Walker would later see more obscure labels than the discount rack at Mervyn's, including Bruce Bromberg's Joliet and Hugh Hefner's Playboy. But the pajama-clad pipe-puffer wasn't the one who signed Walker. Rather, it was PR man Pete Welding who brought Walker to the bunny imprint. "He was familiar with all the stuff we was doin'," says Walker, who still plays the hollow-body Gibson that Welding gave him. Walker remembers Bromberg as a young pup right out of college: "We made some bad records there," he laughs. "You could tell we was inexperienced. Some we wouldn't let nobody hear!"
Walker has come a long way from those days, squaring the circle on the current tour, which brings him to Tobacco Road Friday and Saturday. He's speaking by phone from a hotel in El Paso. "I'm goin' back to Texas," he sings in the autobiographical "Port Arthur Blues," "'Cause Port Arthur is still my home." Walker's family is strewn throughout Texas and Louisiana: Beaumont, Houston, Lafayette. "It can be confusing when you have a big family," he allows, adding that his homecoming after ten years was somewhat bittersweet.
The guitarman is also returning to New Orleans for the first time since he played there with Chenier in '55. Currently without a label, Walker will be performing in the Crescent City for the earwigs at Blacktop Records, an independent that hosts idiosyncratic blues artists such as Earl King, Clarence Holliman and Carol Fran, and Robert Ward. Walker, it seems, would be the perfect fit. "We'll see if they want to record Phillip Walker before he turns 60, eh?"
Phillip Walker performs Thursday (tonight) at the Backroom, 16 E Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach, 407-243-9110 at 9:30, (admission is $3); and Friday and Saturday after 10:30 p.m. at Tobacco Road, 626 S Miami Ave, 374-1198. Admission costs $6.