John Walton, the longtime co-host of the Houston-based radio program “Walton and Johnson, passed away late on July 1 after battling an illness. He was 67 years old.
Walton’s business partner and friend, Steve Johnson, shared the news on social media. Johnson did not provide specifics about Walton’s illness but said that Walton “went out on his own terms.”
Walton and Johnson’s radio program launched in 1983 and has 16 affiliates across the southern United States. Walton began working in radio in 1971. He also operated his own radio station in Beaumont, Texas.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. John Walton Suffered From ‘Numerous Medical Issues’ & Made the Decision to Return Home to His Family On the Night He Passed Away
John Walton was 67 years old when he passed away on July 1, 2019. Steve Johnson notified fans of the Walton & Johnson show about his friend’s death in a tribute post shared to social media. He included a picture of the two of them from their younger years.
Johnson shared that Walton had been battling medical issues that were “too numerous to overcome. He had been receiving treatment over the last month but continued to suffer.”
Walton presumably was in a hospital or treatment facility. Johnson explained that Walton had made the decision to return home yesterday and spend his last hours with his family. He went out on his own terms. John passed away last night around 11:55 PM – July 1st, 2019.”
Johnson wrote that he would “always cherish John as not only a partner but a dear friend. His wit and humor defined him as the unique individual we all knew him to be. He will never be replaced. He had a voice and he had something to say.
Your loyalty and support for him and his craft was always a mutual sentiment. John cared deeply for all of you. He loved to make you all laugh.”
Johnson did not share specifics as to Walton’s illness. Ken Webster, the show’s executive producer, told the Houston Chronicle that Walton preferred to keep his professional and private lives separate, and had not hinted as to the severity of his illness. “John was a great broadcaster but also a very private person, and we didn’t realize how much pain he was in near the end of his life.”
2. The Radio Program ‘Walton & Johnson’ Launched in 1983 in New Orleans
John Walton and Steve Johnson explained in a 2017 interview that when their radio program first launched in 1983, they had no idea it would grow like it did. Johnson described the show as “just something to do” and a “lark.”
Walton added that their show ended up in New Orleans “by accident.” He explained that they were treated to a steakhouse dinner and made the decision to sign on the dotted line. Their show “Walton & Johnson” launched on WQUE New Orleans shortly after and soon became the top-rated morning show in the area.
That success enabled them to look outside of New Orleans at larger markets. Walton and Johnson moved the show to Dallas in 1986, and then to Houston in 2004.
The show was a mixture of talk and music. Walton and Johnson were also known to host comedians and politicians on the air.
3. John Walton & Steve Johnson Were Always Unafraid to Speak Their Minds & Referred to the Daily Audience as the ’10 Percenters’
The Houston Chronicle described the political slant of the “Walton & Johnson” as “decided right-of-center.” John Walton and Steve Johnson would pick out topics for each show, but did not write scripts and were always unafraid to speak their minds. The show’s format is explained on its website:
“No show has a more unique mix of ‘stream of consciousness,’ opinionated and compelling talk, guests, musical elements, fictional characters, famous impersonations, Great skit writing and production coupled with powerful audience interaction. This is a show that knows how to get an audience and to sell product.
What sets Walton & Johnson apart is they say what everyone thinks, but is afraid to say. Whether the listener agrees or disagrees… They say out loud what everyone wishes they could. Do they take a lot of flak for it? Yes. But their knowledge and inarguable assessments of the nature of the beast is remarkable and compelling. No personality on the air today gives an audience such a diverse frame of thought as Walton & Johnson. No matter what they say, they do make you think.”
Walton and Johnson called the daily listeners the “10 percenters.” Their show was most popular with men ages 25 to 54.
4. John Walton Was a Texas Native, Attended the University of Oklahoma & Began His Radio Career in 1971
John Walton was born and raised in Houston, Texas, but moved further north for college. Walton studied political science, history and writing at the University of Oklahoma, according to his LinkedIn page. Walton wrote on his profile that as a student, he “Partied like it was 1973.”
The “Walton & Johnson” Facebook page explains that Walton “began talking on the radio as an all nite weekend guy and hasn’t shut up since.” The bio continues, “John has been on the radio so long that he won’t say what year he started in Oklahoma City while in college, but let’s just say the Beatles breakup was still big news.”
But he did reveal on LinkedIn that the year was 1971. Walton did not list the specific radio stations he worked for, but described himself as a “Super Hip Personality” and “Shaper of Public Opinion.”
Walton also explained in the video embedded above that radio personality Don Imus played an instructional role in how he pursued his role as a radio host. Walton said that Imus told him to never be concerned about getting fired, but instead, just put on the best show possible.
As referenced above, Walton teamed up with Steve Johnson in 1983. In addition to producing the weekday program, Walton also owned and operated a radio station, KXXF, in Beaumont, Texas. He took over the station in 2014 and wrote that he was “saving radio from vulture capital.”
5. John Walton Was Married With Three Sons & a Daughter
John Walton was not prone to sharing many private details, as the executive producer of “Walton & Johnson” commented on upon Walton’s death.
Walton’s third son, Michael Trent Walton, passed away in 2005. According to the obituary, he loved to play guitar and write songs. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2002. The obituary concludes with, “If heaven has a blues band, it just got a great lead guitar player.”