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Walt Hamburger

Appleton singer/songwriter Walt Lontkowski, better known as Walt Hamburger, has countless achievements to his name at age 39.

He works with One Week Records and performs in the band Car City. He is president at Walt Hamburger Foundation and aids in foster care and adoption at Orphan Animal Rescue and Sanctuary. He thrives equally in music and philanthropy.

Since the pandemic, Hamburger uses Stone Arch Brewpub’s taproom to livestream monthly shows on Facebook.

“They just happen to be really nice and let me play here because we’ve developed a relationship over the years,” Hamburger says.

Hamburger prefers a live audience though. Without one, there’s no clapping or cheering after songs — just silence.

“I can’t wait to go back to shows with real people,” Hamburger says.

Hamburger has been a musician since he can remember, playing for money when he was still in high school, mainly in punk rock bands.

“I’m definitely a singer first and foremost; guitar isn’t my strength of the two things,” Hamburger says. “I write first person for the most part, just about my experiences mostly — some bad, some good.”

In 2007, he shifted toward the singer/songwriter route. After a short break, he picked up his music career again in 2010.

“I got signed in 2014, and that’s sort of been my job ever since,” Hamburger says.

Hamburger jokingly says “cheese” and “beer” inspire him — a true Wisconsinite. However, he goes on to say his new girlfriend has helped him write recently. The pair met in early December.

“I had a bunch of writer’s block,” Hamburger says. “It’s just with the pandemic — it was really hard to write, to want to write. I didn’t want to write about the pandemic. I’ve only been writing recently as I’ve been a little bit less depressed. Really anything good in my life has been what I’ve been writing about.”

Although he’s a local act, Hamburger has toured abroad in Canada and Europe, unlike most other local musicians.

“Touring and local shows are different; not many people around here get to do it,” Hamburger says. “I can play here, and no one knows any of my songs, but I go to a foreign country where the people don’t speak English as a primary language, and they’re singing along every word. It’s cool.”

Hamburger is an ironic stage name, because Hamburger is vegetarian.

“I was in a band called The Hamburgers, and my last name looks intimidating even though it’s phonetic, so people just called me Walt from The Hamburgers,” Hamburger says.

Hamburger wasn’t always vegetarian, but as he grew, he realized meat wasn’t for him.

“As a kid, I never thought about it,” Hamburger says, “Then after a while I’m like, ‘Oh, this is no different than my pets.’”

In addition to Hamburger’s music, he does an enormous amount of philanthropic work. He started working with some cat rescues around the time he got signed, taking donations at his shows for the Walt Hamburger Foundation.

“I’d just put a guitar case in front of me, and then … we started passing around this novelty cat head, … and people put money in,” Hamburger says.

Through the Walt Hamburger Foundation, He went on to head larger projects like helping with disaster victims’ pets. Hamburger explains how owners need to evacuate quickly, so there’s a lot of pet rescuing needed, and that’s where he steps in.

“It’s what I care about,” Hamburger says. “I just love animals.”

Willow was a cat Hamburger cared for around the clock until she passed of feline infectious peritonitis.

“I’ve held a lot of paws on their final breath; it can be pretty devastating every time, but it’s cool to give them that dignity that they get to enjoy their last moments,” Hamburger says.

He started The Willow Fund, setting aside money for people who cannot afford operations or additional care for their pets.

“Whether it goes good or bad, we give them a chance,” Hamburger says.

Hamburger recently bought 34 cat beds for the Oshkosh Humane Society, because not all the cats had beds.

The legacy Hamburger hopes to leave behind is incredibly inspirational.

“I always hope that my music makes people feel something — sometimes it’s sadness, sometimes it’s happiness,” Hamburger says. “I hope that even behind my cartoonish looks and everything, people that like or listen to me are affected in some way that at least makes them feel alive in some way or another. I think that’s all you can ask for.”

For more info on Walt Hamburger’s shows, visit walthamburger.com.

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