Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Aristo Media Group CEO Jeff Walker has died

Country Music Mourns Passing Of Aristo Media Group CEO Jeff Walker

Deepest sympathies to family and friends of Aristo Media Group CEO JEFF WALKER, who died unexpectedly Monday night (Aug 24, 2015).
He was believed to have been 65. Walker suffered from a heart attack at Nashville International Airport. He died later that night in an area hospital.
Mr.Jeff Walker 
(Aristo press photo)
Click to ENLARGE

Aristo, the company, which worked with both country and Christian music acts, marked its 35th anniversary in April.
The AristoMedia Group is comprised specifically of the following branded divisions and services: Aristo PR (publicity), AristoVision (Christian video promotion), AristoVideo (Country video promotion), AristoWorks (new media services), The Goodland Group (video reel distribution), Jeff Walker & Associates (international and domestic entertainment consultation), Marco Music Group (secondary radio promotion), Marco Club Connection (dance club venue marketing)

For over 30 years, Walker had —with great gusto and sizeable strategic smarts— bolstered the careers of such country music giants as Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Shania Twain, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, Charlie Daniels and Jo Dee Messina.

Mr. Walker hailed originally from Australia. He came to the fabled American country town (Nashville) in 1974, primarily to visit his father—noted legendary musical director/producer Bill Walker who had already become well known as music director of The Johnny Cash Show (that ran from June 7, 1969 to March 31, 1971).

  • After graduating from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Economics degree, and a major in accounting and law, Walker visited Nashville, and decided to take a job at a downtown CPA firm.
  • In 1977, Mr. Walker began working at his dad’s label, Con Brio Records. And he met his wife Terri, who was a singer on the label. She toured England five times. She did the Wembley Festival and co-hosted five shows on BBC-TV with Ronnie Prophet.
  • Jeff oversaw the books part-time for Con Brio Records and Publishing, and after only a few months, he quit his CPA job to become VP of operations for Con Brio.
  • During his three-year tenure there, Con Brio racked up 47 nationally charted singles for such artists as Don King, Dale McBride and Terri Hollowell (who became Mrs. Jeff Walker). Con Brio was named Billboard's Best New Country Label of the Year in 1977.
  • In 1980, Walker formed The AristoMedia Group. Its early success as an independent publicity firm (since rebranded as the Aristo P.R. division) prompted Walker to expand his business into video promotion in 1983.
  • Through its ground-breaking video promotion, The AristoMedia Group played a pivotal role in the growth of music videos in country music. The company also played an integral role in establishing the careers of such acts as Shania Twain, Keith Urban, Alan Jackson and Sugarland.
Jeff Walker shared in interview "We worked with Shania through all of her albums. We worked every video that she put out. We worked with and promoted her and had just a great time with those. Boy, you talk about a great machine over there at Universal under (chairman and CEO) Luke Lewis; how they orchestrated and set up those releases. It was a fantastic thing to watch and be part of.
Of Note: AristoVideo was proud to be part of the team marketing and promoting NINE of the 2012 CMT Music Awards nominations – a quarter of the entire panel!  One of those was Lionel Richie With Shania Twain — >> “Endless Love” (nominated for Collaborative Video of the Year)

In 2004, realizing that there was a need for dance club promotion for country artists, Walker created the Marco Club Connection. Walker realized that there was a virtually untapped market for dance club promotion, to increase exposure for clients with dance-oriented material. The company had already seen previous success with their involvement in videos like “Achy Breaky Heart” and “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy),” so the transition was a logical move.

In 2006, The AristoMedia Group launched AristoWorks to develop new media opportunities for clients, and the company branded its Christian video services division as AristoVision.

Jeff was a friend and strong supporter of International country music and artists. Jeff will be missed by many. In addition to running ARISTO, Walker had also served on the Country Radio Seminar board of Directors for the past 35 years and was a longtime member of the Country Music Association Board as well.

He was presented with the CRS President's Award (Photo) during the Country Radio Hall Of Fame induction ceremony on June 2015 and had recently been re-elected as CRS Treasurer.

Walker was also involved in Country music's international efforts, serving board positions on the Canadian Country Music Association and the Contemporary Country Music. Coalition in AUSTRALIA. He was honored last September with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Australian Country Music Association.

