Local Musician: From Plastic Guitar to Budding Star

Shorewood Christ Academy student and Channahon resident Dustin Walker is following in the footsteps of his childhood hero as he cuts his teeth in the music world.

Dustin Walker’s love for music was born out of a concert he attended as a little boy.

He picked on a plastic guitar, sat on his grandfather’s shoulders and watched Rick Springfield rock the house before he was summoned to join Springfield on stage.

Today, Walker, a junior at Shorewood Christ's Academy and a resident of Channahon, calls Springfield “Uncle Rick” and is preparing to open for him in a July 27 gig at Midland Theater in Kansas City, Mo.

Walker, who plays acoustic guitar and bass, recently signed a three-year deal with Musik and Film. He has a five-song EP—one with Springfield accompanying him on lyrics—that will be released when he opens for his beloved “Uncle Rick.”

In short, Walker is living the dream.

He opened for Springfield at Taste of Joliet in 2010 and stoked a crowd of nearly 20,000 with his high-energy show, full of old-‘80s and pop-‘80s style music and new alternative rock. He said cellos under the electric guitars give his band the sound a heavier vibe.

When they’re on stage together, Springfield, 63, and Walker, 17, have come to be viewed nowadays by as fans as the Old Heartthrob and the Young Heartthrob.

“That’s just amazing to me because he’s always been my hero and my idol,” Walker said. “So, to hear somebody comparing me to him—it is just amazing that I could accomplish something like that. I watch his videos and I’m like, ‘Man, I want to be like that some day.’

“So hearing that—they say I’m ‘Dee-Man’ and he’s ‘Da-Man.’ It’s cool. And you stumble across it. People are just saying it or posting it. And, when they’re saying it naturally, rather than on something they know you’re going to see, it means even more.”

Walker does much of his song writing in his studio—in the basement of his home in Channahon. His father, Jeff, works for Exelon as a senior regulatory specialist at the Dresden Nuclear Power Station. He is a graduate of the University of St. Francis.

Prodigal Son Grows Up

Walker’s grandmother, Lori Stroud, tends to the house, a job that includes looking after the shih-tzu puppies she raises and Walker’s two siblings, Shelby, 13, and Drake, 10. She has watched Dustin develop through his music over the years and learn to carry himself well in adult settings.

“I’m so proud,” Stroud said. “He’s very dedicated. He’s mature beyond his years in his dedication to his music. And the whole family is very proud that he’s sticking to it.”

Walker was 3 years old when he first met Springfield. His dad was a big fan and took him to see Springfield perform—along with the rest of the family.

“I was at a concert, and I was on my grandpa’s shoulders with a little plastic guitar, and his manager came over and asked me and my dad to come to the side,” Walker said. “He said, ‘Hey, does your kid want to go up on stage?’ I was like, ‘No, maybe later.’

“My dad started talking and I said, ‘All right, I’m ready now. I walked right out on stage. Rick (Springfield) pulled me up there. I sang a song with him. I was 3 years old. It was insane. Then, we went backstage after and he said, ‘I’m going to be your Uncle Rick. I’m going to take care of you.’ ”

Since then, Walker has met Springfield after many of his shows. The two have gone out to dinner and swapped stories. Their most memorable caper came during a whirlwind trip to Malibu for the movie premier of An Affair of the Heart, a picture starring Springfield and also featuring Walker.

“He has a 1963 Corvette split-window,” Walker said. “And it was made by George Barris—the guy who did the Batmobile and the Monkeemobile. Before it was even built, he said if you ever get out to L.A., I’ll take you for a ride in it.

“So, he’s like, ‘Hey, man, did you see my Corvette?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ So, then after the premier, me and him got in it and we were doing like 90-mph down Pacific Coast Highway.”

Walker’s presence on stage is every bit as electrifying as a thrill ride on the Coast.

“The kid has got charisma,” said Stephen Wrench, president of Musik and Film and Walker’s manager. “He’s got something you can’t buy and you can’t teach. I’ve seen him perform at several points and on several videos with several different people.

“He takes over the stage. People love him. He’s got great personality.”

He has come a long way from that plastic guitar.

COMING TUESDAY: Log on at 6 a.m. Tuesday to hear Dustin Walker sing I Can't Do Anything for You and watch the Affair of the Heart movie trailer.




Susan Wittmann May 13, 2013 at 06:22 PM
I have known Dustin since he made his first "career" move at the ripe old age of Three! He was a very cute little boy who joined Rick Springfield on stage to respond Rick's song ~ Don't Talk To" Strangers. He loved being Rick's helper! He decided then, that he would like to follow in Rick's footsteps and become a musician. He started emulating Rick with his little plastic guitar! He worked on trying to use Rick's moves, etc. Over the years, he has become very good at what he does. He not only plays guitar and sings well, but he writes his own music. Becoming a musician has been his life-long dream. And, over the years, he and Rick have kept in touch. Rick has been a great mentor to Dustin. And, a very good friend, encouraging him to do great things. Dustin is not only very talented, but he is also humble! He loves his fans and appreciates their interest in him. He was raised by a wonderful Father and Grandparents, who have taught him to be a polite, considerate, respectful and loving young man. He learned his lessons well and should be an inspiration for all young adults. He is certainly going to reach his goal. Both young and older fans can relate to his music and talent. Dustin ~~ you are a star, now and going to be a BIG SUCCESS, very SOON!
LindaSue May 13, 2013 at 06:42 PM
It's inspiring to see teens written up in news articles for the good they do rather than the bad. Dustin is hard working and dedicated to his music. His music is high energy and entertaining. He may have started out trying to be like Rick, but he has developed into his own style and I wish him nothing but success as he has earned his place on the stage.
Jeni Jablonski May 13, 2013 at 08:16 PM
I have to say, I feel Honored 2 be a Friend and a Fan of Dustin , (and his Family ) He is a Down 2 earth, Very Humble and very Consierate Kid , and Of Course extremely talented !!! He is a Breath of fresh air !!! You have everything you need 2 be a Star , Because your are commited,and you have Love and support from all who Love you !!
John Zavislak May 13, 2013 at 08:20 PM
A talented young man and mentored by Rick Springfield. Looks like to me the young fella is on the highway to success
JCA1983 May 14, 2013 at 01:30 PM
I keep having this Aerosmith song going through my head when i look at his picture. I think it was called That,that dude looks like a lady. Wondering who you have to know to get a full page Ad like this dude got.


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