I was watching an old episode (the only kind there is, really) of The West Wing the other day, and saw a name that would bring a smile on my face every time I watched the show when it first aired – W.G. Snuffy Walden. To my surprise, we had not yet covered him here on these hallowed pages, so here we are!
Snuffy, or William Garrett Walden, as he was originally named, was born in Louisiana in 1950, and later raised in Houston, Texas. After graduating High School, he studied math at university while also working as a radio DJ and playing guitar at a strip club. An, um, interesting gig for a student, I’m sure.
He picked up his unusual nickname from his musician buddies who didn’t care for such square names as “William” or “Garrett”. Luckily, there was a popular Southern brand of chewing tobacco, or “snuff”, named Levi Garrett. In nickname speech forever after, Garrett would equal Snuffy. And we’re happy for it.
Soon, he decided picking on the ol’ guitar was way more fun that working with integers and tangents, or whatever it is that math students look at all day. He dropped out of school and hopped on the road with his blues outfit Stray Dog. He moved to England, later joined the Eric Burdon Band, and throughout the 70s and 80s played with musicians like Burdon, Donna Summer, Chaka Khan, and Stevie Wonder.
He eventually moved to L.A, and in 1987 he was approached to compose music for a television show. He wasn’t instantly sure whether he wanted the gig, but accepted, figuring the time was running out on his days as a touring musician. He took the gig, and it turned out to be the theme song for the massive hit thirtysomething. This piece of fortune started a whole new career as a TV composer.
He’s worked on more than 80 TV and film soundtracks since then, including the aforementioned West Wing, as well as Roseanne, Ellen, The Drew Carey Show, and Friday Night Lights.
He is currently also serving as an artistic advisor to the BMI Foundation, which oddly has nothing whatsoever to do with body mass index.