Billy Walker, the Grand Ole Opry legend whose hits included “Charlie’s Shoes” and “Cross the Brazos at Waco,” died in a wreck along an Alabama interstate on Sunday. He was 77.
Walker was killed along with his wife and two of his band members when a van they were riding in ran off Interstate 65 south of Montgomery and overturned, state troopers said.
Killed in the wreck were Bettie Walker, 61; and Charles Lilly Jr. 44, both of Hendersonville, Tenn., and Daniel Patton Sr., 40, of Hermitage, Tenn.
Walker’s grandson, Joshua Brooks, 21, also of Hendersonville, was injured in the accident. He remains in critical condition at an Alabama hospital, officials said.! The group was on their way back to the Nashville area after performing at a show near Gulf Shores, according to Tom Bowers, manager of the Hendersonville Funeral Home.
Bowers said family members have contacted the funeral home, which will be conducting services for the Walkers.
According to the Opry’s Web site, Billy Walker was born in Ralls, Texas, and built an early career as the “Traveling Texan, the Masked Singer of Country Songs” and later shared the stage with Elvis Presley.
Walker joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1960 and was known as one of the show’s most outgoing and personable performers.
“He couldn’t have been more supportive,” Brad Paisley told The Tennessean newspaper. The musician was introduced by Walker for his first appearance on the Opry in May 1999.
“I remember that he came to my first gold-record party, and I’ll always remember his charismatic presence when he was on stage,” he said.
Bettie Walker booked shows for her husband and other Opry artists. “I’ve never known someone as good at organizing things as Bettie,” said Opry member Jeannie Seely, a family friend.
Walker’s road shows usually involved Lilly on bass and Patton on lead guitar. The two band members also sang harmonies with Walker.