A charter member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Cindy Walker wrote
a diverse array of standards, including #1 hits for Bob Wills, Merle Haggard,
Eddy Arnold and Ricky Skaggs. Walker scored hit songs across five decades. Her
best-known works include Wills' Western swinging "Cherokee Maiden," Roy
Orbison's shimmering "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)" and the ballad
standard "You Don't Know Me." That last song alone has been recorded by Ray
Charles, Eddy Arnold, Elvis Presley, Van Morrison, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson,
Emmylou Harris, the Band, Allen Toussaint and dozens of others.
Raised in a musical family (her grandfather was a hymn writer, while her mother
was a pianist who would become Walker's accompanist), Walker began singing and
dancing on Texas stages at age seven. In 1940, while traveling in Los Angeles
with her parents, Walker demanded that her father stop the car on Sunset
Boulevard and let her out near Bing Crosby's office building so she could pitch
a song to Crosby, unsolicited. At the office, she found Crosby's brother, Larry
Crosby, who agreed to listen to her song, "Lone Star Trail." The next day, she
sang "Lone Star Trail" for Bing Crosby himself, who soon turned it into
Walker's first chart hit.
Walker remained in Los Angeles for more than a decade, recording as a solo
artist on Decca Records (scoring a Top 10 country hit with "When My Blue Moon
Turns to Gold Again," a song she didn't write). She became a go-to writer for
Western movie soundtracks and, commencing in 1941, for "King of Western Swing"
Bob Wills, who recorded more than 50 of her songs.
She returned to her Mexia, Texas home in 1954, but continued as a prolific
writer of popular songs. In 1955, Eddy Arnold came to Walker with the song
title "You Don't Know Me," and she turned his idea into a devastating ballad of
Though Walker prided herself on tailoring songs for individual singers, her
songs were adaptable enough to suit singers across decades. "Cherokee Maiden,"
"I Don't Care," "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)" and "You Don't Know Me"
have all been re-recorded as hits, more than 20 years after their first hit
versions. Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997, she is regarded by
many as one of country music's greatest songwriters.