Founder and Chairman
A native of Grenada, Mississippi Johnnie Walker is the Founder of NABFEME; the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music & Entertainment, Inc. Walker holds the distinction of being named the first female Sr. Vice President of Promotion for the Island Def Jam Music Group and the only female to ever hold that position for the company. In 2009 Walker was saluted as one of New York’s 21 Leaders of the 21st Century by Women’s eNews and in 2006 she received Delta Sigma Theta’s highest honor given to professionals in the arts, The Osceola Award. 2005 marked the year Walker was honored by Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rainbow/PUSH with the distinguished Woman of Conscience Award. The recipient of countless honors, Walker was named Radio & Records Urban Promotion Executive of the Year in 2003 and 2004. Consequently due to her efforts, the Island Def Jam Music Group was named #1 Rap Label Of The Year and #1 R&B Label Of The Year by both Billboard Magazine and Billboard’s Airplay Monitor consecutively in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Walker’s career began in 1978 as a country music air personality at radio station WNAG. A natural born marketing maven, Walker created an R&B focused sales plan that she pitched and sold to the station’s General Manager. The plan began as a risky two hour test that developed into a six hour successful program! The stint at WNAG later led JW (as she is affectionately called) to an opportunity in Memphis at KRNB. The “WIN” momentum that would become Walker’s career trademark continued in Memphis where she progressed quickly from air personality to Promotions Director, to Music Director, to Program Director in less than three (3) years.
In 1989, Johnnie Walker’s talent caught the attention of Russell Simmons at Def Jam Recordings. Simmons later wooed Walker from her successful radio career and introduced her to the record industry. Walker became the label’s Regional Promotions Manager based in Memphis and within one (1) year she was promoted to National Director of Promotion. In this position, Walker handled all of Def Jam’s field operations. The Sr. National Director position soon followed which placed Walker in a leadership role developing the careers of Flavor Flav, Public Enemy, The Beastie Boys, 3rd Bass, Redman, Method Man, Montell Jordan, Case and Foxy Brown!
In 1997, Walker continued her “WIN” philosophy with a move to New York City where she assumed the position of Vice President of Promotion for Def Jam Recordings. One year later she restructured the company’s promotion department, created their much sought after Radio Promotions Guide and hired the company’s first national field staff. This was most significant because the staff was primarily comprised of young, inexperienced field reps that Walker would mold into her own winning force. Later promoted to Sr. Vice President, Walker and her winning team launched and/or developed the careers of Jay-Z, Sisqo, Kelly Price, Ashanti, Ja Rule, DMX, LL Cool J, Musiq Soulchild, Dru Hill and many others. Along with delivering several #1 Platinum and Gold albums, Walker’s team successfully co-marketed the HBO Def Comedy Jam series, Def Poetry Jam, Phat Farm and Baby Phat clothing lines as well as Russell Simmons’ co-produced movies The Nutty Professor, The Klumps, Rush Hour 1 and 2.
In 2003 after 14 years of tenure at Def Jam Recordings, Johnnie Walker took her skills to Los Angeles, CA and was named Head of Black Music for DreamWorks Records, responsible for marketing the music careers of The Isley Brothers, Floetry, Burt Bacharach, Jon B and many others.
In an effort to make the road less traveled become a smoother journey for those following in her footsteps, Johnnie Walker, a longtime advocate of formal mentoring, founded NABFEME, the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music and Entertainment, Inc. NABFEME is a nonprofit professional organization with a mission to raise the profile and increase the awareness of the contributions made by women of color in music and entertainment. The organization accomplishes its mission through activities that foster empowerment, education, mentoring, career development and networking opportunities.
In 2008, in a move she called ACT 111 … Johnnie Walker returned to Memphis as Executive Director of the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission. With a variety of music influenced programs in place, the Music Commission strives to promote Memphis music locally, nationally and to the world!