Walter Hyatt’s rich voice, genre-leaping songs and gentlemanly presence made him a key figure in three musical cities: Austin, Texas, Nashville, Tennessee and his hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Raised in a log cabin just off Union Street, Hyatt spent his childhood fascinated by music. In the early 1970s, after two years at Wofford College, Hyatt joined Spartanburg-reared musicians Champ Hood and David Ball in forming acoustic trio Uncle Walt’s Band. The group members moved to Austin, released several albums together and became a formative influence on singer-songwriters including Shawn Colvin, Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Lyle Lovett. “There’s never been a band in Texas as swingin’ as Uncle Walt’s Band,” said Lovett, who later produced Hyatt’s King Tears album and recorded several of Hyatt’s songs.
Hyatt, who also recorded in the 1970s with band The Contenders, ultimately moved to Nashville, where he performed, wrote songs and recorded music that married storytelling lyrics to sophisticated, elegant melodies. “His songs are so thoughtful and complete and so honest - from his heart. Walter was like that as a person,” Lovett said. After Hyatt’s death in a 1996 commercial airline crash, he was memorialized in star-packed tribute shows, including a nationally televised, hour-long episode of Austin City Limits.