Don Walser, Country Music Yodler Dies at 72

Don Walser, a master yodler and traditional country music artist, passed away at 1:30pm on September 20, 2006, due to complications from diabetes; 6 days after his 72nd birthday. Don is survived by his wife of 55 years Pat, two daughters Janey and Donna, and two sons Michael and Al.

Don Walser was born in 1934 in the small Texas Panhandle town of Brownfield and grew up in nearby Lamesa. His mother died when he was 11, and his father worked nights as a cotton mill superintendent. To fill the solitude of the daylight hours, he listened to the music of West Texas plains on the radio and watched the early cowboy crooners at the movie theater. He began to sing as a young boy, learning the songs, style, and yodeling skills of his musical models.He joined the National Guard at 15 (claiming he was 17), married his wife Pat at 17, and raised a family of four children. Instead of leaving West Texas to pursue his musical career on the road or in Nashville, he stayed home to devote himself to his family, playing clubs, VFW halls, and honkytonks at night and on the weekends. After 45 years with the National Guard as a mechanic, a superintendent, and an auditor, he retired.

Aged 60, Walser retired from the Guard. Able to devote himself fully to music for the first time in his life, he was immediately signed by Watermelon Records, and released his first CD, Rolling Stone from Texas, produced by Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel.

His extraordinary vocal abilities earned him the nickname “the Pavarotti of the Plains” by a reviewer for Playboy magazine, and the nickname stuck. Because of his Austin base, he attracted a unique fan base that included not just country music traditionalists, but also alternative music and punk fans. His band later became the opening act for the Butthole Surfers.

Don Walser was voted “Best Performing Country Band” at the Austin Music Awards, was voted top country band of the year by the Austin Chronicle in 1996, and received an Association for Independent Music “Indie” Award in 1997. He also received recognition in mainstream country, and played the Grand Ole Opry on October 30, 1999, and again in 2001.

In 2000 he received a lifetime “Heritage” award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and he and the Pure Texas Band played at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He also received cameo roles in feature movies with honky-tonk settings.

Walser had a late recording career. His albums spanned nearly one decade: Rolling Stone from Texas (1994); The Archive Series, Vol. 1 (1995); The Archive Series, Vol. 2 (1995); Texas Top Hand (1996); Down at the Sky-Vue Drive-In (1998); Here’s To Country Music (1999); I’ll Hold You in My Heart (2000); Dare to Dream: The Best of Don Walser (2001).

In September, 2003, Don Walser retired from live performances due to health issues.

Information included in this obituary kindly provided by Don and Wikipedia.

Author: World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central