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Clay Walker is much better in person

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The Clay Walker concert July 16 at Pala Casino’s Palomar Starlight Theater had a scheduled starting time of 8 p.m. The band members arrived on stage at 8:16 and Walker began singing his first song, “Rumor Has It,” at 8:17. The stage screen showed videos and announcements of Clay Walker’s social media participation for approximately 25 minutes prior to that.

Those who attended wanted to see Clay Walker in person, not Clay Walker on social media. Although the concert started later than scheduled, its length of approximately an hour and a half not including an eight-minute break prior to his encore song was comparable with Pala concerts which began on time. Walker himself sang 19 songs and delegated one other. Clay Walker in person was much better than Clay Walker virtually on social media, and during the concert the fans learned about the person Clay Walker is.

“Rumor Has It” is one of Walker’s six songs which reached #1 on the charts, and Walker performed all six of those (the other five are “What’s It To You,” “Live Until I Die,” “Dreaming With My Eyes Open,” “If I Could Make a Living,” and “This Woman and This Man”). He also performed songs initially recorded by those who influenced him.

“Live Until I Die” was from Walker’s first album in 1993, but it took on a personal meaning after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1996. He has continued to tour and to record albums. Walker has also been active in efforts to cure multiple sclerosis. So has a company called Genentech which has a facility in Oceanside, and Walker provided more than a dozen tickets to his Pala concert for Genentech. which offered the tickets to interested staff members.

The Genentech contingent was invited to meet with Walker backstage prior to the show. During their conversations, Walker learned that Genentech change control technician Jennifer Guzman sings karaoke. Walker invited Guzman, who lives in Jamul and sings karaoke primarily at Steele 94 Restaurant Bar on the Spring Valley/Jamul border, to perform a song on stage during the concert. After Walker performed the first 16 songs he yielded the microphone to Guzman, who sang “Don’t Stop Believin.” Walker’s six other band members accompanied Guzman on the Journey song.

That incident showcased Guzman’s talent, but it also showed the type of person Walker is. He played three more of his songs, but in many cases those songs were originally recorded by other artists whose influence he noted during his comments prior to those songs.

“It’s great to be out here with people who know the history of country music and enjoy it,” Walker said.

Walker made that comment after singing “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” which was originally recorded by Keith Whitley, and prior to singing “Help Me Hold On,” which initially was a Travis Tritt song. “I used to play those songs in clubs,” Walker said. “That’s how I got started, really.”

He then recounted an incident when he was 11 years old and decided to become a country music singer after hearing “Amarillo By Morning” while riding with his father. “I said: ‘Daddy, daddy, I want to sing songs like that,’” Walker said.

“Amarillo By Morning” is a George Strait song, although Walker sang that after his explanation – which included that after Walker’s first album was released, Walker toured with Strait. Alan Jackson wrote “If I Could Make a Living” and gave the song to Walker to record on his second album.

In 2006, Walker recorded his first duet. He teamed with Freddy Fender, who would pass away months later, on Fender’s hit “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.” Walker noted his relationship with and influence from Fender prior to performing that song at Pala.

That is who Clay Walker is. He is a talented artist, but he also recognizes the roles other people have had in his life. He has originality and he also gives credit to those who helped him become what he is. That is Clay Walker the person. Tributes on social media don’t match up to Clay Walker being in person and being the person he is.


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