(Left) Pictured in this flashback photo taken during the CMA’s 1996 delegation trip to Australia are (l-r); then CMA Executive Director Ed Benson, then CMA International Manager Jeff Green, Aussie Broadcasters Nick Erby and John Laws, the great Slim Dusty and CMA Board member Jeff Walker (Laws was receiving a CMA International broadcaster award at that event)

(NASHVILLE, Tenn. – June 10, 2013) Nashville and Tamworth, Australia joined as Sister Cities at a Signing Ceremony
Mr Walker was joined by Mayor Karl Dean, Mayor Col Murray of Tamworth, Australia during CMA Music Fest week in signing a treaty that officially joined Nashville and Tamworth as sister cities. Tamworth is the seventh sister city to Nashville. Clare Bowen, the Australian actress/artist who portrays Scarlett O’Connor in the television show “Nashville,” also attended the ceremony along with Australian duo Mark and Jay O’Shea and singer Morgan Evans.

ABOVE: Bob Saporiti, AristoMedia CEO Jeff Walker, Country Music Hall of Fame Museum Director Kyle Young, Tamworth Mayor Col Murray, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Entertainment Edge CEO Rob Potts with Australian performers Mark O’Shea, Clare Bowen, Jay O’Shea and Morgan Evans at a signing ceremony. Photo credit: Denise Fussell

Since 2005, Walker had hosted, and co-ordinated the annual Global Events of the Country Music Association Festival.
This is a series of showcases--sponsored by The AristoMedia Group, and the CMA—that brings the best international talent together. For many of them, including UK artists, it was the first time they’ve been in Nashville.

Glasgows Raintown (Paul Bain and Claire McArthur) made history when they became the first Scottish act to represent the UK at the prestigious CMA Global Artist Party, performing at the famous ‘Stage’ venue on Broadway in Nashville. The event heralded the start of CMA Fest, the largest Country Music Festival in the world. "After seeing Raintown on the 2011 Global Artist Party I am convinced that they have a big future ahead of them. They have the talent, skills, and musicianship to succeed in the very competitive music industry and I believe that they have the ability to tackle the world scene in a very positive manner" said Mr Walker (CEO/President AristoMedia/Marco Promotions - Nashville)

On November 20,  2002 David Allan received the Country Music Association’s prestigious 2002 International Broadcaster Award. Now a columisit for Country Music People, the veteran country music presenter, BBC Radio 2 (Country Club) and TV personality was the anchorman for all 22 years of BBC 2 Television's coverage of Wembley’s annual International Festival of Country Music. "David Allan, Marcel Bach and the Bellamy Brothers have been leaders in the campaign to spread Country Music around the world for many years," said Jeff Walker paying tribute, head of CMA's Global Task Force Committee, who was in London for the Allan presentation.

On March 28, 2010 Mr. Walker was live in the BBC Radio Sheffield studio for the Your Country Show talking with Allan Watkiss (CMA International Broadcaster of the Year 2010 photo & CEO

5 mins into the interview Jeff said: “ We do a Global Artist show every year and over the years were had some great artists from Britain on the show, a girl called Lucie Diamond who is very very talented as a songer songwriter , Rachel Warwick whose really the same way a very very talented gal who had a Country Americana
Allan spoke with Mr.Walker about the then British Entertainer of the Year Tim McKay and his prospects, the frustrations of trying to promote country music in the UK  and as a treat even played Terri Hollowell's (Walkers wife) cut of The Beatles "Strawberry Fields For Ever" [The first female country artist to chart a Beatle's record on the country music charts in the US in the late 70s)
Listen to this very interesting and enlightening FULL interview

In June 2012 Singer/songwriter Mark Wayne Glasmire received a world class honor during the week's CMA Music Festival. The musician accepted a plaque at the Aristo Global show to commemorate the chart success of his song "I Like You," which spent a record-tying nine weeks at #1 in the European/ International Hotdisc chart. Jeff Walker and Lee Williams of CMR Nashville were on hand at The Second Fiddle in downtown Nashville to make the presentation on Stuart Cameron's (CEO Hotdisc based in Galashiels Scotland) behalf at the Aristo show.

(L-R) Jeff Walker of AristoMedia Group, Mark Wayne Glasmire, Martha Moore of so much MOORE media and Lee Williams of CMR Nashville (Dan Harr)

Artists and industry gather at the CMA Global Artist Party, held Monday, June 4, 2012 at The Stage on Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn. 

Standing L to R: AristoMedia President/CEO Jeff Walker, Chevrolet National Promotions Manager Phil Caruso, artists Curtis and Brad Rempel (High Valley), artists Jay and Mark O'Shea, artist Vickie Evans, artist Morgan Evans, artist Gene Watson, artist Craig Morrison, artist Bob Corbett, artist Jess Moskaluke, CMA CEO Steve Moore. Kneeling L to R: artist Gary Quinn (IRE), artist Bryan Rempel (High Valley), artist Joe Robinson (Photo: Bev Moser)

Artists and industry executives gather at the Aristo Global Show on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at The Stage on Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn. 

