Because Jeff Walker
June 12, 2015
Jeff Walker is the 2015 recipient of the Country Radio Seminar (CRS) President's Award, and that's a big deal.
Let me try and put it into perspective for you: CRS was founded in 1969, which, based on arithmetic class during my Catholic school education, puts the organization at 46 years old. The President's Award was created in 1998, making Walker's upcoming 2015 honor its 18th such presentation. If my numbers are wrong on either of these stats, somebody put on a habit and whack me on the wrist with a ruler … it won't be the first time.
Only once before in the history of CRS has the organization given this award to a sitting board member. That was 2007, and it was Charlie Monk, who is a board member emeritus. He was more than worthy, too, since he's been to every CRS since the event's inception, and helped establish CRS, and stuff. That was a big deal, too.
Full disclosure: I also serve on the CRS Board and will tell you that, as a rule, we purposely stayed away from handing out hardware to current board members. We always felt it would appear self-serving and would look, shall we say, "icky" to outsiders. That rule has been relaxed somewhat because -- particularly with certain members of the board in the radio category -- they were penalized for Hall of Fame consideration by serving on the board. One would have to quit the board to be eligible for the Hall, which is exactly what happened with Rusty Walker in 2012. We gained an amazing, deserving Hall of Famer, but lost an amazing, valuable board member.
And as a brief side-note, thank goodness Rusty WAS inducted into the Radio Hall -- he was overdue for the honor and sadly, passed away just months later.
But, back to 2015. We're bestowing the President's Award on an active board member for one very solid, inarguable reason: Because Jeff Walker.
He has served on the CRS board for 35 years and attended damn near every seminar. He's been the organization's Treasurer and a mainstay on its Executive Committee since many of you reading this wore braces and/or had acne. His tenure and standing as an officer alone make this a slam dunk, but there's so much behind-the-scenes influence, dedication, and passion for CRS that quite honestly -- when Walker's name was revealed as this year's recipient -- most members of the board collectively scratched their heads and said, "Geez, how come we didn't do this, like, 10 years ago … self-serving and icky notwithstanding?"
On a related, personal note (and what I posted to Facebook when Jeff was announced earlier this month), I've sat next to Jeff Walker during every CRS Board meeting since 1999. His ability to read a roomful of pretty powerful and influential industry execs, assess the group's true consensus, and quickly formulate solutions and what's best for the organization has never ceased to amaze. All of that after that room of powerful industry leaders who usually get their way have engaged in a hotly contested debate. And that's what I meant earlier when talking about behind-the-scenes contributions to CRS.
I featured Walker on Country 10 Questions last year, and you should read it here. In addition to being heavily involved with CRS for 35 years, he's also run a successful company, Aristo Media, during that time. I also caught up with him again this week, to get his thoughts on this honor and reflect upon his contributions to this organization.
On what it means to be recognized by CRS:
"Obviously the CRB has been near and dear to me -- My first CRS was in 1977, and I've witnessed all the changes from the Sheraton back then, all the way to the Omni next year. It's been a real journey, meeting all these people, serving on the board, and watching the many Country Radio Hall of Fame inductees over the years. All the people I've had the pleasure to serve with on the board and executive committee have helped me immeasurably in my career and overall growth in Country music in general. This award means so much to me -- just to see other people recognize your efforts and what you've tried to do is so fulfilling. It's really so special to me, and I hope I have many more years to spend with CRS. I feel like I have made a contribution; since I first became Treasurer it has grown to become very solid financially, and that has been fulfilling."
What makes you want to keep serving?
"I've really enjoyed all the people I've served with and their companionship. With CRS, the process of coming to a consensus is something I admire and appreciate. It's been a real education and continues to be. The industry has really changed over the years and keeps evolving. I keep going to board meetings and attending CRS and learning something every time."
Can you identify some key moments in CRS history during your time?
"Boy. I don't know about 'key' points -- there have been so many in my 35 years of involvement. The real word might be 'adapting.' The board and executive committee have always quickly adapted to changes. When we made the decision to purchase our first building, it was major. When we took on oversight of the Country Radio Hall of Fame, that was also a major move and wonderful. And, when we decided to move CRS to downtown Nashville from Opryland -- those are three areas that helped mold the organization's growth and financial stability."
Walker will be officially recognized on Wednesday, June 24th at the Omni Hotel in Nashville, during the Country Radio Hall of Fame Dinner and induction Ceremony. Tickers are still available; contact Ashley Silver of CRS here.