The late Texas songwriter Cindy Walker has left an unusual and generous gift to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: Her catalog of about 500 songs, many of them pop and country classics.
The hall announced Wednesday that Walker bequeathed her share of the songs, including future royalties, after her death in 2006. The songs have since earned the institution more than $500,000 in royalties.
Walker's catalog is one of the most celebrated in popular music. Bing Crosby, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Eddy Arnold, Willie Nelson and many more recorded Walker's songs, most of which were solo compositions.
Orbison's "Dream Baby" and Charles' "You Don't Know Me" may be her best-known work, but there are also Western swing standards like "Sugar Moon" and "Bubbles in My Beer."
Nelson recorded a whole album of Walker's songs shortly before she died in March 2006.
The Waco, Texas, native was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. She was once married briefly and had no children.
"We were accustomed to gifts documenting or recalling the work of country music luminaries, but we had never been offered the actual work," Hall of Fame director Kyle Young said during a ceremony.
Hall of Fame officials have more plans for the songs. They're recording a 12-song Cindy Walker demo to be pitched to film and television music supervisors. Country star Vince Gill and two other volunteer producers — Tony Brown and Fred Foster — will invite artists from different musical genres to create new arrangements for them.
"Her ear for beautiful songs, her empathy for others, her imagination, her determination and her generosity allowed her to write singular songs of home," said David Conrad, a museum trustee and the executive producer of the project. "These songs are her gifts to us, you and me, and our intention is to take them back home."