ABOVE: Pictured standing, L to R: AristoMedia Director of Operations Matt Watkins, CMA International Director Bobbi Boyce, Global Events Music Director and record producer Mark Moffatt, artists Kelly Lee and Talia Smith (Travellin Rose), artist Pete Kennedy, artist Barb Baillie (Baylou) artist Adam Gregory, artist Victoria Baillie (Baylou), Paul Bain and Claire McArthur (Raintown), artist Jessica Ridley, artist Adam Harvey, AristoMedia President/CEO Jeff Walker. Kneeling, L to R: artist Colm Kirwan, artist Josh Macumber. Photo: (Bev Moser)

ABOVE: Artists and industry executives gather at the Aristo Media Party (2012)
(L-R) Lee Williams (CEO CMR Nashville/Django Promotions), Pete Kennedy (IRE), Talia Smith (Simone) and Kelly Lee (Travellin Rose duo), Steve Moore (CMA; centre) and Jeff Walker far right)

At the 2013 CMA International Awards:
Taylor Swift, Jeff Walker and BBC Radio 2 presenter Bob Harris were recognized at 2013 CMA International Awards Reception. International and domestic industry professionals alike gathered at the Country Music Hall of Fame for the annual CMA International Media Reception and the presentation of the 2013 CMA International Awards.
Mr. Walker was the recipient of the Jo Walker-Meador Award which recognizes outstanding achievement by an individual or company in advocating and supporting Country Music’s marketing development in territories outside the United States.

Pictured (L-R): President Elect of the CMA Board of Directors Frank Bumstead, Jo Walker-Meador, and Jeff Walker.

The UKs Pauper Kings, The Shires & Ward Thomas all perfomed at 2015 CMA Music Festival in Nashvill at CMA World GlobaLive!, a free, international Country Music showcase on Monday, June 8th 2015 in downtown Nashville. In 2015, GlobaLive! was held on an outdoor stage in Walk of Fame Park, with international food and beverage vendors. 
The free concert featured performances by Country artists from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, and the U.K.
GlobaLive! 2015 Jeff Walker (bottom L), UKs Ward Thomas 2nd row Middle

"We are excited about this year’s lineup and the burgeoning popularity of Country Music 
overseas,” said Mr. Jeff Walker, CMA Board member and the executive producer of CMA World GlobaLive! along with associate producer Matt Watkins and music coordinator Mark Moffatt.
Read more and see photos about GlobaLive! in The AristoMedia International Report [PDF File]

At the British Country Music Awards 2014 (BCMAwards) which took place on Sunday 23rd Nov 2014 Jeff Walker was the recipient of the International Services Award

Mr. Walker was presented with his Award in advance at a special CMA International Event held during the CMA Awards week in Nashville. Walker noted, "I am very appreciative to receive this prestigious Award from the British CMA. As a long-time fan and supporter of the International Country music scene, it has been very fulfilling to see the growth in these markets and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of that growth."
Pictured above L to R: BCMA President, Lee Williams, CMA Director of International Relations, Bobbi Boyce, AristoMedia Group CEO, Jeff Walker, and CMA CEO, Sarah Trahern.
Lee Williams CEO of CMR Nashville and the President of the BCMAwards has shared a video as a reminder of the late Jeff Walker being awarded the International Services Award from the BCMA 2014 in Nashville – Facebook Video

Jim Duncan who is on the BCMAwards panel, the Wolvestock Festival organiser and country presenter spoke on WCR FM 101.8 (Wolverhampton Community Radio) paid tribute to Jeff on his Aug 27, 2015 show. Listen here:

The Phil Mack International Country show Sky 191 & Freesat TV Channel 400 show videos of American country stars and upcoming artists promoted by some of the US major labels (such as Big Machine) and worked with The AristoMedia Group (Tom Campbell; PR, New Media, Radio, Video and Club Promotion) in bringing to the attention of UK & Irish viewers and country fans some of the new video releases from across America. 
The Keep It Country Show’s aim according to Phil Mack: "We will be bringing you the Best country Artists in the world EVERY WEEK so let us know who your favourites are Old & New. We are pleased to have the support of some of the Major Record Companies on the Planet

(L-R) Karen Stump, CMA Senior Director of Market Research;
Mark Ramsey; Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer; Jeff Walker,
CMA Board member and President of AristoMedia Group.
Photos: Christian Bottorff / CMA

