About The Artist
Don White, who was born Walden Whytsell in Wolf Creek, West Virginia, learned various musical skills from childhood. He first played professionally with the legendary Otto Gray's Oklahoma Cowboys. However, he became best known for his work in the Carolinas and on the National Barn Dance in Chicago. At an age where most people were retiring, Don started a whole new musical career with the rejuvenated [formerly WBT] Briarhoppers with whom he continued playing until past ninety.
He was the oldest child of Casper Albert and Mary Getrude (Kaufman) Whytsell. Research shows they also had a son named Milton and a daughter named Pauline.
Don's Carolina work began in 1935 with a group called the Crazy Bucklebusters, one of the groups associated with the sponsor Crazy Water Crystals. However, he soon departed to make his first appearance with the Briarhoppers with whom he more or less remained until 1939 although in 1936, he and Fred Kirby did some recording for the Bluebird label including his solo rendition of "Mexicali Rose" and duets with Kirby.
Radio Logs in North Carolina show perhaps a younger version of the Briarhoppers - The Briarhopper Boys. In 1939, the two left Charlotte for WLW Cincinnati. After a year Don went to KFAB in Lincoln, Nebraska and then to WJJD Chicago.
Don had his own daily program over KFAB in Lincoln. Radio logs show him in the listings from early 1940 through about September 1941. A question posed by a reader as to Don's whereabouts in October 1941 provided a response that he had gone to a radio station in Gary, Indiana (quite possibly WIND which later moved to Chicago).
By 1943, Don, now known as "the Carolina Boy," was back at WBT briefly with the Briarhoppers, but soon switched over to the Tennessee Ramblers. With the latter, he not only worked on radio but often in such motion pictures as Swing Your Partner (1943) with Dale Evans and Lulubelle & Scotty, Sundown Valley (1944) with Charles Starrett, and O My Darling Clementine (1943) starring Roy Acuff.
In 1946, he moved to WLS in Chicago as one of the Sage Riders, a foursome made up of Dolph Hewitt, Ray Klein, Red Blanchard, and himself. During his years with the National Barn Dance, White recorded on RCA backing Hewitt's vocals and had some solo vocals on transcription later released on the Cattle label as Don White: Star of the National Barn Dance. He stayed at WLS until 1952. He then returned to the Carolinas and left music for some twenty years.
While at WLS, the annual "Family Albums" published by Prairie Farmer revealed that Don was also a bit of a songwriter. He mentions that one of his favorites was the tune, "The Face At Heaven's Window." Some of the other songs we have found attributed to Don White are (mostly in folios published by the Dixie Music Publishing Co.):
Another Family Album published in 1952 indicated that Don was a "...quiet singer of sweet songs." It also mentioned that he would do duets with Phyllis Brown on the Saturday Night Barn Dance program.
Don wrote a letter to the Mailbox column of The Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder in 19.. . In that letter he kind of summed up who he had been working with, the major stations he had been on, the movies he appeared in when he was with the Tennessee Ramblers. He also reveals his versatility on instruments, mentioning he played bass fiddle, Spanish and Hawaiian guitar, fiddle, tenor banjo and mandolin.
Renewed interest in old time music led five former Briarhoppers (Whitey Grant, Arval Hogan, Hank Warren, Shannon Grayson and Don), now mostly retired from day jobs to re-unite to play mainly for fun. But they soon found themselves in demand, sometimes at a distance from Charlotte.
While most of their repertoire was bluegrass oriented, Don played electric bass but sometimes mandolin and lap steel. He also tended to sing western-flavored numbers such as "A Blue Sky Way Out Yonder" or one of the Kirby duets "My Old Saddle Horse is Missing." The Briarhoppers recorded two albums each for both Lamon and Old Homestead. He continued to work with that unit until well past ninety years of age (2004) until he and the others faded into the sunset.
Don married the former Mary Peterson. They were married for 67 years. She passed away in August of 2004. Don passed away in March of 2005. They had no children.
Credits & Sources
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