"Chris Wall is a cowboy savior / hero / poet who uses his words and music to deliver us from the atrocities of this illusion now known as country music."
–Ray Wylie Hubbard
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Another guy who pays all the fees and left a crater with one impact, even though he never had great success, went on to that honky tonk in the sky. His name was Chris Wall, and even if you've never heard of him or his music, you've surely heard his influence on many of your favorite artists from Texas and beyond. On Friday, July 30th, it was announced that Chris Wall had passed away.
Chris Wall was born in Newport Beach, California and grew up on Balboa Island where he graduated from Corona del Mar High School. His father was a singer who once worked with Bob Nolan of the Sons of the Pioneers. Wall later attended Orange Coast College and then received a masters degree in history from Whittier College. He then taught history and coached soccer at Corona del Mar High.
But the death of Wall's father on Easter Sunday 1980 brought him away from the straight and narrow path into the life of a singing troubadour. He moved to Montana to immerse himself in cowboy culture and eventually ended up in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, pouring drinks at the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Wall began writing songs in his spare time. Then because of a laryngitis with the lead singer of Pinto Bennett & the Famous Motel Cowboys (Pinto Bennett also passed away recently) Chris Wall was drawn into the music business.
Wall had his big break when he met Guy Clark at the Northern Rockies Folk Festival in Idaho in 1986. The two swapped songs over dinner, and Guy eventually pegged Chris Wall to Jerry Jeff Walker, who later saw Chris perform a song called "Trashy Women" in Jackson Hole, invited Chris to his hotel room to teach him the song, and convinced Chris to move to Austin, which he did in 1988.
Managed by Jerry Jeff Walker's wife, Susan, Wall began playing every honky tonk in Texas that wanted him. He recorded a couple of records in Honky Tonk Heart in 1990 and No Sweat in 1991, which made Wall a serious cult in the Lone Star State. It also helped when Jerry Jeff Walker recorded and released Chris Wall's song "Trashy Women".
But disagreements with the Walkers left Chris Wall breaking out on his own a few years later. Chris was frustrated and felt that his music was not being properly promoted. His luck quickly changed when Confederate Railroad heard "Trashy Women" and decided to cut it for their debut album. It peaked at number 10 in the country in 1993, and Chris Wall was soon being wooed as a songwriter by numerous publishers. But instead of going the songwriting route, Chris took his royalties out of the song and started his own label called Cold Spring Records.
Through his new label, Chris Wall released the album Cowboy Nation in 1994, a live album Any Saturday Night in Texas in 1997 and Tainted Angel in 1998. At that time, Chris Wall toured the country, including with current Cody Jinks guitarist Chris Clarity. Although the Cold Springs label was only intended for his own music, Chris Wall began to branch out. At some point he had the Asylum Street Spankers on the label and an aspiring country traditionalist named James "Slim" Hand and none other than Reckless Kelly, who was also Tainted as the backing band for Chris Wall on the album. worked angel.
Now Chris Wall influenced not only through his music, but also through his label with several full-time employees. Rather than worrying about how Nashville locked out many deserving artists in Texas, Chris Wall did something about it and helped shape the infrastructure that still exists in Texan music today.
Chris Wall's songs were a mix of cowboy poetry, sarcasm, and confidence. He also wrote songs for Pat Green and wrote "Hello, I'm An Old Country Song" with Dale Watson. Sunny Sweeney's record trophy from 2017 includes one of Chris Wall's most popular compositions, "I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight". His fingerprints are all over Austin and Texas music. After a long period outside the studio, Wall released another album at the El Western Motel in 2012, which was very well received and added to his legacy.
For many, Chris Wall embodied the true spirit of what it meant to be an independent country singer and songwriter. He inspired many with his words, his music and his actions. And above all, he was considered a good guy.
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Information from the LA Times and All Music are included in this story.