By Audrey Hertel
Photos contributed by Reynold Peterson/Prairie Dog Archives
June 26, 2019
The life of Dr. John Walker, a longtime Lincoln musician, will be celebrated this Saturday at the Unitarian Church of Lincoln, 6300 A St.
The celebration begins at 2 p.m. with a service that will be followed by live music from 3:15. to 5 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring their instruments.
The Oklahoma-born Walker, who died on Nov. 19, 2018, moved to Lincoln in the late 1960s to teach philosophy at Nebraska Wesleyan University. An accomplished songwriter, Walker recorded music throughout his career for his own Prairie Dog Music label, which has also released albums by over a dozen other Nebraska artists.
Whether it be through his lyrics, his performances or his encouragement to other musicians, Walker brought the community together with music and impacted many people during his life.
Joe Ludwig worked on many projects with and executive produced Walker’s box set, From An Oakie Boy To The Loup River, that included three CD’s filled with 50 of Walker’s original works. Ludwig saw Walker’s musicianship firsthand and said he was a Nebraska great.
“He was a self-taught musician, a wonderful picker, a wonderful singer, maybe in my mind, one of the great songwriters that ever called Nebraska home.”
Ludwig’s connection with Walker went beyond working on projects together.
“John was such a great friend, just somebody was always there for you, and he was encouraging and witty and just wonderful to be around,” he said.
Dave Merrill, a friend of Walker’s whose friendship began with playing basketball in a church basement in the 1980s, said Walker’s encouragement sparked his career in music.
“He kept encouraging me on my music career,” he said. “So I started playing guitar because I had heard him.”
According to Merrill, Walker was well respected in the music community and was always willing to support the musicians who surrounded him with his encouragement.
“He would encourage all of us, no matter what our level of musicianship was, to participate. He was one of the most inclusive people I’ve ever known.”
Walker’s impact continues to bring people together and will do so this Saturday at the celebration. After the service and music session at the Unitarian Church of Lincoln, there will be a party with music and food at the Zoo Bar from 6 to 9 p.m.
Audrey Hertel is a multimedia intern with KZUM.