Don Walker (musician)

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Don Walker
Walker in 2015
Walker in 2015
Background information
Birth nameDonald Hugh Walker
Born (1951-11-29) 29 November 1951 (age 68)
Ayr, Queensland, Australia
GenresRock, hard rock, pub rock, blues, alternative country
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, author
InstrumentsPiano, keyboard
Years active1973–present
LabelsMushroom Records, Universal Music Group
Associated actsCold Chisel, Tex, Don and Charlie
WebsiteOfficial Site

Donald Hugh Walker (born 29 November 1951) is an Australian musician, songwriter and author known for writing many of the hits for Australian pub rock band Cold Chisel. He played piano and keyboard with the band from 1973 to 1983, when they disbanded. He has since continued to record and tour, both solo and with Tex, Don and Charlie, and worked as a songwriter for others. In 2009, he released his first book.

Richard Clapton describes Walker as, "the most Australian writer there has ever been. Don just digs being a sort of Beat poet, who goes around observing, especially around the streets of Kings Cross. He soaks it up like a sponge and articulates it so well. Quite frankly, I think he's better than the rest of us."[1]

Walker is considered to be one of Australia's best songwriters.[2][3][4] In 2012 he was inducted into the Australian Songwriter's Hall of Fame.[5]

Early life and family[edit]

Walker was born in Ayr, Queensland to a farmer father and schoolteacher mother.[6] His grandfather had served at Gallipoli in World War I, and then at the Battle of Pozières, where he was shot in the face. Returning to Australia, he married the sister of his best friend, who had died in the same battle.[7]

Walker's father was a harmonica player and fan of Larry Adler.[8] Walker said his father was in, "the AIF in Palestine and Syria in WW2 and in what was then Ceylon and three tours of New Guinea."[9][10] He owned a cane farm on Rita Island on the Burdekin River, where Walker lived until the age of 4.[11] His family later moved to Grafton, where a local piano teacher, Dot Morris, taught him, "a little bit of Chopin.....a lot of Fats Waller repertoire, and also Winifred Atwell."[6] Later, he, "got into organ and the main influences were Stevie Winwood's 60s stuff and Ray Manzarek."[12]

Having completed a degree in physics in the 70s, Walker was working for the Weapons Research Establishment, when he helped form Cold Chisel.[13]

Walker moved to Kings Cross in Sydney in 1976, and stayed there for more than three decades.[14] Kings Cross locations, including Springfield Avenue, Forbes Street, Sweethearts and the El Alamein Fountain are mentioned in many of his songs.

Cold Chisel[edit]

From the earliest days Walker was the creative songwriting force for Cold Chisel. He became known for his passionate and raw lyrical observations on the Australian society and culture of the time. His songwriting credits include the hit singles "Flame Trees," "Saturday Night," "Choirgirl,""Goodbye (Astrid Goodbye)", "Cheap Wine," and the Australian Vietnam war song "Khe Sanh" (voted the 8th greatest Australian song of all time by the Australian Performing Rights Association in 2001).[15] Many of these songs still receive airplay on Australian radio to this day and have become ingrained in Australian music culture.

During his time with Cold Chisel he produced his first work outside the band, the soundtrack of the Australian movie "Freedom", directed by Scott Hicks. The soundtrack was released as an album and featured members of Cold Chisel and Michael Hutchence. The Age described it as, "the best rock music written for an Australian movie."[16]

Post-Cold Chisel[edit]

After Cold Chisel disbanded in 1983, Walker had a five-year hiatus before resuming recording and performing. Initially, he had considered hiring an actor to front the band and mime the songs before deciding to front "Catfish." [8] Ostensibly a band, Catfish was in effect a solo project, featuring Walker on vocals, keyboards and penning all the songs. Catfish featured various backing musicians, such as Charlie Owen, Ian Moss, Ricky Fataar and harmonica player David Blight.

The first album, Unlimited Address, released in 1989, showed a jazzier, Eastern European side to Walker's songwriting, reflecting his travels during the previous years.[6] Despite being critically lauded, sales were moderate, the album reaching number 49 in the national charts.[17] The next album, "Ruby," was a return to Australia in sound and lyrical subject matter. Again, it was well received by critics but sold relatively poorly. The track "Charleville" was later to receive country music awards when covered by Slim Dusty.

In early 1992, Walker featured in an acoustic live performance for alternative radio station JJJ with Charlie Owen, James Cruickshank and Tex Perkins.[18] In 1993 Tex, Don and Charlie released their first album, Sad but True on Red Eye Records. The record, an acoustic country-tinged affair, returned Walker to some level of popular awareness and received rave reviews in magazines like Australian Rolling Stone. About half the songs were written by Walker, including "Sitting in a Bar". The band toured strongly on the back of the album, later releasing a live album Monday Morning Coming Down, featuring tracks from Sad But True plus some covers of standards.

1994 was the year of Walker's first full release under his own name, We're All Gunna Die. He stated that it was the first album to carry his name as, "it was the first record that finished up how I wanted it."[19] Rehearsal sessions were held over four afternoons in Walker's lounge room, and all songs were recorded in 3 takes or less.[20] The band featured David Blight, Garrett Costigan on pedal-steel guitar and Red Rivers on guitar. The music was a ragged mix of country, Chicago blues and balladry, and featured the song "Eternity". It would be another 12 years before Walker was to produce another solo recording, the well-received Cutting Back.

From 2005 to 2019, Walker toured Australia occasionally with his backing band, The Suave Fucks (named after a line from Blue Velvet).[21] They featured Roy Payne on baritone guitar, Michael Vidale on bass, Hamish Stuart on drums, Garrett Costigan, and Glen Hannah on guitar until his death in 2019.[22]

Walker performs live in Mullumbimby in 2015

2005 saw the release of a third Tex, Don and Charlie album, All is Forgiven, similar in style to the first. Again, Walker wrote about half the songs, including "Harry was a Bad Bugger", described by Chris Johnston as, "the Australian song of the year",[23] and by Mess & Noise as, "one of the finest Australian compositions of the last 20 years."[24] The album was shortlisted for the inaugural Australian Music Prize.[25]

Walker published his first book, Shots, in 2009. It was an autobiographical collection of smaller pieces, rarely more than a few pages in length. The subject matter was mostly recollections of rural Australia or life with Cold Chisel before they became widely famous. A separate piece by Walker had previously been included in The Best Australian Essays collection for 2007.[26]

Shots received a number of positive reviews:[2][27] The Age described the memoir as "a whip crack across a landscape of rural Australia, lonely highways and endless gigs;"[28] in the Australian Book Review it was called "a quite wonderful book [that] blasts away every last vestige of the crude, boozy, foot-stomping, flag-waving Australiana that has until now enveloped the Cold Chisel story like a filthy smog, leaving behind only the simmering highways, the trashy motels, the dank pubs and the monotonous suburbs of a nation slouching apathetically through the remnants of the 20th century." Readings from Shots, as performed by Walker, were aired on Radio National throughout late 2009.[29]

Live in Queenscliff, Walker's first live album, was given a digital-only release in early 2011. It features a performance with The Suave Fucks at the 2006 Queenscliff Music Festival. Another digital-only album, Live at the Caravan, was released in 2014.

In 2013, Walker released the album Hully Gully. It was recorded with the Suave Fucks over a decade. Joe Henry was asked to mix the album because Walker was impressed by his work on the Allen Toussaint album The Bright Mississippi, saying, "it sounded like Duke Ellington produced by Jimmy Page. I just fell in love with the record."[30] Named after a simple 60s dance,[31] it was thought by some to be his best album to date,[32] but failed to chart.

Tex, Don and Charlie reconvened in 2017 with a new album, You Don't Know Lonely, reaching number 14 in the Australian charts, and an extensive national tour.

In 2019 Black Inc. published his follow-up memoir, Songs.[33]


Walker has worked with many other artists, most notably with song writing credits on Ian Moss' hit album, Matchbook and Jimmy Barnes' top ten single "Stone Cold". He has written with or had songs recorded by TOFOG, Jimmy Little, Kate Ceberano, Wendy Matthews, Wes Carr,[34] Troy Cassar-Daley, Graeme Connors, Anne Kirkpatrick, Mick Harvey, Missy Higgins,[35] Busby Marou,[36] Melinda Schneider, Sarah Blasko, Katie Noonan, Jeff Lang, Normie Rowe and Adam Brand. Two Walker-penned songs appeared on The Very Best of Slim Dusty, which stayed in the Australian country charts for over 15 years.[37] He also produced Moss' album Petrolhead.

Personal life[edit]

He is the brother of the Australian novelist, Brenda Walker and son of Australian novelist Shirley Walker.[38] He is a Brisbane Broncos supporter.[11]

Awards and nominations[edit]

APRA Awards[edit]



  • 1994 – We're All Gonna Die
  • 2006 – Cutting Back
  • 2013 – Hully Gully

With Catfish[edit]

With Tex, Don & Charlie[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Lawrence, Michael; Showtime, The Cold Chisel Story, 1998 self-published, PO Box 156, Belmont, Vic, 3216
  • O'Grady, Anthony;The Pure Stuff, 2001, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW
  • Walker, Don; Shots, 2009, Black Inc. Melbourne, Vic. ISBN 978-1-86395-302-3


  1. ^ John O'Donnell, Toby Creswell & Craig Mathieson (2010). The 100 Best Australian Albums. Prahran, Victoria: Hardie Grant Books. p. 150. ISBN 978-1-74066-955-9.
  2. ^ a b Michael Epis (18 January 2010). "Don Walker, writer extraordinaire". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
  3. ^ Lindsay Tanner (22 April 2009). "Don Walker's Shots on target". Age Blogs. Fairfax. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
  4. ^ "Chisel come in from the cold". The Age. 30 March 2007. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
  5. ^ "The Australian Songwriters Hall of Fame". Australian Songwriter's Association. Archived from the original on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  6. ^ a b c Kruger, Debbie (2005). Songwriters Speak. Balmain, New South Wales: Limelight Press. pp. 267–287. ISBN 978-0-9757080-3-3.
  7. ^ Jane Sullivan. "War's empty spaces". The Age.
  8. ^ a b John Halfhide (1988). "Standing On The Outside". Rolling Stone Australia.
  9. ^ Shona Martyn. "Lunch with songwriter Don Walker: 'I live in a dream'". Sydney Morning Herald.
  10. ^ Tim Elliott (10 May 2009). "Trip into the past with Walker". Sun Herald. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  11. ^ a b Chris Whiting. "Take a Walker on the Mild Side". Rave Magazine. Stones Corner, QLD: Rave Magazine Pty Ltd (2 March 1994): 24.
  12. ^ Lesley Sly. "Catfish Capers". Sonics. Alexandria, NSW: Federal Publishing Co. (March/April 1989): 19.
  13. ^ Drew Warne-Smith (7 February 2009). "Standing on the outside". The Australian. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  14. ^ "Songlines". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. 2 November 2005. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
  15. ^ "2001 – Top 10 Songs". APRA-AMCOS. 28 May 2009. Archived from the original on 11 June 2010. Retrieved 7 August 2009.
  16. ^ Mike Daly (8 April 1982). "Nice and easy every time". The Age. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  17. ^ David Kent (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, New South Wales: Australian Chart Book. p. 58. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  18. ^ Chris Mundy. "Random Notes". Australian Rolling Stone. Sydney, NSW: Tilmond Pty Ltd (June 1992): pg13.
  19. ^ Tim Cashmere (24 July 2009). "Review: Don Walker – We're All Gunna Die (Reissue)". Undercover. Archived from the original on 26 July 2009. Retrieved 7 August 2009.
  20. ^ Liz Arimtage (19 October 1995). "Don Walker finding his musical pulse again". Canberra Times. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  21. ^ Michael Dwyer. "Don Walker: From the highway to Hully Gully". Sydney Morning Herald.
  22. ^ Caitlin Furlong. "Glen Hannah remembered as a 'genius who made an art of making others sound amazing'". ABC News.
  23. ^ Chris Johnston (30 December 2005). "So, what have you been listening to?". Age. Fairfax. Retrieved 16 October 2009.
  24. ^ Aaron Curran (20 February 2013). "Report: All Tomorrow's Parties Day 2". Mess+Noise. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
  25. ^ "The Drones Take Out The Inaugural AMP (Australian Music Prize)". Faster Louder. 9 March 2006. Archived from the original on 7 September 2008. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
  26. ^ Andrew Reimer (24 November 2007). "The Best Australian Essays 2007". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  27. ^ "Shots from the hip". Time Out Sydney. Archived from the original on 31 December 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  28. ^ "Don Walker charts rise and fall of Cold Chisel". Age. Fairfax. 13 February 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2009.
  29. ^ "First Person". ABC. Retrieved 31 October 2009.
  30. ^ Liddiard, Gareth (23 August 2013). "Gareth Liddiard Interviews Don Walker [Part One]". The Music. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  31. ^ Wallen, Doug (28 August 2013). "Don Walker: Painting The Picture". Mess and Noise. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  32. ^ Thomas, Les (10 September 2014). "Interview: Don Walker". Unpaved. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  33. ^ Walker, Don; Barnes, Jimmy, (writer of foreword.) (2019), Songs, Black Inc, ISBN 978-1-76064-150-4CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  34. ^ Kathy McCabe (27 August 2015). "Don Walker and Wes Carr reveal the musical friendship behind new Cold Chisel single Lost". Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  35. ^ Duncan, Carol (27 October 2014). "Benji's care tactics". ABC. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  36. ^ "BUSBY MAROU TO RELEASE SECOND ALBUM". Yahoo 7 News. 7 August 2013. Archived from the original on 28 August 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  37. ^ "Slim Dusty Sets ARIA Country Chart Record". The Music. 25 August 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  38. ^ "First Tuesday Book Club". ABC. Retrieved 8 June 2010.
  39. ^ "2008 Winners – APRA Music Awards". APRA. Archived from the original on 1 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  40. ^ "Gotye favourite for APRA Song of the Year as 30 finalists announced". Daily Telegraph. 22 March 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  41. ^ Vincent, Peter (28 May 2014). "Vance Joy heads APRA 2014 nominations list". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. Retrieved 29 September 2014.

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