Clay Walker is a bona fide country superstar. But he sure as heck didn’t get there overnight. The “Need a Bar Sometimes” singer had to work his tail off to get to where he is today and he credits his Texas upbringing with instilling in him a solid work ethic as well as deeply influencing his performance style. He talked to Marty Smith about how growing up in a small Texas town shaped him in the latest episode of “The Road You Leave Behind.”
Marty Smith asked Clay Walker about how growing up in Beaumont, Texas, shaped him. Walker said, “Everybody’s town shapes them. Ya know, they say it takes a village to raise a kid. All of us are influenced by whatever likes, or prejudices, or circles that we run in, and towns that you grow up in.”
More specifically, Walker says that Beaumont is a blue-collar town. His father worked hard as a welder and boilermaker. Clay Walker worked in the rice fields when he was young. It was that environment and his father’s influence that showed him that he had to work hard for whatever he wanted in life.
Beaumont Shaped Clay Walker as an Entertainer
Beaumont, Texas taught Clay Walker about more than hard work, though. It shaped him as a musician and entertainer. You have to remember that the Beaumont area spawned some country music legends like Tex Ritter and George Jones. In general, Texas has given us some of the biggest names in country music. George Strait, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Billy Joe Shaver are just a few legends that hail from the Lone Star State. So, if you want to be a country artist in Texas, you’d better bring your A-game. Beaumont’s live music scene was no different.
About the live music scene in Beaumont, Walker said, “It always seemed like there were bars where you could play live country sounds and there was one rule. If you were going to work at any bar, you better keep people dancing. Because, if they were dancing, they were hot, and they were buying beer. That’s what the club owners wanted.”
At the same time, the competition was stiff for Clay Walker. He wasn’t just competing with any old local country singers. He had guys like Mark Chesnutt and Tracy Byrd to compete with. So, he had to work extra hard and smart to make a name for himself.
At the time, both Mark Chesnutt and Tracy Byrd were playing very traditional country music, according to Clay Walker. So, in order to stand out among the crowd of Beaumont’s heavy hitters, Walker ventured outside the bounds of the traditional. For instance, he told Marty that he would cover Travis Tritt songs in his early days. He knew that whatever he played, he had to keep the dancefloor full and the beer flowing.
It worked. The combination of hard work, big talent, and smart song selection made Clay Walker a country music legend. It also took him on an amazing journey from being ran out of Nashville to superstardom. He details the incredible story to Marty Smith on the podcast.