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Wheeler Walker Jr.

Wheeler Walker, Jr. is a country singer and songwriter who wants to bring back the classic honky tonk sound and the glory days of outlaw country music, and he's determined to do so by writing songs that would have gotten him yanked off the Grand Ol' Opry broadcast in a matter of seconds. Working with first-call Nashville session musicians, Walker's records evoke a stronger era of country music, while his songs are purposefully rude, mostly dealing with sex, though drugs and questionable behavior also made the cut on albums like 2016's Redneck Shit and 2017's Ol' Wheeler. 2023's Ram shifted his musical style into a fusion of arena rock and vintage Southern rock, while his songs were as raunchy as ever. Hailing from Lexington, Kentucky, Walker spent decades on the outskirts of the music business through the '80s and '90s, playing small clubs and earning an insider's reputation as a talented songwriter. But as Nashville began embracing a more polished sound, Walker found it increasingly difficult to be heard in Music City. He landed record deals at three different major labels, but according to the artist, his music sounded too strong and his lyrics were too bold for country radio, and his habit of mixing mild expletives into his tunes led to him being dropped from all three labels without the completed albums ever seeing the light of day. By the mid-2010s, Walker had lost his patience with playing by Nashville's rules, and after meeting producer Dave Cobb, who has worked with the likes of Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, they went into the studio and cut the album Walker always wanted to make. The album in question was titled Redneck Shit, and its first single quickly became a cult item that racked up impressive airplay on satellite radio and plenty of online spins. However, the song, titled "Fuck You, Bitch," was just as lyrically offensive as the title would suggest, which meant mainstream country radio ignored it at all costs. In February 2016, Redneck Shit was released by Pepper Hill Records (distributed by Thirty Tigers), and with songs like "Beer, Weed, Cooches," "Sit on My Face," and "Can't Fuck You Off My Mind," the album had something to offend nearly everyone, and Walker seemed poised to finally become a star in Nashville, despite his boundless contempt for the country music establishment and a terminal case of potty mouth. If Wheeler Walker, Jr.'s story sounds too strange to be true, that's because it is: Walker's long career and colorful backstory, as well as his music, was all dreamed up by comedian and comedy writer Ben Hoffman, who writes and sings Walker's songs and owns the trademark to his alter ego. Hoffman briefly hosted his own show on Comedy Central, The Ben Show with Ben Hoffman, and has written for the TV shows Archer, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and InfoMania. While Wheeler Walker, Jr. may be a fake, the Redneck Shit album and the "Fuck You, Bitch" singles are very much real, and Hoffman has given numerous interviews to music publications in character as Walker, sharing his apparently sincere opinions about the sorry state of mainstream country music, as well as Walker's epic past. Capitalizing on Redneck Shit's surprise chart success, Hoffman again donned his Stetson and took another stab at recording as Walker, returning in June 2017 with his equally offensive follow-up album, Ol' Wheeler, which featured singles like "Pussy King" and "Finger Up My Butt." Walker came back in November 2018 with WWIII, and Sex, Drugs & Country Music (the title an ideal summation of his body of work) arrived in 2022. Hoffman offered Wheeler's fans a change of pace on 2023's Ram; while the songs dealt with his usual subject matter, the music was rooted in hard rock, showing the influences of vintage Southern rock of the '70s and arena rock bombast of the same era.
© Mark Deming /TiVo


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