News Column

Late music community stalwart Dave Walker still scores high with his friends

February 20, 2014

By Wayne Bledsoe, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.

Feb. 20--If you attended concerts by Knoxville rock bands, you probably saw Dave Walker. If he wasn't on stage, he was in the crowd.

"He was always part of the scene," says Chris Cook, who performed with Walker in the High Score. "I hear that a lot -- 'I only met him a couple of times, but he seemed like a great guy.' We were best friends since high school."

On Saturday, friends will come together to pay tribute to Walker and raise money for his family. Walker died from an accidental fall on Dec. 18, 2013. The bands Mustard, The High Score, The French and Punken Stupor will all perform. It will be the first performance by Mustard since 2003 and the first performance by the High Score with its founding membership since 2006.

Cook says that while Walker didn't perform in the band Mustard, he was an essential part of it. Walker designed the band's artwork, posters and flyers, and shot video of the group. It was, in fact, Walker who was with Cook on the night that Cook decided to begin recording music and start a band. The two drove from Athens where they were living to Knoxville to see the Knoxville band Hypertribe. The opening act was a band called The Used, which featured future members of Superdrag.

"I had been practicing guitar thinking maybe I'd start a band one day, but these guys, technically I was better than all of them, but they just blew me away. When we left I told Dave, 'I'm gonna do it!' I saw you didn't need to be technically perfect to be great."

Mustard's first single was called "My Friend David" because of a verse in the song that was actually about Walker.

That song, which featured Cook twanging a rubber band secured in his teeth, landed the group on the playlist of WUTK-FM in 1995.

"People could really hear the rubber band," says Cook. "People noticed it."

Mustard consisted of Cook, drummer Paul Turpin and bassist Nathan Mitchell. The members had previously been in the Knoxville acts The Plastics and Dynamo Hum, and Cook's humor-filled songs coalesced the group. A stack of cassettes and one CD were recorded before the group disbanded.

Mustard drummer Mitchell died in 2003, and Cook thought he would never perform under that name again.

"The idea of sticking a guy in Nathan's place just didn't seem right to me," says Cook.

Turpin is returning for the tribute show and Mitchell's place will be taken up by several bass players.

Cook says Mustard was ending just as the High Score was taking shape, and Walker and Cook were both founding members.

"Dave had never played bass and (High Score singer/guitarist) Robbie Trosper taught him bass just so he would be in the band. And I think I taught him a couple of things."

The original lineup of the group -- Cook, Trosper, Walker and drummer Jason Peters -- recorded the album "Sexy Losers" in 2003 and followed with "We Showed Up To Leave" in 2006 and a self-titled album in 2007. Peters left during the recording of the 2006 album and was replaced by Brad Henderson. Walker left the group a little later and was replaced by Vance Hillard. It was also during that period that the High Score began acting as the back-up group for Mic Harrison.

Cook eventually left the group as well because he was unable to tour with the band. He now plays with the popular cover band Pop Rox.

It's the original High Score lineup -- with former V-Roys bassist Paxton Sellers performing Walker's role -- that will perform at the benefit.

Cook says after Walker's death, the idea for a benefit began to take shape.

"Robbie Trosper and I spoke about how we'd like to do something. We talked about a benefit and it just blossomed and came together. It's more than a show. I hope it's something that helps Dave's family."

Cook says he thinks of Walker every day. Walker was best man at Cook's wedding and when Cook later divorced, it was Walker who let him live with him when he had to move out. Cook is still living at the house and encountering the things that Walker left behind.

"I don't know how I'm going to make it through it without being a big crybaby."


Dave Walker Benefit

With: Mustard, The High Score, The French and Punken Stupor

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22

Where: The Shed, 1820 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville

Admission: $5


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