On September 14, 1934, Don Walser was born in the Texas Panhandle. His love of cowboy songs took root early, but music was not his first career. At age 15, Walser joined the National Guard and would spend the next four decades in their service as a mechanic and auditor, continuing to play music and record on the side. In 1984, Walser transferred to Camp Mabry in Austin and soon formed his Pure Country Band.
Ten years later, Walser retired from the National Guard, and it was in his retirement that Walser’s musical career really took off. He signed to the independent Watermelon Records, and Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel produced his album Rolling Stone from Texas. The tracks highlighted Walser’s trademark yodel, a sound deep in the country vein hearkening back to Jimmie Rodgers, but rarely heard in modern music.
Walser became a beloved elder statesman of the Austin scene and a regular at clubs such as Threadgill’s and Jovita’s. He is the rare artist—maybe the only artist—to have opened for both Buddy Holly (in his Panhandle youth) and the Butthole Surfers (in his Austin heyday).
In 1999, Walser finally made it to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry and in 2000 was named a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow. He retreated from performance in 2003 due to health issues, and passed a few years later. His yodel, his smile, and his old-style country music live on in memory.