I have awaited this day with dread for the last few years, but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with the news of Don Walser's death due to complications from diabetes. My thoughts go out to Pat and the rest of the Walser family at this sad time.
I remember how mortified I was the last time Don honored a song request I made at a Threadgill's show, because his breathing was so labored afterwards. He was a true Texas gentleman, with a big voice and even bigger heart. It amazed me to find that Don and Pat were active in their church community, considering that he would often play six, sometimes SEVEN nights a week, and Pat would handle the merchandise.
Don always called me "the sweet little girl from KVRX", long after I had left the station and college to pursue my career. His album "Rolling Stone from Texas" was on heavy rotation in my radio shows. My most memorable moment was when he dedicated "(The Party Don't Start) 'Til the Playboys Get Here" to me at Emo's one night. I had told him how the song reminded me of some friends in Telluride, and how the night never truly began until they had arrived.
I loved his custom made embroidered shirts, especially the blue one depicting the Sky-Vue Drive-In in Lamesa. Don and I shared a fondness of drive-ins, and had the opportunity to tell him of my childhood memories of the South Main drive-in where my uncle worked at in Houston, close to the Shamrock Hilton where my grandfather's big band had played.
It was a wondrous moment when Don made his debut at the Grand Ol' Opry in 1999. He was just as comfortable playing there as he was at Emo's, Jovita's, Threadgills, The Broken Spoke - as well as Bass Concert Hall, and Lincoln Center.
Don will be sorely missed, but his legacy will live on in his music. Don once said on the preservation of traditional country music - "You let the roots die," he says, "and you lose the whole darn tree."