TUSCUMBIA, Ala. - You may not know his name, but you have likely heard his work. Florence native Walt Aldridge went to work for Rick Hall at Fame Studios 40 years ago. “I had only one dream. I wanted to be a great guitar player,” Walt told me. “My whole life, that’s all I cared about and I decided I was going to be a session guitar player and really focus on that.”
That dream soon changed. “The first time I went to a real recording studio and heard a great session player, I wanted to go outside, tie my guitar on the back of my car and drag it back to my apartment because he was so good,” Walt said with a smile.
Like many of us, he became a jack of all trades and a master of none. Walt added, “Rick was quick to say, you need to learn everything you can.” He did. That included writing songs. “I knew it was a way that would get me into the studio which is where I wanted to be making music,” he said.
Walt has written or co-written 56 songs that have made it to Billboard’s Country Music Charts. Those hits include "There’s No Gettin Over Me” for Ronnie Milsap, “Holding Her and Loving You” for Earl Thomas Conley, “I Loved Her First” recorded by Heartland and “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde” for Travis Tritt.
He’s written more songs than he can remember. “Thankfully,” he said. “They forget those that aren't so good.” When asked how many are in his catalog, he said, “I've been asked that question but I've never actually counted. But I would imagine something like 3,000 songs probably.”
And by his own admission, a lot of them are forgettable. “Back to Rick Hall,” he said. “He always had a saying, you've got to plant a lot of seeds to grow a big watermelon. I kind of feel that way about songwriting. The more songs you write, the better shot you've got at writing one that matters.”
Walt has returned to doing what he loves the most, playing for small audiences. “That instant gratification, spontaneity of a crowd's reaction whether it's a tear or a laugh or a knowing nod,” he said. “I love that.” He also loves sharing the story behind the song. “That's a cool thing that songwriters don't often get to experience,” he added.
Walt is also teaching at his alma mater, the University of North Alabama. “That’s a really enjoyable experience because you're working with young people who have that gleam in their eye,” he said smiling. He’s helping them chase their own dream in the music industry. “And you have the hope you might say one thing to one of them that really helps them find their way into that,” he said proudly.
There are too many accolades and awards to mention but there is one that is perhaps more special than any other. “I'd have to say this induction into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame is especially meaningful,” Walt said. He’s taking his place among fellow Alabamians in our state’s musical heritage. “This state has been responsible for music creators in all genres, everything from W.C. Handy to Erskine Hawkins to Hank Williams Senior and so to be invited into that kind of a club is pretty heady stuff,” he said.
And he couldn’t be more proud of his Shoals roots. “I'm very proud to be an Alabamian,” he said. “I was born and raised here in Florence and I just really feel a close connection to Alabama and Alabamians.”
Walt will be inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Saturday, February 3. He’ll also be performing during the awards show and banquet at the Marriott Shoals Conference Center in Florence. For ticket information, contact the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.