Remembering the writer Richard C. Walls

May 22, 2017 at 6:04 am
click to enlarge Richard C. Walls - Via Facebook
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Richard C. Walls
Detroit-based writer Richard C. Walls died in hospice care over the weekend. Walls was a longtime writer for Creem, and reviewed films as recently as 12 years ago for Metro Times. Onetime MT music editor Bill Holdship wrote these words of remembrance and gave us permission to share with our readers. We present it along with our condolences to Walls' family and friends.

On my very first day of employment at Creem magazine, Susan Whitall and Dave DiMartino sent me on a journey to deliver a review album to Richard C. Walls' house. I'd read his byline for years — I do believe (at least I was frequently told) that he was the only writer to appear in both the first and the final issue of the magazine — and so he was the first Creem freelancer I met in person after becoming part of the magazine's editorial staff.
I loved Richard's writing. The man could write about anything, almost any subject — he was brilliant and so well-read — and make it jump off the page. He could write equally well (and with authority) about all rock 'n' roll and jazz, not to mention movies (which he later primarily reviewed for Metro Times) and TV (he had a column, Prime Time, about the latter in Creem).

After I inherited the record reviews section from Billy Altman in the '80s following Arnold Levitt's cost-cutting changes, I couldn't wait to give RCW various albums to review every month. It was always a treat to talk to him on the phone, discussing everything from SCTV to politics to the latest punk rock releases. He never turned down any assignment and I always knew that whatever it was, his words would be great. I remember I was so excited when he agreed to take on the Replacements' Pleased To Meet Me album — which we made the lead review that month (with the headline "...And The Gods Made Love") — and he wrote a rave. As I said, the guy was always on the money, although maybe that's just because we agreed on most things.
Richard suffered from agoraphobia so he didn't get out much. (I do know that he would make an exception when Lester Bangs was in town visiting and he'd get together with Lester and the late Rob Tyner; Sue would always tell me that Lester felt very protective of Richard.) But I did visit him at his home several times over the years. (He eventually moved from the all-black Detroit neighborhood where I'd delivered the album to the slightly more upscale Ferndale.) And I also remember one afternoon when Dave DiMartino, John Kordosh, and I were able to coax him out of the house and out to lunch with us. We even got him to go to the old Ferndale book, news, and magazine shop with us after eating. It was a very fun afternoon and a blast to hang out with him. Every word that Richard spoke was of interest.

I talked to him a few times after returning to Detroit in 2007 and tried to get him to do some writing for us at Metro Times. But there were some problems due to his disability status and it never came to pass. It was sure good to talk to him again, though.
Years later, a renegade version of Creem was being published out of New York City (it didn't last long) and the editor — I think his name was Chris Nadler — commissioned old Creem writers to write a remembrance of the original magazine in every issue. The one that Richard wrote was arguably the very best — like I said, he was there from the beginning through the end — and I'll always remember his description of me in his article as "the most optimistic and happy severely depressed person" he'd ever known. Some would say that might be the best description of me ever recorded on paper. I'm feeling neither optimistic or happy at the moment, though, after waking to the sad news on Facebook that Mr. Walls left the building last night. Quite sad, actually, even though it wasn't unexpected. He's been in hospice care for a few weeks now. I'll simply say that Richard C. Walls' work mattered and I'm a smarter person for having had his influence in my earlier life.