Country music is one of the most popular and commercially successful forms of music in the world. Ironically, it is this same commercial success and intense marketing spotlight on the contemporary that has obscured the music's roots in the small towns and rural regions of the American heartland. Cowboy song, popularized on the silver screen in the 1930s and 1940s, and Texan country swing modeled after Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys were two essential ingredients in the evolution of country music. For veteran Texas country musicians who preferred to "stay home" rather than to follow Nashville's faddish lead, Texas country roots music is as alive and contemporary as it was in its commercial heyday.
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.
Living in Austin in 1994, he put together his Pure Texas Band and poured himself into his music full time, and soon received the recognition he had long deserved. Country music expert Bill Malone describes Walser's place in music today: "He preserves a singing style reminiscent of earlier cowboy singers, but nevertheless sounds fresh and engaging. He is a yodeler almost without current parallel . . . , and his powerful tenor voice is virtually without equal in the field of country music." He has composed new songs in the cowboy yodeling style: "I heard Jimmie Rodgers, Elton Britt, and Slim Whitman, and learned those songs pretty easily," he said. "Then I couldn't find any more, so I wrote 'Rolling Stone from Texas' and a few other yodeling songs." After the release of his album Rolling Stone from Texas, featuring his strong tenor voice, he was called "the Pavarotti of the Plains" in the press, a term that has stuck. Two other albums followed, Top Texas Hand and Down at the Sky-Vue Drive In. He has been featured on ABC's Prime Time Live, PBS's Austin City Limits, and National Public Radio's Fresh Air and All Things Considered.
Please visit the Don Walser web site.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency
Sample: "Rolling Stone From Texas"