Little Toby Walker’s love affair with the blues started with the Rolling Stones.
When he read about some of his favorite Stones songs, he learned they were written by Chester Burnett and McKinley Morganfield, better known as Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. And he headed to the record store near his Brentwood home and bought their records. He was hooked.
“That’s when I took a left turn,” Walker says, speaking from his New Jersey studio. “When I was playing the lyrics of Robert Johnson, I realized he was writing about his life experiences. I thought, ‘I could write about my life too.’”
That’s what Walker has done for more than three decades – playing that music around Long Island and then the world, and putting out one album after another, including last year’s “What You See Is What You Get” (Loose Truth). On Sunday, that journey leads him into the New York Blues Hall of Fame, where he will be inducted along with his friend Happy Traum and others.
“I was pretty surprised,” Walker says. “The meaning of it hasn’t gotten to me yet. It is nice to be recognized at that level – with people I’ve looked up to for a long time like John Hammond, Johnny Winter, Shemekia Copeland … It just feels good.”
However, the Hall of Fame honor won’t change Walker’s plans. He’s working on a new album and a new instructional DVD. He also still will teach 8th-graders at Weber Middle School in Port Washington about the blues and get them to write their own songs, as he has for the past decade.
“They inspire me,” he says of the students. “It’s great to see the reactions on their faces when they are introduced to the blues.”