At 16 years old, Dustin Walker of Channahon has already experienced his share of some pretty awesome adventures — thanks to a tight bond with 1980’s pop legend Rick Springfield and Walker’s own musical talent.
Walker was first introduced to the Grammy Award winner at Naperville Ribfest when he was just 3 years old. The cute toddler was riding on his grandfather’s shoulders, little plastic guitar in hand, when he was spotted by Springfield’s road manager.
He was invited to get on the stage with the singer, something Springfield frequently does with his fans during concerts.
The toddler’s first response was “maybe later,” Walker said from his Channahon home this week.
But he did get on stage, met the singer and got a big taste of being in the spotlight. The two have kept in touch over the years, with Walker invited on stage at Springfield concerts many more times when he performed in the area.
“I love him, he’s a great guy,” Walker said. “He has never let me down.”
Walker and Springfield have formed a close friendship since that first meeting in 1999. Springfield has introduced him to many other famous musicians and actors, including Springfield’s record producer Jeff Silverman, who is helping Walker to further his own musical career.
In early 2010, Walker was asked to be in a rock documentary about Springfield, called “An Affair of the Heart.”
The documentary is about the bond Springfield has formed with his fans over the years, chronicling three decades of devotion to those fans. Springfield not only wanted Walker to be in the movie, but sing and play guitar with him on stage.
When he first got the news, Walker freaked out.
“Being in a movie with my hero, my idol, is unbelievable,” he said.
Several other fans are also featured in the movie, but Walker is the only one who performs with the singer.
Walker had several tapings with Springfield, including a performance on stage at The Taste of Joliet later that summer. Walker played lead guitar and sang “Victoria’s Secret” with Springfield.
The two were taped kicking back and singing in a lounge at the historic Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee, Wis. Another time they were at Walker’s church, a scene that was later cut.
Walker didn’t get to see any part of the movie until the first screening for cast members in September 2011 in Malibu, Calif.
He had the thrill of walking down the red carpet, clad in a tuxedo, along with Springfield. Paparazzi were everywhere.
“There was news stations everywhere; lights (flashed) everywhere,” he said. “I just didn’t know where to look. It was awesome.”
After the showing, Walker joined Springfield, the movie’s directors and producers and other cast members in an interview hosted by MTV’s Martha Quinn.
Since the original premiere, Walker has attended showings of the movie at film festivals in Florida and most recently in Milwaukee. The movie was released to the public in New York City just this past Wednesday.
When he’s in Channahon, Walker finds it a bit difficult to get back into small town life. It’s hard to make the transition from riding in Rick Springfield’s Corvette in Malibu or hanging out in a tour bus with band members from Eddie Money to going to school and being a local teen.
“When we go away, it’s surreal,” Walker’s grandmother Lori Stroud said. “We are treated like royalty.”
Walker attends Christ Academy in Shorewood, and he eats, sleeps and lives music. While he’s been in several local bands, right now he’s focusing on writing songs and playing acoustical music with buddy Nate Smith of Joliet.
His favorite music has always been from the 1980s and that influence shows in his two-song CD “Body Bag,” co-written and produced by Silverman, owner of Palette Studios in Nashville and released last year.
Silverman has worked with other famous artists besides Springfield, including Charice, Boyz to Men and Prince.
Whether he’s back home in Channahon or attending a movie premiere, Walker feels like anybody else, he said.
“I don’t think of myself as anything special from anyone else,” he said. “I just love being around people and being nice to them. I hate anything mean.
“I guess I’m a 16-year-old long-haired hippie stuck in the 80s, but who lives in 2012.”