"Jeff was instrumental in so many CMA efforts over the years, but chief among them was our international outreach and initiatives," stated Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer. "He was incredibly passionate about supporting U.S. country artists going overseas, but he was just as dedicated to providing opportunities for international country artists to perform here. For 12 years he spearheaded the CMA global artists showcase during CMA Music Fest - providing an important platform for country artists from around the globe to play in Nashville. His tireless energy on behalf of our organization, our artists, and our fans will be sorely missed." (Source: The Tennessean)

In a biography on the AristoMedia website, Mr. Walker described his approach to marketing, publicity and content distribution.
Necessity is the mother of invention,” Mr. Walker said.  “As long as we remember that content is king and continue to provide professional niche market media services, the future looks bright.”

In his limited spare time, Walker enjoyed listening to music, watching movies, traveling, photography, and cheered for the hometown Tennessee Titans. Mr. Walker’s favourite song was “My Wish,” (>> YouTube Lyric video) written by Jeffrey Steele and Steve Robson and performed by Rascal Flatts from their album ME AND MY GANG (released Aug 28, 2006). Jeff said he always thought of his family when listening to the lyrics.
Mr. Walker was excited to continue both his personal and professional endeavors in Nashville, during a period of such profound growth for Music City. Aristo Media - Profle - Jeff Walker

I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you wanna go,
And if you're faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin' till you find the window,
If it's cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile.
But more than anything, more than anything

Listen to "My Wish" and remember Mr. Jeff Walker 


Aristo Press Release (Nashville, Tenn. – Aug. 27, 2015) – We are deeply saddened by the sudden and heartbreaking loss of our founder, President, CEO, friend and fearless leader Jeff Walker. He was an inspiration to us all and left a tremendous impact on
everyone he met with his sharp business sense and quick wit. Jeff was a “glass half-full kind of guy,” and was well known and beloved in the Nashville music industry for his humor, his boundless energy and his tireless devotion to expanding the reach of Country Music. He was a servant-leader, and pushed everyone he worked with to constantly question the status quo and to bring new ideas to the table to remain competitive in this incredibly volatile industry. A long-time CMA and CRS board member, Jeff made a profound impact not only on all of us here at Aristo, but on the entire Country Music industry. To say he will be missed would be a tremendous understatement, and we will work to continue his legacy and strive to maintain the level of excellence he expected.....

Mr. Walker is survived by his father and step mother, Bill and Jeanine Walker, his wife, Terri, his son Jonathan and his wife Tessa, and his daughter Christy Walker-Watkins and her husband Matt Watkins. He had two grand-daughters, Elle and Lucy

FUNERAL SERVICES will take place on Friday, August 28th at First Baptist Church Of Nashville, 108 7th Avenue South, NASHVILLE, TN 37203. Visitation will begin at 12p (CT) with services at 2p (CT). A private interment will follow. A celebration of life is also being planned, and details will be shared as they are completed and released.

ABOVE: Jeff Walker and family on May 30, 2015, celebrating the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum program Nashville Cats: A Salute to Bill Walker. (L-R): back row: Jeff Walker, Terri Walker, Christy Walker Watkins, Matt Watkins, Tessa Walker, Jon Walker. Seated: Jeanine Walker and Bill Walker.

(Nashville, Tenn. – Aug. 28, 2015)
Friends, family, and business associates gathered Friday afternoon (Aug 28th) at Nashville’s First Baptist Church for a final farewell.  Everyone who spoke had a different anecdote, recalling Walker’s ability to conjure up a groan-worthy but hilarious pun at a moment’s notice. Former Music Row Publisher David Ross remembered the two walking in Toronto, Canada when both saw a “No Jaywalking” sign. Ross recalled Walker reassuring him that, if a police officer stopped them, he’d show his license, saying, “I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve been a J. WALKER my entire life.”
Longtime friend Dave Woodward said even Walker would’ve seen the irony in this afternoon’s event, imagining Walker commenting, “This is a grave situation.” MUSIC ROW’s unofficial Mayor, Charlie Monk, capped off a humorous talk with a serious, heartwarming final comment saying, “I have loved Jeff Walker for 40 years – and so has everyone here today.”

Mr.Walker’s children, Jonathan and Christy, each spoke warmly of their dad, both quoting lyrics from the song “My Wish,” which he often quoted to them for inspiration. Christy Walker recalled referring to her dad as being  "Punny," telling the audience her dad had just wrapped up a very happy time spent on vacation with the entire family, which included his beloved grandchildren. She reassured mourners Walker was in a stress-free, happy place and the family was also at peace. A private interment followed the ceremony; a celebration of life is also being planned, and details will be shared as they are completed and released.


