Echuca’s Benny Walker has music in his blood: “My dad is a guitar player and his father, Archie was a guitar player and now plays pedal steel at the age of 86. My mum’s dad, was a jazz saxophone player. I grew up with jazz, country and blues influences mainly. But as much as I love those and am deeply rooted in blues and country I think I somehow got my mum’s taste in music. I raided her vinyl collection a few years ago and was blown away with what she was into. James Taylor, Neil Young, Ry Cooder! My parents put me into piano lessons at the age of eight. Two years later Dad showed me a couple of chords on his guitar and I was hooked.”
Last November Bendigo saw Benny Walker play his third Bendigo Blues & Roots Music Festival. And he enjoys playing here, “I’ve played the Blues Tram, Billy Roy’s Blues Bar, the Goldmines Hotel, the Exchange three or four times, the Newmarket Hotel, The Gold Dust Lounge, The Rifle Brigade Hotel…” he says. “The music scene has come such a long way. I think Colin Thompson, the festival and those around it have had so much to do with it. The people of Bendigo now know that there is going to be great gigs happening in their town week in, week out and they’re really getting behind it.”
Benny is building up quite a catalogue of material in his short-ish career to date: Two EPs, Two LPs – Benny Walker and Sinners and Saints with a third LP, Through the Forest, due later in 2015.
Perhaps surprisingly Benny cites Nirvana’s Unplugged album as an early influence. “I learnt how to play pretty much every song off that album by ear and just played them over and over.” Less surprisingly Eric Clapton looms large in the pantheon of Benny’s influences. “Through Eric Clapton’s music I delved further and further into the blues.” I’d be interested if Benny ever thought about tackling something from that famous Nirvana Unplugged album. Track 14 Benny, I reckon you could put your stamp on that one!