George Walker began playing the guitar at age 16 in Everett, Mass. He attended Berklee College of Music, earning a diploma in music arranging, harmony, theory and jazz improvisation. His passion and drive to become a jazz musician were realized early, and he continued to play after relocating to California in the 1970s. In Omaha, George was an extraordinary performer, instructor and Omaha treasure whose musical style merged jazz, funk and rhythm and blues, but he could skillfully play any musical genre.
As a true Jamaican, Walker had many jobs and delivered payroll, was an apartment manager, salesman, real estate agent and worked for the post office for 18 years.
During his music career George Walker performed live or recorded with Lou Rawls, Barry White, George Benson, Paul Humphrey, Jerry Lewis, Freda Payne, Tommy Tucker, Freddie Scott and many others. He also made an appearance performing in the movie Uncle Joe Shannon.
Walker performed at major theaters, including the Apollo, Regal, Howard and Royal Theatres. His stadium appearances included White Riverfront Stadium, Atlanta Stadium and Yankee Stadium and major hotels and casinos. He performed live in Germany, on boats, on a plane and for television shows, such as The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and Saturday Night Live.
George Walker was enthusiastic about sharing African American musical history and was a contributor for James Conyers Jr.’s book African American Jazz and Rap. He was also a “Year of the Blues” honoree. His solo recordings included One Way or Another—The Blues.
In 2001, Walker played for thousands in Omaha at the Joslyn’s Jazz on the Green. In 2006, he performed at the Omaha Summer Arts Festival. That year, he won two first-place honors and a second-place award for composing music for three of Omaha’s Hot Shops Film Festival contestants.
George Walker’s contributions to music in Omaha were not limited to his performances. He taught guitar theory at Metropolitan Community College, Iowa Western Community College and Norris Middle School, and he conducted workshops at Durham Museum and local schools through The Omaha Blues Society. Other teaching programs he worked with were Love’s Jazz & Art Center, The Omaha School of Music and El Museo Latino. Hundreds of Omahans learned guitar theory from Walker.
Walker’s teaching philosophy was simple — motivate students by meeting them at their skill level and teach them something new they could use immediately. He encapsulated his teaching philosophy into a guitar instruction book: How to Play Today’s Guitar Music Today. Walker added dimension to his instruction by incorporating science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAMs) into his music lessons to show the many ways music affects the brain.
During his semi-retirement, Walker built his own guitar, did some traveling and painted many portraits over the last few years. One of his works is featured on the cover of the latest edition of his book How to Play Today’s Guitar Music Today finished earlier this year, which will be published and available for purchase soon.
George Walker passed away on April 13, 2021, at the young age of 78 after battling pancreatic cancer for more than two months. He will be missed by many. His daughter, Andrea Walker, hopes to continue his legacy by featuring his work at the Great Plains Black History Museum in August for Native Omaha Days and establishing a scholarship fund in his honor.