Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Don Walser Died Today

I’m sad to report that Austin country music legend Don Walser passed away this afternoon at the age of 72.

After retiring from a 39-year career with the Texas National Guard, the yodeling troubadour from Lamesa, Texas embarked on a second career as a full-time musician in the 90s. In some sense, this was the continuation of the fledgling country music career Walser had abandoned for the Guard in 1957. He performed until 2003, when declining health forced him to stop. Walser’s cross-cultural appeal embraced two-steppers, punk rockers and everyone in between because he was the real thing.

I remember seeing Walser play with the Kronos Quartet at Bass Concert Hall in 1997. It was a far cry from his residency at the long-gone Henry’s Bar & Grill on Burnet Road, but Don seemed right at home. He talked from the stage about how appreciative he was to play with the "young folks" in the New York-based postmodern chamber music quartet. "I've got socks older than some of 'em," he joked.

Shortly thereafter, my folks went to see Walser and the Pure Texas Band play in Houston and got him to autograph a publicity photo for me. He wrote, “To Greg, Thanks for liking our music.” I found it remarkable that someone like Walser would be compelled to thank me for liking his music, but I think he just really appreciated the warmth he got from his audiences and wanted to reciprocate in kind.

1998 photo of Don Walser at Jovita's by Ha Lam, Austin American-Statesman

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