Hillbilly-Music.com—The People. The Music. The History.
Don Owens
Born:  August 29, 1930
Died:  April 21, 1963
Country Music DJ Hall of Fame (1989)
WARL Arlington, VA
WAVA Arlington, VA
WBMD Baltimore, MD
WEAM Arlington, VA
WGAY Silver Spring, MD

About the Disc Jockey

About The Disc Jockey / Emcee

Don Owens was a well known favorite disc jockey who held the reigns at radio station WARL (which is now WAVA) in Arlington, Virginia.

Jim Clark wrote in tribute to Don in one publication that he had always taken a liking to country music. When he was in the United States Air Force in 1951, he bought his first and only guitar, a Martin for $125, plus another $40 for the case. It was unique - it was a special left-handed guitar they made for him.

In a 1949 Buddy Starcher Fan Club Newsletter, mention was made that Don was spinning records for listeners over WGAY out of Silver Spring, Maryland.

Bobby Gregory told readers that in I953 Don had moved from WEAM in Arlington to WBMD in Baltimore.

He would typically lead off his shows with a short nod to his listeners, "Keep smiling and don't let the weather get you down—and you'll have a brighter day." With those words, he would cue up Doc Williams and the Border Riders doing their version of "Silver Bells." Later on, he would use the same tune as done by Larry Richardson and Happy Smith.

It was at a theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland where he made one of his first stage appearances. On that same show was another local, Bill Mayhugh, who eventually began working at radio station WOL. The two of them put together a show with their guitars and vocals. The two of them worked at various radio stations and upon returning from a stint in Del Rio, Texas (which is near the Laughlin AFB), Don landed himself a job at WARL in August 1954. He was not exactly a rookie as he had been working in radio since he was 14 years old.

At that time WARL's staff included Connie B. Gay, Phil Long, Sam Brown and Ray Armand.

Legend has it that he walked to work for nearly three months - two miles each way - until he had saved enough money to buy a car.

Mr. Clark tells readers that one of Don's biggest thrills was interviewing Gene Autry at the Ambassador Hotel in 1959 as part of his 4th Anniversary show.

As time went by with WARL, he started to do a television show over WTTG-TV called "T. V. Jamboree."

Over the years he was at one time the manager for such acts in the Distict of Columbia area as Roy Clark, Vernon Taylor, Jimmy Haney, Luke Gordon and the late Patsy Cline.

In 1957, Rustic Rhythm magazine published a picture of him doing a dedication of a memorial at the station for Hank Williams. Hank had won a popularity poll at the station Inside a simple white picket fence, a blue spruce tree had been planted.

WARL also sponsored a "Whisker Derfy" in 1957 to help raise funds for the National Children's Rehabilitation Center in Leesburg, Virginia. The contest fran from January 4, 1957 through May 4, 1957. At the end, all of the contestants, including the station folks who participated met at the station then located at 5232 Lee Highway in Arlington, Virginia.

He could also write a country song or two. He wrote such tunes as "Cold Dark Waters," "A Thief In the Heart of a Rose," "What Would I Do Without You," "I Hope You're Satisfied", "Adios Novia", "Satisfaction Guaranteed", "Eight Years In Atlanta" and "Each Ring of the Hammer."

Don did several recordings as you will see listed below. But during our research, we found an instance of the early career of one of Country Music's Hall of Famers - Jack Clement produced his Blue Ridge recording of "You Fool" b/w "I Hope You're Satisfied".

Sadly, his career lasted only nine years. On an early Sunday morning around 4:20am on April 21, 1963, he died in an auto accident when his car struck a tree.

The pallbearers at his funeral were Cy Blumenthal, Bob Cobbins, Perry Westland, Joe Sissler, Jim Clark, Vernon Taylor Alderton, Mike Tolley, Eddie Matherly and Arthur Arundel. Honorable pallbearers at the funeral, all of whom were friends, were Tom Reeder, Mac Wiseman, Jack Clement, Roger Miller, Sid Slappy, Nathan Loube, Jimmy Haney and Luke Gordon.

Mr. Clark inferred that Don had written a simple epitaph in a four line passage:

"Sing my songs when day is done
For they were meant to cheer,
Whisper low their melodies,
And soon I will be near."

Credits & Sources

  • Country Music World and Yearbook Volume One; 1964; Jim Clark; Box 186; Fairfax, VA
  • Opry Country & Western Picture Book Of Stars; 1963
  • Buddy Starcher Newsletter 1949 (Vol. 1 No. 3); Box 601; Marietta, OH
  • Cowboy Songs; No. 28; September 1953; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
  • Rustic Rhythm (Vol. 1 No. 02) May 1957; Rustic Rhythm, Inc.; 527 Lexington Ave; New York, NY
  • Country Song Roundup No. 052 (Oct 1957); American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT