Oklahoma musicians remember drummer Michael Walker, plan benefit concert in his memory
EDMOND - Oklahoma City band The Groove Merchants will play a benefit concert in memory of Michael and Rachael Walker at 8 p.m. Friday at the UCO Jazz Lab, 100 E Fifth.
Due to the demand for tickets, the venue is no longer taking reservations, but will have standing-room-only tickets available at the door Friday night, according to its website.
Michael Logan Walker, 50, and Rachael May Walker, 44, died March 4 in their Edmond home. The Oklahoman's Nuria Martinez-Keel reports that the couple's 19-year-old son Eli Walker, who confessed to shooting his parents, was charged Monday with two counts of first-degree murder.
Defense attorney Derek Chance said an initial psychological assessment showed Eli Walker is "acutely paranoid and delusional." He said he intends to ask an Oklahoma County judge to find the defendant mentally incompetent.
Michael Walker was a respected drummer and experienced instructor on the local music scene. He was a member of the party band The Groove Merchants and the rock outfit Aranda as well as a drummer for Life Church. He also played with several other local musicians over the years, and many of them have paid homage to Walker on social media since his death.
"For over 15 years Mike Walker toured the country with us impacting countless lives everywhere he went. His sense of humor was endearing. He made everything from playing drums to making people fall in love with him effortless. He was so easy going but for those that knew him well there was an intense spiritual depth behind the man. We will miss his laughter and his insatiable appetite for all "band cuisine." Most of all we will miss his beautiful spirit. We will be in continuous prayer for his family and loved ones. May he and his beautiful wife Rachael rest in peace. Love you forever," Walker's bandmates in Aranda posted on the group's official Facebook timeline.
Norman guitarist Alan Orebaugh had simple but fervent praise for Mike Walker:
"Probably the finest drummer I ever shared the stage with."
OKC singer-songwriter K.C. Clifford called the drummer, whom she first met 18 years ago shortly after moving back to Oklahoma City, "a legend around these parts." He played drums on her forthcoming album:
"It didn’t take long to pick up on the deep respect the music community had for Mike as a man and a player. A year ago, when Will, Dan, and I started dreaming up a band to track the record live, Mike topped the list of potential drummers. I was so excited when he agreed to be a part of the project.
"What happened in the studio was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced musically. Every player sensed that something extraordinary was coming together. Each of the guys were incredibly gracious and tuned in to the vision, and brought the full weight of their talents to bear. My producer Will is a drummer- he’s played on every record we’ve made together. But we knew this one would depart from that. Mike had been a mentor to Will as a young drummer, and it was truly remarkable to watch them work side by side, their shared knowledge and language. Mike was completely humble and open to Will’s direction and feedback," Clifford wrote on Facebook.
"It has been hard to wrap my head around the tragedy and loss. ... The record is being mixed as I type, and Mike was a huge part of making it what it is. I take some solace in knowing he lives on through the music. At the end of our week of tracking live, Mike pulled me aside. He was a jokester who liked to keep things light. But in that moment he thanked me. He put his hand on his chest and spoke vulnerably about the songs on the record and how my craft had really touched him. He encouraged me about my writing and voice. Because that was Mike.
"Mike has taught and mentored more young drummers and musicians than you can fathom. He was always teaching, investing in others, helping musicians be better versions of themselves. His absence leaves a gaping hole in our midst. I think the best we can do in his honor is to play the space. He was the master of it, after all.
"Mike, we will keep learning, giving, and making music in the space you left behind. It will never be the same, but God willing there might be wings and sushi pizza. You will always be a part of my life in the indelible mark you left on the music we made together. For that I am grateful.
Matt Stansberry, frontman of the OKC rock 'n' soul band Matt Stansberry & The Romance, fondly recalled the first time Mike Walker played with him in 2010:
"I admired Mike Walker from a distance for many, many years. In 2010 I got brave enough to ask him to play some shows with me. He was an incredible player and person. He always blew me away. Tremendous loss for our music scene," Stansberry wrote on Facebook.
Services for Mike and Rachael Walker were Tuesday at Life Church. After the funeral, Stansberry posted a heartfelt musical tribute in the form of an electric guitar rendition of "Amazing Grace."
Mike Walker's fellow Groove Merchants memorialized him with a quote from Grammy-winning Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart: "Life is about rhythm. We vibrate, our hearts are pumping blood, we are a rhythm machine, that’s what we are."
"He is someone we will always remember. We are at a loss of words and are saddened by the loss of our bandmate and friend, Mike Walker. His musicianship was always at the top notch. He was a friend, teacher, and was pretty talented at juggling food while playing drums. His smile, laugh, musical talent, and friendship will be extremely missed. May you Rest In Peace , Michael and Rachael Walker," The Groove Merchants posted on their official Facebook.
Several musicians are encouraging people to donate to a GoFundMe account set up to benefit the family. The Walkers are survived by three children, including a younger son, Isaiah Walker, 17, who called police after he woke up March 4 in the family home to the sounds of gunshots and screaming. The GoFundMe account has raised $55,980 of its $65,000 goal.
All proceeds from The Groove Merchant's Friday night show have been pledged to the Walker family. Since the concert is essentially sold out, the band is partnering with the UCO Jazz Lab to live stream the show Friday night.