Akron professor’s music is for the troops

Amanda Garrett

Lester Walker, known by Chris to his friends, stands by the side of the road in a gorilla suit to help promote his CD. Walker’s CD mainly contains music about the University of Akron and Kent State University Athletics.

Credit: Amanda Garrett

Lester Christopher Walker has a gorilla suit, a boombox and a dream.

The University of Akron math professor wants to send phone cards to soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he is using his love of music, along with a $130 monkey costume, to make that happen.

To promote his new CD, Walker is dressing in a gorilla suit and standing outside the campus police stations at both Akron and Kent giving away free copies of his self-made CD.

To further his goal, Walker has set up a challenge between students at Kent State and Akron. He said he will donate 14 phone cards in the name of whichever university takes more of his free CDs.

So far, the competition hasn’t been very successful, Walker said.

“At this point I’ve given away so few CDs,” he said. “Probably less than five.”

Walker’s inspiration for his scheme was a 14-year-old Massachusetts girl who gave more than $250,000 in phone cards to troops.

“I wanted to do something for the troops like she did,” Walker said. “But I want to do it on my own, not with the help of some organization like the Red Cross. I want to do it my way.”

The music on Walker’s 17-song CD is lively and local, said Walker’s collaborator Keith Cseak.

“Chris sings spirited song about events that happen in and around Northeast Ohio,” he said.

The themes of Walker’s songs range from Akron Zips’ quarterback Charlie Frye to Cleveland congressman Dennis Kucinich. Although Walker writes his own lyrics, most of his melodies are from Beatle’s songs.

“We made ‘Love Me Do’ work eight times for my last album,” Walker said. “It seems to fit in really well with my lyrics.”

Cseak records Walker in his mobile sound studio, and he also plays drums, guitar and bass on the CD.

Although Cseak said most of Walker’s tunes are 1960s style pop, there are one or two tunes that are more musically adventurous.

“Chris has one song about a University of Akron basketball game that he did in a more modern style,” Cseak said. “It’s not exactly Black Sabbath, but it has more of a heavy metal, modern feel. The song is just really interesting modern progressive music.”

Contact news correspondent Amanda Garrett at [email protected].