There’s a lot more that you should know about Cindy Walker, one of country music’s all-time greatest songwriters, but here are 10 to get you started.
1) She was born 100 years ago today, on 20 July 2018, on a farm in Mart, Texas, east of Waco.
2) She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997, the first female songwriter to be so honored.
3) Her breakthrough song was “Lone Star Trail” (1940), a hit for Bing Crosby. Walker was 22 and, with her mother, accompanying her father on a business trip to Los Angeles. They drove past the offices of Bing Crosby Enterprises, and Walker asked her father to pull over–she had a song she wanted to sing for Bing. She went in and, a few minutes later, came back out; they thought she’d struck out, but it turned out that she’d talked her way in to see Crosby’s brother Larry, and he was willing to listen to the song, but she needed her mother to accompany her on the piano. Larry Crosby liked the song, and the next day took Walker to Paramount Pictures, where she sang it for Bing on the set of a movie he was making. The rest is history.
4) Walker’s most popular song is probably “You Don’t Know Me” (1955), originally recorded by Eddy Arnold, who suggested the title and subject matter to Walker. Since then it’s been recorded by hundreds of artists, including Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Don McLean, Bette Midler, Van Morrison, Elvis Presley and Allen Toussaint.
6) Walker won fame and fortune as a songwriter, but she was also a singer and made it to No. 5 on the country charts with “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again” (1944). Ironically, it wasn’t one of her own songs.
7) In 1964 Walker released an album of her own songs, Words and Music by Cindy Walker. It didn’t chart; if you think it was a vanity project, though, check out Walker’s terrific version of “You Don’t Know Me.”
8) After a 14-year stay in Los Angeles, which included a brief, failed marriage, Walker returned home to Mexia, Texas, to live with her widowed mother in 1954; they lived together there until her mother’s death in 1991.
9) Walker had top-10 country hits in five consecutive decades, from the 1940s to the 1980s. Few songwriters, male or female, in any genre, can make that claim.
10) Walker died on March 23, 2006, in Mexia; she was 86. The last record she listened to was Willie Nelson’s tribute album, You Don’t Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker (2006), which had been released nine days before.