Delbert Walling was born in the mid 50s, where life moved a little slower
and everyone seemed to stay connected to their families differently than in todays
fast-paced world. He grew up in a very musical family. As a child, he watched his father,
Bill Walling, picking out the old country and gospel tunes on his guitar. Bill would often
be joined by family and friends in the living room as well as at church. Delberts
eyes were drawn to their fingers as they moved across the smooth fingerboards of fine
Gibson, Martin and Fender guitars. While his siblings and cousins were playing board games
or running around outdoors, Delbert could be found sitting and listening to the music
happening around him. He became enthralled with the sounds, along with the curves and
shapes of the instruments themselves.
At the age of eight Delbert showed his
father that he had a real passion for music. Bill drew a few chords by hand on a
fingerboard chart and told Delbert that if he learned the chords he would give him his
guitar and purchase a nicer instrument for himself. This was the early 60s so Delbert had
some time on his hands. Within a short period of time Delbert was strumming the chords
while keeping a steady rhythm. The deal was sealed! Bill gave Delbert his Stella acoustic
and then purchased a nicer guitar for himself. By the early 70s the situation had repeated
itself many times until Bill was playing a wonderful Gibson SG and Delbert was playing
a1956 Gibson Gold Top Les Paul and a 1963 Gibson Firebird.
In 1963 Delbert attended his first live
musical performance. He was electrified when he saw Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, with
their fancy suits and sparkly silver Fender Telecasters. Mesmerized by the sweet, pure,
sounds Buck Owens and Don Rich produced from those black-faced Fender Twin amps, Delbert
was inspired to explore the world of the electric guitar. He started sending a dollar each
year to the major manufacturers to purchase their product catalogs. It was exciting to
receive them in the mail and study the pictures of the new designs and learn of the new
electronic changes that were rapidly taking place at the time. He would sit in school and
stare at the catalogs and dream of a different world. The shapes and curves of the
instruments, and the amp and speaker options, started a life-long interest in design and
tone that carries on today.
Delbert became interested in the surf
guitar sounds of the Ventures and spent time learning both the melody and rhythm parts
simultaneously. Next he discovered the rockabilly and country blues sounds of the early
recordings of Johnny Cash and Elvis. Then in February 1964 the music world changed when
the Beatles burst onto the scene. To hear a group work together like the Beatles with
excellent song writing, great vocal harmonies, and guitar parts was thrilling.
Then came the blues. The outrageous
tone and phrasing of Michael Bloomfield on the first two Paul Butterfield Blues Band LPs
and the incredible intensity and passion that Eric Clapton laid down on the John Mayall
and the Bluesbreaker LP, inspired Delbert to stay up for hours to learn each solo. He
learned to listen closely to his tone to capture a sound that would be passionate and
moving. It was a thrilling time as the blues was becoming more popular than ever.
At the age of 13 Delbert joined his
first band, Mother Head, working with other young players that shared the same passion for
music. Within a year some of the members changed and the group was renamed The Armstrong
Brothers. They were inspired by such groups as Cream, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Canned
Heat, The Byrds, and of course The Beatles. In the mid to late 60s these groups were
dominating the charts. Delbert and his friends were honing their skills in the basement
during the week and playing dances and parties on the weekends. The rehearsals were often
topped off by the members discussing the history of the blues and music in general along
with fixing up a delicious pizza at Daves house. What could be better than that!
Delbert performed often during his
school years. The days of the sock hop dances, where they played records, were coming to
an end. Audiences of all ages wanted to hear live groups that could tear it up. This
opened the doors for Delbert and his friends to really express themselves weekly on stage.
It got to the point that when they performed, no one danced. There would be a few hundred
kids standing and staring and clapping. Delbert loved the energy that was in the air and
time itself seemed to stand still. What a creative time this was, full of energy and the
power of music!
In 1971 Delbert teamed up with Mike
Gorecki to form an acoustic guitar duo that performed a wide repertoire that spanned many
genres. Mike was an established musician and performer and with his knowledge of music and
vocal harmonies Delbert developed a keen sense of two part vocal harmony. Mike was also
outstanding on guitar with great alternate bass finger-picking abilities. Delberts
style expanded as he learned to lay back and play lyrical fills as Mike held down a steady
rhythm. Delbert enjoyed every rehearsal, especially when Mikes mom would make them a
great cherry pie for an after rehearsal snack. The finest cherry pie on the planet!
