Texas History: Cindy Walker
It was Bing Crosby who first recognized the elite songwriting skills of Cindy Walker. Then, other major artists like Roy Orbison, Bob Wills, Ray Charles and Jim Reeves began singing her songs, too. In all, Ms. Walker composed more than 500 songs, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Fort Worth Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.
Such country favorites as "You Don't Know Me," "Cherokee Maiden,” "Misty Moonlight,” and "Dusty Skies” are now legendary. Amazingly, there have been over 87 different recordings of “Dream Baby” alone. In 1988, such diverse artists as K.D. Lang, Janie Fricke and Willie Nelson all recorded Walker’s “Sugar Moon.”
Walker, who typed her lyrics on a manual typewriter decorated with pick flowers, became known as the dean of Texas songwriters. “You Don’t Know Me,” one of her best-known songs, has been recorded by more than 75 singers, including Michael Bublé, Eddy Arnold, Elvis Presley and Mickey Gilley.
But Cindy was not a self-centered celebrity. Born in 1918 on her grandfathers’ farm in Mart, Texas, she owned a modest house and kept most of her trophies under her bed. Her mother Oree, or “Mama Walker” as she was called by the professional musicians, was an accomplished pianist. During the Reformation movement in early Texas, Oree's songwriter father, Franklin Eiland, was best known for composing the classic hymn, “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand.”
While her songs were rocking the country charts, Cindy faithfully attended First Presbyterian Church in Mexia, where she was known as Sister Walker. She sang in the church choir and even led the children’s ensemble. Often, she would visit the church members who were ill or had just given birth. Her faith was deep and touched many lives.
When Billy Graham approached Cindy about composing music for his Christian motion pictures, she agreed to be a part of the cast and to write the theme songs for “Mr. Texas” and “Oil Town USA.” Later, she wrote an entire hymnbook of sacred songs titled, “Of Thee We Sing."
One of the songs in the hymnbook was “Child of the King,” based in Galatians 4:4-7. It was recorded by many personalities including George Beverly Shea, the Happy Goodman Family, and the Cathedrals. The chorus was her testimony: “Oh, yes, oh, yes, I'm a child of the King, His royal blood now flows in my veins, And I who was wretched and poor, now can sing, Praise God, Praise God, I'm a child of the King."
Near the end of her life in 2006, Cindy was asked if her many country love songs were born out of her own personal romantic experience. Cindy responded, “I’m just a songwriter. The only songs I’ve written that may be about somebody I love are my sacred songs. I love the Lord.” Truly a life well lived for God.