In retrospect, it’s no surprise to me that Blues from the Apple was Charles Walker’s only album as a leader after 20 years of singles for Danny and Bobby Robinson labels. Charles was a talented musician, but he was an ace huckster. Two stories in particular stand out in my memory.
We had a session planned and at the last minute Charles called and said he was without a guitar. We scrambled and were able to borrow a 12-string electric from our friend, composer Robert Alpert. Afterwards, Charles had another request.
“Boys, I loved this gi-tar so much and I’ve got a gig tonight. Could I bring it back tomorrow?”
Sure thing Charles. After all, he was our recording artist.
Next morning rolls around and so does Charles. But, instead of a guitar he hands me a pawn ticket from a shop in the South Bronx. Let’s leave out the fact that we were dead broke. This was the 70s; the South Bronx was a suicide zone, especially for white kids (ever see the movie Fort Apache, The Bronx?).
Fast forward a couple of years. Blues from the Apple had come and gone, our least well received release. Oblivion itself is on its last legs, and we get a call that poor Charles had passed away in his mid-50s from lung cancer, could we come to a memorial at 116th Street & Lenox Avenue (also, not a great neighborhood in those days)? We get to the funeral home to greet a large gathering of well wishers, a mix of folks from the neighborhood and new fans from our recording efforts. The service itself was a large piece of drama (Charles’ wife Josephine and girlfriend, drummer Ola Mae Dixon, trying to out cry each other, and best, Lousiana Red’s impassioned eulogy, only marred by the fact that Red had never met Charles). As things are about to begin, Tom and I get a tap on our shoulders.
“Excuse me gentlemen,” says the funeral director in the expected hushed tones. “Could you join me in the back?”
Tom and I look at each other, shrug our shoulders, and head to his office.
“Gentleman, I’m told that you are the managers of Mr. Walker’s record company.” Uh-oh. “Mrs. Walker” —which one?”— “Mrs. Walker informs me that you gentlemen will be paying the balance of expenses for the service. Unfortunately, without that payment Charles’ ceremony cannot continue.”
Oh jeez. The final hustle.0 comments Tagged: OD-4, Blues from the Apple, Charles Waker,.