Mike and Delbert toured Europe in 1972
performing in small pubs as well as a few large festivals. At one point during the tour,
they were playing a festival in Wolfenbuttel, Germany where there was a sea of people
around them in every direction as far as the eye could see. It felt like Woodstock!
Delbert discovered the real energy and beauty of music like never before.
In the early 70s Delbert regrouped with
bassist, Dave Johnson and drummer, Bill Furry, formerly of The Armstrong Brothers, along
with guitarist, Jim Dove and keyboardist, Gene Cornish to form the group Crosswind. The
group performed 5 to 7 nights a week in the early 70s for approximately three years. It
was back in the day where the clubs were huge and the groups carried all their own stage
gear, sound systems and light shows. They played 4 sets a night and sometimes an extra set
in the early evening. The group listened to music during the day and they continued to
develop an individual sound and a huge following. They worked on long medleys of songs
from artists such as Frank Zappa to the Beatles. These medleys along with excellent
musicianship and strong three part vocal harmonies gave the group a unique sound. What
better way to develop your musicianship and chops! Jim, Dave, Gene and Bill are all still
By the mid 70s Delbert decided that it
was time to learn theory and reading. He studied with the late jazz great George Barnes.
George had a feel and sound that was instantly recognizable. He was a distinguished player
and a wonderful instructor. A true one of a kind!
In 1978 Delbert decided to move to L.A.
and attend The Guitar Institute of Technology (currently Musicians Institute.) At GIT he
spent his first few months studying theory, reading, and arranging. Once he started taking
performance classes, fellow students would walk from their classes to see who was playing
down the hallway! Delbert was a seasoned player and many of the students hadnt
attained any stage experience at that point. Delbert enjoyed the long and exciting days at
G.I.T. having the time of his life studying with such greats as Howard Roberts, Don Mock,
Joe Diorio, Ron Eschete, and Howard Alden.
In 1980 Delbert joined The Brian Brill
Group. At that time Brian was a gifted student attending Western Michigan University.
Brian was writing a ton of material and wanted a group to work through his music. Delbert
enjoyed leaping into the jazz world, performing not only jazz standards but also jazz
fusion. This was an exciting time where rock and jazz players were expanding their
knowledge and techniques, blending these two genres.
In 1982 Delbert became a father. With
the birth of his son, Ian, he decided to spend more time at home and was very involved in
the day to day care of his son. He opened a teaching studio where he currently has 40-60
private students per week. Delbert has enjoyed teaching over the past 30 years, sharing
his interests and passion for music. He enjoys interacting with people who have the common
interest of being moved by making and listening to great music.
In 2005, 2006, 2007 Delbert produced
and performed in 3 annual concerts at the renowned Tibbits Opera House in Coldwater,
Michigan as a fundraiser for the theater. Tibbits is a well known, truly wonderful
historic theater where many fine entertainers and performers have played over the years.
These "Roots to Rock" shows featured six groups performing music from the
earliest forms of folk, blues, and bluegrass to current pop and rock. Each year exciting,
young, and gifted performers were introduced to sold-out audiences.
Currently Delbert is performing with
his group, The Delbert Walling Group, which plays a variety of popular rock music spanning
decades. Formed in 1998, the group originally consisted of Delbert Walling, guitar and
vocals; Jim Knisely, bass and vocals; and David Hackett, drums. The group has maintained a
busy schedule performing at a variety of venues including clubs, festivals, and private
events. The current lineup of the group is Delbert Walling, guitar and vocals; Haley
Smith, vocals; David Hackett, drums; and Peter Fair, bass. With the addition of Haley and
Peter, the music has become more versatile and soulful. The Delbert Walling Group rocks
the house every time!
Delbert is also currently performing in
his duo with Haley Smith. Delbert and Haley perform a variety of music, including pop,
folk rock, country, and bluegrass with powerful vocals and unique arrangements.
Delbert resides with his wife, Robin
Brauker Walling, in southern Michigan. Robin has always been a supportive partner in all
aspects of Delberts career. Delbert and Robin enjoy travelling and visiting state
and national parks during breaks from the music scene.
Whether it is making music with friends
around a campfire, working with students, performing to a small intimate audience, or a
large theater or outdoor festival, Delbert loves it all!