AN INTERVIEW WITH JEANINE WALKER
By Bill Winstead
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For over half a century, many talented people have labored in veritable obscurity
playing and singing behind Eddy Arnold on stage, radio, television, and/or records.
Among that group of background performers was Jeanine Walker.
Virtually all of Jeanine’s life has been a quest for musical excellence. Music has not
just provided Jeanine with a lucrative and satisfying career. It also led to her
marriage to Bill Walker whose lush, symphonic arrangements helped carry Eddy
Arnold to incredible success in the 1960s.
Music filled Jeanine’s childhood home in Laurel, Mississippi. Both of her parents
were accomplished musicians. Her mother was a gifted pianist, while her father
excelled as a musical director. Obviously, Jeanine’s penchant for music came
naturally. She learned to play the clarinet and the piano. Jeanine also took voice
Those voice lessons paid off publicly for the first time in Toronto, Canada. There,
with her mother at the piano, Jeanine performed at the Rotary International
While earning a degree in education at the University of Mississippi, Jeanine
continued her musical pursuits. A most memorable moment came when she had the
opportunity to appear with an American legend.
Bob Hope was booked to perform at an arts festival in Jackson, Mississippi. The
reigning Miss Mississippi was supposed to appear with Hope but backed out at the
last minute. The manager of the local radio station where Jeanine worked
recommended her to replace the beauty queen. Hope was so impressed with
Jeanine’s performance that he asked her to appear with him again.
Another pivotal point in Jeanine’s show business career came when she became a
member of the song and dance team, The Kids Next Door, an offshoot of the
wholesome, patriotic group, The Young Americans. Jeanine was happy the day she
learned that The Kids Next Door had been signed to open for Eddy Arnold at a
concert in Brockton, Massachusetts.
Jeanine was thrilled to meet Eddy Arnold who impressed her with his kindness and
sincerity. Jeanine watched from the wings as Arnold performed. She was
captivated by Arnold’s voice, stage presence, and audience appeal.
Jeanine took more than a casual interest in Eddy Arnold’s musical director/pianist.
What attracted her to Bill Walker?
“Bill was so friendly backstage," recalled Jeanine. “He was so talented and
handsome.” Jeanine also admitted that she was enthralled with Bill's Australian accent.
It would not be very long before Jeanine and Bill Walker would meet again.
Jeanine had told Bill and others that she was getting tired of the show business
An opening developed in Nashville's most famous vocal backup group, the Anita
Kerr Singers. When Anita Kerr left her group to move to California, she was
replaced by Jerry Reed's wife, Priscilla, who later decided to quit the quartet. Bill
Walker contacted Jeanine about the opening and she came to Nashville to stay.
Jeanine’s first vocalizing as a studio singer came when she backed trumpeter Al Hirt
who was also a client of Jerry Purcell, Eddy Arnold’s manager. The musical
director for that first session was Bill Walker.
From the year 1968, Jeanine remembered her first of many opportunities to sing behind Eddy Arnold. Although she enjoyed all of the recordings, Jeanine particularly liked doing
Eddy Arnold’s number one hit, Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye. Years later
Jeanine also sang behind Arnold on an album marketed on TV and on a TNN
special tribute to the singer.
Jeanine also joined Bill in television work. Bill served as musical director for the
Johnny Cash Show in the 1970s. The Walkers recently concluded a seven-year stint
on the Statler Brothers Show.
Jeanine’s talents are not just confined to music. She is also blessed with obvious
writing ability. Each year, inscrutably near groundhog day, Jeanine sends friends
an entertaining update on the Walker clan. The informative little narrative is
always a source of inspiration and humor.
Golf has become an important diversion to Jeanine who took up the sport almost
out of marital necessity. Bill Walker is a gifted golfer. Whenever Nashville hosts a
celebrity tournament, Bill is usually at or near the top of the leader board. So
Jeanine started chasing the little white ball to keep her from becoming a golf widow.
What is Jeanine’s favorite Eddy Arnold song? Make The World Go Away.
“That song had been recorded by other artists and hadn't done anything,” said
Jeanine. "It almost didn't get done." Showcased by Bill Walker's memorable
arrangement, Make The World Go Away became Eddy Arnold’s biggest hit.
Jeanine, who has taught voice at Belmont University in Nashville, enjoys all kinds of
music. A few years ago she put together a young jazz group that did some shows
around the country.
The Walkers are devout Christians. Keeping their faith in a show-business
atmosphere has not been as difficult as one might think. Jeanine, who gave her
heart to Christ when she was 11 years old, revealed that there is a solid Christian
community in the music industry in Nashville.
Married 29 years, Jeanine and Bill have a daughter, Beth, who will be 18 years old in
October. Beth was a miracle baby, a living testimony to the Walkers’ relationship
In 1975 Jeanine had a baby that lived only two days. However, the Walkers’
terrible tragedy did not dim their faith. Doctors told Jeanine that another
pregnancy was impossible. But Jeanine refused to accept the medical opinions,
preferring instead to pray to God. Beth was the answer to the Walkers’ prayers.
For a long time Jeanine and Bill have been sharing their Christian faith and music
in churches. The Walkers have received so many requests that they decided to record
a collection of sacred favorites for their BNJ label.
The title of the first volume, Tell Me The Story Of Jesus, will be released in about a month. Keep checking this website. Bill Comer will provide information on the release date of the Walkers’ album as soon as it is available.
What is Jeanine’s evaluation of Eddy Arnold?
“To be honest, at first, I didn't care for country music. Eddy Arnold is the first one
to make it palatable to me. He's been called the ‘country gentleman’ and that fits
him perfectly. Eddy has always been a good friend. He's always treated me as if I
How would Jeanine answer the country music traditionalists who were upset when
Eddy Arnold rode Bill Walker's innovative arrangements to extraordinary crossover
“Eddy took the genre to new audiences. He broadened the appeal of country.
Before Eddy, many people looked down on country music. He brought new respect
to country music.”
Keep checking the website for the release date and other information pertaining to
the Walkers' new album.
The Walkers appeared in North Carolina from November 05 through November 08, 2000. They performed for the revival at First Baptist Church of Goldsboro, NC and were well received by their fans.
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