Years have gone by now since the start of the COVID pandemic, and in those years people have dropped away without us being able to offer them comfort face to face, or even to say goodbye. One of those people is my dear friend Lloyd Walker, founder of Walker Audio, who after a brief illness died on Tuesday, March 15th, 2022, at the age of 78.
Unless you knew Lloyd, his charm will be hard to describe in words. He was not a sophisticated man nor a highly educated one.He was born in the foothills of Texas and in some ways, he never left them. He spoke in a reedy, high-pitched, countrified tenor voice, used a half dozen profanities in virtually every sentence (at least he did before he was “born again”), and in politics was deeply conservative. In many ways, he was the exact opposite of a guy like me.
So, why did we become such close friends?
I’m not entirely sure why Lloyd was fond of me, but I can tell you exactly why I admired him. First, he was unusually honest. Lloyd was incapable of lying about things that matter, even when it might have been to his benefit to hold his tongue. Oh, he could tell a tall tale or two, but on the important stuff he was always straightforward.
Second, he was unshakably loyal to his friends. Through the many ups and downs of my life during the last 25 years, Lloyd stood by me unflinchingly. I was his friend, and that was that.
Third, he was a supremely gifted audio designer, who conceived and built what is still one of the most artfully engineered record players ever made. The Walker Audio Proscenium series of turntables with air-bearing footers, air-bearing platters, and linear-tracking, air-bearing tonearms remains for me a paragon of highest-fidelity LP playback. Walker ’tables are simply the best way to reproduce vinyl records, and the design principles they embody are the right ones to prioritize. The Prosceniums are Lloyd’s legacies—genuine classics that will be prized for decades to come.
Fourth, Lloyd loved music. It might not always have been the kind of music that I love, but the affection was genuine enough to make him get up and dance, no matter the company he was in. His exuberance wasn’t an act. It was Lloyd’s reaction to delight.
The fifth and final reason why I loved Lloyd was his unvarnished Texas toughness.
I never went to war; in fact, in the sixties and seventies I actively protested our involvement in Vietnam (and would do so again if the circumstances were the same). For Lloyd, the idea of not defending your country by force of arms just never occurred. Being a soldier was a duty he was made for, and he rose to the occasion with distinction. Indeed, from what I garnered over the years from his friends (Lloyd himself didn’t often talk about the war), he was in line to win a Medal of Honor when, like another Texas boy raised with a rifle in his hands, he held off enemy soldiers with a machine gun mounted in an APC, after the gunner standing beside him had been horribly killed.
This courage was typical of Lloyd Walker. The reason why he wasn’t awarded that honor was also typical. After the battle, Top Sergeant Walker punched out the “green” commanding officer who had put him and his platoon in a position to be slaughtered. Like I said, he was unflinchingly honest, loyal, and tough—and it nearly cost him a court martial, though the Army quickly thought better of putting a Medal of Honor candidate in the brig and ended up giving him a Bronze Star instead.
I can’t help believing that Lloyd must’ve faced his end with the same courage he showed throughout his life. From what I’ve been told, he was ill for a brief time—diagnosed with leukemia and blocked carotid arteries. He had transfusions until he suffered a stroke some weeks ago and then—just yesterday, as I write—a second stroke that finished him.
Of course, he didn’t tell me that he was mortally ill. It wouldn’t have been in character for him to do so. It would have been too much like complaining about a fate that comes to us all—a fate that by temperament, experience, and religious conviction he was better prepared to meet than most.
Though he unquestionably belongs in that long line of legendary tinkerers that extends from Edgar Villchur through Bill Johnson, Jim Winey, and a handful of others—those unschooled engineering “naturals” with better ideas and the determination to bring them to fruition—Lloyd Walker was in many ways one of a kind. I am truly sorry he is gone, and I will miss him. The staff of TAS and I send our sincerest condolences to his loving wife Felicia and to his longtime friend and associate at Walker Audio, Fred Law.
Farewell, my friend.
Tags: IN MEMORIAM
By Jonathan Valin
I’ve been a creative writer for most of life. Throughout the 80s and 90s, I wrote eleven novels and many stories—some of which were nominated for (and won) prizes, one of which was made into a not-very-good movie by Paramount, and all of which are still available hardbound and via download on Amazon. At the same time I taught creative writing at a couple of universities and worked brief stints in Hollywood. It looked as if teaching and writing more novels, stories, reviews, and scripts was going to be my life. Then HP called me up out of the blue, and everything changed. I’ve told this story several times, but it’s worth repeating because the second half of my life hinged on it. I’d been an audiophile since I was in my mid-teens, and did all the things a young audiophile did back then, buying what I could afford (mainly on the used market), hanging with audiophile friends almost exclusively, and poring over J. Gordon Holt’s Stereophile and Harry Pearson’s Absolute Sound. Come the early 90s, I took a year and a half off from writing my next novel and, music lover that I was, researched and wrote a book (now out of print) about my favorite classical records on the RCA label. Somehow Harry found out about that book (The RCA Bible), got my phone number (which was unlisted, so to this day I don’t know how he unearthed it), and called. Since I’d been reading him since I was a kid, I was shocked. “I feel like I’m talking to God,” I told him. “No,” said he, in that deep rumbling voice of his, “God is talking to you.” I laughed, of course. But in a way it worked out to be true, since from almost that moment forward I’ve devoted my life to writing about audio and music—first for Harry at TAS, then for Fi (the magazine I founded alongside Wayne Garcia), and in the new millennium at TAS again, when HP hired me back after Fi folded. It’s been an odd and, for the most part, serendipitous career, in which things have simply come my way, like Harry’s phone call, without me planning for them. For better and worse I’ve just gone with them on instinct and my talent to spin words, which is as close to being musical as I come.More articles from this editor
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