eye Records. The record, an acoustic country-tinged affair, returned Walker to some level of popular awareness and received rave reviews in magazines like Australian Rolling Stone. About half the songs were written by Walker, including "Sitting in a Bar." The band toured strongly on the back of the album, later releasing a live album "Monday Morning Coming Down," featuring tracks from "Sad But True" plus some covers of standards. Walker says, "They're recording warts that are all over every record but most producers clean them off; we love 'em so we leave 'em."[10]

2005 saw the release of a third Tex, Don and Charlie album, "All is Forgiven," similar in style to the first. Again, Walker wrote about half the songs, including the long-anticipated, "Harry was a Bad Bugger," described by Chris Johnston as, "the Australian song of the year."[13] The album was shortlisted for the inaugural Australian Music Prize.[14]

1994 was the year of Walker's first full release under his own name, "We're All Gunna Die." He stated that it was the first album to carry his name as, "it was the first record that finished up how I wanted it.” [15] It was recorded almost live in the studio over a period of 4 days with a band featuring David Blight, Garrett Costigan on pedal-steel guitar and Red Rivers on guitar. The music is a ragged mix of country, Chicago blues and balladry, and features the song "Barrel of Eternity." It would be another 12 years before Walker was to produce another solo recording, the well-received "Cutting Back." From 2005 to 2012 he toured Australia occasionally with his backing band, the Suave Fucks.

Walker published his first book, Shots, in 2009. It was an autobiographical collection of smaller pieces, rarely more than a few pages in length. The subject matter was mostly recollections of rural Australia or life with Cold Chisel before they became widely famous. A separate piece by Walker had previously been included in The Best Australian Essays collection for 2007.[16]

Shots received a number of positive reviews:[2][17] The Age described the memoir as "a whip crack across a landscape of rural Australia, lonely highways and endless gigs;"[18] in the Australian Book Review it was called "a quite wonderful book [that] blasts away every last vestige of the crude, boozy, foot-stomping, flag-waving Australiana that has until now enveloped the Cold Chisel story like a filthy smog, leaving behind only the simmering highways, the trashy motels, the dank pubs and the monotonous suburbs of a nation slouching apathetically through the remnants of the 20th century." Readings from Shots, as performed by Walker, were aired on Radio National throughout late 2009.[19]

Walker has worked with many other artists, most notably with song writing credits on Ian Moss' hit album, "Matchbook" and Jimmy Barnes' single "Stone Cold." He has written with or had songs recorded by TOFOG, Jimmy Little, Slim Dusty, Kate Ceberano, Wendy Matthews, Troy Cassar-Daley, Graeme Connors, Anne Kirkpatrick, Mick Harvey, Melinda Schneider, Katie Noonan, Jeff Lang, Normie Rowe and Adam Brand. He also produced Moss' album "Petrolhead."

He is the brother of the Australian novelist, Brenda Walker and son of Australian novelist Shirley Walker.[20] He is a Brisbane Broncos supporter.[5]

Awards and nominations

APRA Awards

See also


  • Lawrence, Michael; Showtime, The Cold Chisel Story, 1998 self-published, PO Box 156, Belmont, Vic, 3216
  • O'Grady, Anthony;The Pure Stuff, 2001, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW
  • Walker, Don; Shots, 2009, Black Inc. Melbourne, Vic. ISBN 9781863953023


  1. ^ John O'Donnell, Toby Creswell & Craig Mathieson (2010). The 100 Best Australian Albums. Prahran, Victoria: Hardie Grant Books. pp. 150. ISBN 9781740669559. 
  2. ^ a b Michael Epis (18 January 2010). "Don Walker, writer extraordinaire". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Lindsay Tanner (22 April 2009). "Don Walker's Shots on target". Age Blogs. Fairfax. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Kruger, Debbie (2005). Songwriters Speak. Balmain, New South Wales: Limelight Press. pp. 267–287. ISBN 09757080. 
  5. ^ a b Chris Whiting. "Take a Walker on the Mild Side". Rave Magazine (Stones Corner, QLD: Rave Magazine Pty Ltd) (2 March 1994): 24. 
  6. ^ Lesley Sly. "Catfish Capers". Sonics (Alexandria, NSW: Federal Publishing Co.) (March/April 1989): 19. 
  7. ^ Drew Warne-Smith (7 February 2009). "Standing on the outside". The Australian. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  8. ^ "Songlines". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. 2 November 2005. Retrieved 25 February 2010. 
  9. ^ "2001 - Top 10 Songs". APRA-AMCOS. 28 May 20091. Retrieved 7 August 2009. 
  10. ^ a b Angus Fontaine. "Walker on the Wild Side". The Bulletin (Sydney, NSW: ACP Magazines) (22 November 2005): 65. 
  11. ^ David Kent (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, New South Wales: Australian Chart Book. p. 58. ISBN 0646119176. 
  12. ^ Chris Mundy. "Random Notes". Australian Rolling Stone (Sydney, NSW: Tilmond Pty Ltd) (June 1992): pg13. 
  13. ^ Chris Johnston (30 December 2005). "So, what have you been listening to?". Age. Fairfax. Retrieved 16 October 2009. 
  14. ^ "The Drones Take Out The Inaugural AMP (Australian Music Prize)". Faster Louder. 9 March 2006. Retrieved 22 October 2009. 
  15. ^ Tim Cashmere (24 July 2009). "Review: Don Walker - We're All Gunna Die (Reissue)". Undercover. Retrieved 7 August 2009. 
  16. ^ Andrew Reimer (24 November 2007). "The Best Australian Essays 2007". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  17. ^ "Shots from the hip". Time Out Sydney. Retrieved 9 July 2009. 
  18. ^ "Don Walker charts rise and fall of Cold Chisel". Age. Fairfax. 13 February 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2009. 
  19. ^ "First Person". ABC. Retrieved 31 October 2009. 
  20. ^ "First Tuesday Book Club". ABC. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  21. ^ "2008 Winners - APRA Music Awards". APRA. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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