By the time Joe Louis Walker turned 16, he was playing with touring artists like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and John Mayall in his hometown of San Francisco.
Today, 55 years later, he is one of those legends, on his own tour.
Walker will perform at the Gas Lamp in downtown Des Moines at 8 p.m. on November 17, with doors opening at 7 p.m. Tickets for the show are $20 in advance and can be purchased online at tickets.midwestix.com. Admission at the door will be $25.
In his day, Walker rubbed shoulders with Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead, was a roommate of the late blues guitarist Michael Bloomfield, asked Grammy-winning guitarist Paul Nelson to produce one of his albums, and was inducted into the Blues. Hall of Fame in 2013.
His first album, “Cold is the Night”, was released in 1986. His latest, “Eclectic Electric”, will go on sale on November 12. It’s a mix of original tracks like “Uptown Girl Blues” and “Bad Betty,” and covers of California classics like the Eagles’ “Hotel California” and Don Henley’s hit “All She Wants to Do Is Dance.”
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“I just asked a lot of people and cherish their opinions, former producers, former musicians, friends, family,” Walker said of his process for selecting songs to cover. “I’ll ask anyone connected to the song, (like) one of the songwriters… ‘Do you hear me doing this and what do you see me doing with this song?'”
In the case of one of the album’s other covers, “Werewolves of London,” he had a lifelong friendship with the song’s co-writer, Waddy Wachtel, who created the now-favorite Halloween song. with Warren Zevon and Le Roy Marinel.
Walker’s version is a funk version of the 1978 song, with Wachtel accompanying it on the recording. It was released before the album as a single.
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Now, Walker is a regular on album releases and recordings. As the COVID-19 pandemic rearranged some of his recording plans, it gave him the opportunity to polish his cover of Keith Richards’ “Make No Mistake.”
“We had recorded this before the pandemic and all of this hit – we were just able to refine it,” Walker said. “The time has lent itself to really look at things a little better and really come back to it with new ears.”
For more information on Walker’s show, visit Gas Lamp’s Facebook page at facebook.com/gaslampdm.
Isaac Hamlet covers arts, entertainment and culture at the Des Moines Register. Reach him at email@example.com or (319)-600-2124, follow him on Twitter @IsaacHamlet.