If, as Kinky Friedman once said, “an artist is a man who’s ahead of his time and behind on his rent,” then consider Wheeler Walker, Jr. the Michelangelo of country music. Now, of course I’m biased, being a dear friend of the man’s for going on damn near thirty years now. But keep in mind: I’m an official Colonel of the Great State of Kentucky. They don’t hand that shit out to just anybody.
You can’t begin to talk about Wheeler without first talking about the Bluegrass State. We ain’t talkin’ ‘bout the Ashley Judd, Rosemary Clooney, Billy Ray Cyrus version of Kentucky. Wheeler comes from that special Kentucky dirt, the dirt that brought us Hunter S. Thompson, Loretta Lynn, the Everly Brothers & Johnny Depp (Just his good movies of course. Not that lame Pirates dogshit.)
I still remember the first time I laid eyes on young “Wheels” (as he was known back then). A local talent contest in nineteen-eighty something. The kid had a gift. Singin’ those Hank Jr. and George Strait songs better than the originals. He didn’t win that day, on account o’ him changing the lyrics of “All My Rowdy Friends are Coming Over Tonight” to “All My Rowdy Friends Will Blow Each Other Tonight”. But a friendship was sealed, and in some ways, the Wheeler I met that day hasn’t changed a lick: Pissin’ people off, can’t win for losin’… but making sure nobody who saw him would ever forget the name Wheeler Walker, Jr.