Blair Garner (America's Morning Show for Nash FM) - This is a real loss for Country music. Jeff was a great, great guy. Always there to greet you with a smile and to accentuate the positive. God Bless you Jeff. Thanks for your friendship. Blair Garner

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean lauded Mr. Walker for both spreading local artists overseas and providing a pipeline for international country artists to come to Nashville. “His zeal for growing country music’s appeal around the globe made him an integral part of our Sister Cities program," Dean said. 'In particular, Jeff helped develop our partnership with Tamworth, the Country Music Capital of Australia, and nurture our relationship with Edmonton, which also has strong music ties to Nashville. I know our friends from Edmonton were looking forward to seeing Jeff this weekend during their visit, and his absence will be deeply felt”.

Rick Kelly, VP Radio Marketing for Marco Music Group, said, “Jeff was well known and beloved in the Nashville music industry for his humor, his boundless energy, and his tireless devotion to expanding the reach of country music.”
MusicRow magazine founder David M. Ross:Jeff Walker was one of my very best friends for over 30 years,” said. “We had a special bond which I will always treasure. He loved to make jokes and flash a warm smile, but he was also so serious in how he loved and supported his family, friends, the Music Row industry and country’s international community. He’s left us way too soon, way too soon.”

"Jeff Walker made Music Row a better place with his tireless hard work, dedication and championing of not only artists, but of the next generation of country music executives," said Natalie Kilgore, vice president of publicity for BBR Music Group. "For some reason I still can't figure out why, Jeff was so sweet and supportive of me. He always had a minute and always had a solution. I can't imagine CRS, CMA Fest, the awards shows or any music event without Jeff's infectious smile and jovial laugh. Everything Jeff did was for the right reasons. We've lost one of the few, true good guys."

Artist Tributes:
Reba McEntire on Facebook: What a great guy! We will miss him a bunch. RIP love you.
Travis Tritt tweeted @Travistritt I am shocked and speechless at the news that my friend and publicist Jeff Walker has passed away unexpectedly
The Oak Ridge Boys @oakridgeboys RIP Jeff Walker
Kathie Baillie (Lead Singer/Guitarist at Baillie And The Boys) Awfully sad news. Jeff had such a passion for his work and all of us artists in Country Music. He had a smile and personality like no other. My heart goes out to his family.
Jamie O'Neal tweeted @JamieONeal So saddened by the loss of this man, our sweet sweet friend Jeff Walker. RIP Jeff, you are loved and missed already
Adam Gregory tweeted Tonight I am sending my condolences to the Walker family. I had the pleasure of getting to know Jeff Walker back in the day when he took me under his wing at Aristo Media. I was shocked to read the news tonight about his passing and I am sending my love and prayers for peace to his wonderful family.
Jaida Dreyer tweeted @jaidadreyer Broken hearted over the passing of my friend and champion, Jeff Walker. One of the greatest.
Elaine Roy (The Roys bluegrass duo) I could not believe when I saw this post!! WOW. We worked with Jeff early in our career and he was always so nice to us. My heart goes out to his family and friends. Praying that God comfort all in this terrible time. He will be missed.
Paul Bain (Singer/Songwriter Country Music at Raintown) Really sad news - a great man. We appreciated his time and advice always. Paul/Claire - RAINTOWN

Media Tributes:
CMT tweeted @CMT We are so sad to hear of the passing of our friend, Jeff Walker. More on his life and career in the music industry:
CRS tweeted @CRSOfficial Our long time board member and friend, Jeff Walker. You will be missed, but never forgotten.
NashvilleGab @nashvillegab NashvilleGab retweeted #Nashville was a better place b/c of the presence of Jeff Walker
Cameron Tilbury (MapleStar Music & Media) One of the good guys. It was always great seeing Jeff at events here in town. As everyone has said, he will be missed.
Read more and leave your tribute at Music

Jimmy Carter @askjimmycarter Music Row good guy Aristo Media's Jeff Walker died unexpectedly last pm...His smiling face is what I will remember! tweeted @Roughstock RIP to one of country music's all time best people in Jeff Walker. God bless to his family.

SOURCES/ Obituaries: (by Sherod Robertson) Industry Executive Jeff Walker Passes
The Tennessean (by Nate Rau) Music Row leader Jeff Walker dies at 65
CMT (by Edward Morris) Music Row Leader Jeff Walker Dies in Nashville, Brought Enthusiasm and Humor to the Business
Celebrity (Interview by Larry LeBlanc (CelebrityAccess MediaWire)

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