Daniel J Vance

Bradley Walker is up and coming and has performed at the Grand Ole Opry at least four times. He utilizes a traditional country singing style while his back-up band brings bluegrass. I’ve heard his music on YouTube and it’s solid.

And he has a disability. “I was born with a non-progressive form of muscular dystrophy,” said 29-year-old Walker in a telephone interview from his Athens, Alabama, home. “That means my muscles weren’t fully developed (at birth) and I’ve been in a wheelchair my whole life. I can’t walk.”

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He performs on stage using a wheelchair.

He says his success stems in part from his upbringing. “My whole life I’ve been taught not to use my disability to get anything special or be treated differently,” he said. “My parents always supported me and helped me do as much as I can on my own. I’ve been treated like everyone else except the only difference is I am in a wheelchair.”

Walker was raised listening to “real country music,” as he called it, “singers like George Jones and Merle Haggard. Music was always on in my house.”

While singing in a country band in 1995-96, he was introduced through a friend to bluegrass music and fell in love with its harmonies and heartfelt lyrics, particularly those of J.D. Crowe and Tony Rice. He’d already known of bluegrass legends Flatt and Scruggs and Bill Monroe through his grandparents. The music grabbed his heart.

“Now I’ve got my own band and travel all over the country,” he said. “This year we played Gettysburg, Las Vegas, Columbus, all over.”

In conversations with his fans, he said his wheelchair rarely gets mentioned, which is the way he likes it. He wants audiences talking about his sound.

On stage, he said, he gets “all wrapped up in the music. I forget what had been going on that day and focus on connecting with the crowd, putting on a show, singing my songs and hopefully touching someone’s heart. I’m in my element on stage. It’s where I feel at home. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

Walker has had some strong backers in the industry, including the legendary Oak Ridge Boys. And Vince Gill was a special guest on his 2006 debut album “Highway of Dreams” with Rounder Records.

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