Grand Ole Opry star Charlie Walker dead at 81

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Grand Ole Opry star Charlie Walker, who became a popular disc jockey in Texas as he built a career as a honky-tonk singer, has died. He was 81 and had been diagnosed recently with colon cancer.

A Grand Ole Opry spokeswoman said Walker died Friday morning in the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville, Tenn.

Walker played country music during World War II over the Armed Forces Radio Network as part of the occupation forces in Tokyo.

He became a top country music disc jockey on San Antonio's KMAC in the '50s while he recorded regional hits, including his first charting song, "Only You, Only You," on the Decca label.

His breakthrough was on Columbia Records in 1958 with the Harlan Howard-penned "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down." The tune became a million-seller and a country music staple.

His other hits included "Who Will Buy the Wine," "Wild as a Wildcat" and 'Don't Squeeze My Sharmon."

He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1967, and was also a longtime member of the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame.

Opry Vice President and General Manager Pete Fisher said this weekend's show will be dedicated to Walker.

He is survived by his wife, Connie, and 10 children.

Visitation and funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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