RICK WALKER, band leader and one-time private detective, was born in Santa Rosa, California, in 1920. His early summers were spent on his grandmother's nearby dairy and apple ranch, where the foreman, a Negro that everyone called Poppy, taught him to play the guitar. But when young Rick entered junior high school, he switched to the saxophone and became a member of a small band, playing for local dances. The summers of his teen years were spent working at the lumberyard managed by his father.
Rick attended one year of college, before enlisting in the Army the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served in Intelligence in Europe, and was awarded the Bronze Star after landing by parachute behind enemy lines. He received a battlefield commission to the rank of lieutenant.
After the war, he drifted into the jazz scene on Central Avenue in Los Angeles. He took a job in the L.A. Police Department and transferred into a position as an investigator for the District Attorney's office. But such work was stifling for a man of unbendable integrity, and he was eventually fired for insubordination -- an occurence that he is still proud of. He applied for a private investigator's license, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Updike case was a breakthrough for his P.I. career. He was hired to locate some stolen paintings, and brashly walked into an art gallery in San Francisco and bought one of the missing paintings right off the wall. The resulting indictments and the trial of the members of an international art theft ring were front page news for months, and his reputation was made.
Satisfied clients passed his name to others in need of discreet investigations, and his list of high-profile clients grew: Howard Helms, the billionaire aviator ["Ballad of the Tall Man"], National Pictures Studios ["Backlot Requiem" and the sequel "Trio for Blunt Instruments"], the Spinello wine family ["Grape Jam"], and a Beverly Hills restaurant owner ["Romanov Fandango"].
If his bank account permitted, he tried to avoid steady investigation work -- and he never accepted divorce work -- preferring instead gigs playing in nightclubs and for studio recording sessions. But cases involving less-famous people were given the same high-quality attention, so his workload steadily increased. He tracked down the murderer of a fashion designer ["Ragtime"] and a bank teller ["Pin-Striped Suite"]. He proved a friend innocent of murder ["Gashouse Beat"], avenged the killing of another friend who ran a diner on Route 66 ["Desert Riff"], and busted a narcotics ring in the process of solving the inadvertant homicide of his music teacher ["Viper Serenade"]. But other crimes also involved him in 'the chase', the part that he loved about detective work: He found a kidnapped girl ["Hoppyland Lullabye"] and a runaway boy ["Waltzing Mice"], he captured the arsonists who bombed the ashram of a fake Hindu swami ["Big Noise in Winnetka"], he helped a small-town sheriff battle a gang of toughs terrorizing a resort town ["Shasta Hoedown"], and he restored a young adopted heiress to her birth family ["Chattanooga Cha-Cha"].
Eventually, he was able to earn a very good living as a musician, and then, riding the crest of live television dance shows, he formed what became the house band of the Sunset Ballroom in Venice, competing with the likes of Spade Cooley and Lawrence Welk. He wrote few songs on his own, but two of them were hits (one by Elvis Presley!), and the resulting royalties allowed him to let his P.I. license lapse.
Bachelorhood had its advantages for a handsome bandleader like Rick, but his middle-class upbringing instilled solid values -- he said that he was waiting for just the right girl. When a young singer named Linette applied for a job with the band, he hired her on the spot without an audition; they were married within a month.
He and his his family -- two sons, two daughters -- live up in Santa Rosa now, on a piece of his late grandmother's ranch, though he goes 'on the road' for several months at a time with the Rick Walker Big Band. Only one child, the eldest daughter, has much interest in music, but her piano skills are quite promising and he is extremely proud of her (and of his other children). His oldest son, Raymond, surprised and embarrassed Rick by writing novels based on his father's exploits, but his pride in his son's success outweighs his chagrin.
Report respectfully submitted by the author.
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