Walter Schorr died on July 15, 2007 - four years ago. I found out last week. Not that I didn’t strongly suspect it, but I was afraid to call. Let me explain. In 1961, Walter was one of those people you didn’t call unless you had a significant amount of free time because he always hooked you with a line or a thought that instantly launched you from what you were doing and planted you half an hour later in his pad with your guitar while the two of you feverishly turned what he had come up with into a song and before you knew it, two days had passed and you had a deep feeling of satisfaction and needed a shower badly. If you didn’t do it that way, the thought, the song, would be gone forever. I wrote more than a dozen songs with Walter, most of which were recorded. None made a lot of money, but when people ask me what songs I’ve written, the stuff Walter and I wrote always pops out of my mouth first.
Socially, back then, Walter was trouble. If you were his friend, you were expected to collect him from some lawn in Laurel Canyon at 2am and take him home. He was usually drunk and half-naked. Because I was his co-writer, that was my job. I don’t know what logic drove that assumption on the part of my peers, but I reluctantly resigned myself to the role. After all, we were in our twenties and that sort of thing seemed routine for some reason. I’d usually pick him up, throw him in the back seat of my Dodge with Dink, my faithful Shepherd, and Dink would lick him clean while I listened to him blabber his adoration to her. Dink loved Walter and that was good enough for me. Walter had a humongous heart. A homeless kid on the street in TJ would end up with Walter’s clothes and all the money in his pocket. If you were broke and hungry, he’d gift you with a leg of lamb or a tri-tip roast he had lifted from the meat counter and hidden in his pants.
Walter Schorr could write lyrics:
“If you’ve ever kissed in a summer rain,
Slept where the winds and the snows have lain
If you’ve ever heard a lonely train
Then you’ve heard my voice and you know my name.”
After I left The New Christy Minstrels in 1966, I heard that Walter had moved back to New Jersey. Later on, I heard that he’d cleaned up his act and taken a job with the New Jersey DMV. Oddly, my story was somewhat parallel. I put the music business behind me in 1975 and took a job in the car business - funny coincidence. Then, in 2007 Walter called. We caught up with each other briefly and he told me that his wife Jane had passed away several years before. Jane was a sweetheart and none of us could understand why she stuck with him so long, but she did. By the end of the conversation, I was ready to make plans for a visit but Walter cautioned me that he had one more serious surgery planned for June, and “if I survive”, he would call. I never got the call. Sometime in August, I called the number he had left me and it was disconnected. That’s when I sort of knew. I resisted calling, hoping I’d hear from him and months turned into years and I figured that sooner or later, I’d hear something. Then our old friend Dickie Davis decided to find out once and for all. He contacted one of Walter’s long time friends, Larry Lockhart, and our suspicions were confirmed.
That’s all there is to it. But if anyone out there remembers Walter at all and would like to add a comment or a recollection to this page, send it along and I’ll post it.
I wonder if his family and whomever else he’s met along the way knows what a special talent he had for wrapping words around your head and making you stop thinking what you were thinking and accompany him on the journey. This is for them mostly. I’m told he has a daughter. If she is reading this, she should know what a special talent and soul her dad had. If there’s a God, Walter was one of his custom jobs.
This is Dickie Davis (standing) and Walter (seated), either reading or spaced). The car is Dickie's TR3. The only other photo of Walter I know about, is on the cover of The New Christy Minstrels album 'In Person'. That's him at the entrance to the Troubadour. Oddly with the same expression on his face.