Bradley Walker: Heroes and Harmony
by Emerald Butler
Bradley Walker was born with Muscular Dystrophy, but his powerful voice and hardworking lifestyle carried him onto a Dolly Parton record. Dolly’s latest release, “In The Sweet By and By,” on the newest Country Faith Bluegrass Album, captures Bradley backing up the country queen with some of his close friends, Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, and Jerry Salley. Bradley credits Jerry Salley for inviting him to be a part of this project, and it is Bradley’s heroes turned friends that have helped him get to where he is today.
Bradley began singing at his church in his hometown of Athens, Alabama. When Bradley was age 10, the Oak Ridge Boys invited him to sing on the Nashville Now show. Even with this early success, Bradley later became a Material Analyst at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in his hometown. Over the years, Bradley has continued to work his day job while still pursuing his musical dreams and driving to Nashville. The late Joey Feek became one of his biggest fans, and it was while singing at her funeral, Bradley was discovered and signed by gospel music icon Bill Gaither. Bradley released his first record, Call Me Old Fashioned, in 2016. Bradley followed that album with a star-studded sequel called Blessed in 2017. The album features many of Bradley’s heroes, such as Jimmy Fortune of the Statler Brothers, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, and the Oak Ridge Boys.
“Jerry Salley is one of my dearest friends, and he called me to sing bass on this recording with Dolly,” Bradley shared. “Larry, Carl, and Jerry have not only been dear friends but mentors to me, and I was just tickled to death to get that call.”
Salley had a vocal track of Dolly’s version of “The Sweet By and By,” recorded years before but not published. Remote recording and vocal track stacking have come in handy during the pandemic, so Bradley went in last year to record the bass track for the song.
“Jerry and Larry are pretty much responsible for me becoming a bass singer. They each released gospel albums several years ago, and they both asked me if I would come in and sing some bass harmony. That was the beginning of me singing a lot more bass.”
Bradley is also part of another quartet with Jimmy Fortune, Mike Rogers, and Ben Isaacs. “I’ve been a singer all my life, and I love singing lead. Just as much as singing lead, I love blending my voice with other voices. It’s something that’s a lot of fun and just being able to create something with friends like that makes it even more special.”
Bradley has spoken to Dolly once in passing at the Grand Ole Opry, but this was Bradley’s first experience singing with Dolly Parton, even if it was digitally.
“Incredible,” Bradley shared when asked what it was like to be on a record with Dolly. “To hear all of our voices with Dolly is like something beyond your wildest dreams. She is such an iconic person and an iconic voice. It’s such a blessing to me. It’s very special. When you hear your voice with Dolly Parton, it’s just like ‘Wow, that happened.'”
Bradley said that it wasn’t only her voice or her music that was an inspiration to him, but who she is as a person and a Christian. “She’s never been afraid to put her faith and her belief in God out front, and I admire that about Dolly so much.”
Enjoy this “I Want To Do More Than Just Drink The Water” video by our October issue headliners!
Dolly Parton’s “In the Sweet By and By” and the whole Country Faith Bluegrass album is now available on Billy Blue Records.