Hillbilly-Music.comThe People. The Music. The History.
About The Artist
Donna Darlene was born in Kane, Pennsylvania.
In August 1952, the town of DuBois, Pennsylvania was going to celebrate a three-day "Mardi Gras". This was an attempt by the local minor league baseball club based in DuBois to raise some funds for their operation. If the event was a success, it would be repeated again 1953 and much larger scope and planning would start immediately. Part of the Mardi Gras" festivities was to be an amateur contest. There were several 'divisions' of contestants. Specialties Division, Vocals Division (individual and duet), Vocals Division (Three or more voices), Accordion, Instrumental and Demonstration. The Allen Brothers and Donna Darlene (who be around 14 years old at the time) were in the Specialties Division and were to do "Hill-Billy Specialties".
By 1955, she had her own fan club that was run by Laura Kahnell out of Andover, Ohio. Ms. Kahnell did provide some early background on Donna's earlier life. She started singing at an early age and her father often accompanied her on the guitar. At the age of 11 years old, she was singing over radio station WKBI out of St. Mary's, Pennsylvania on their version of the Saturday Night Jamboree. While she was there, she learned to play the guitar and bass fiddle. In a short time, she was given her own show that was on the air Monday through Friday. That show lasted two years.
Ms. Kahnell's letter goes on to mention that Donna left WKBI for WPXY in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. She joined Bobby Spicker (we think it was Spicher) and his Sunset Troubadours. In the summer of 1954, the group was doing a weekly television show at Johnstown, Pennsylvania on Sundays.
In August 1954, Cowboy Songs reported that Donna Darlene was a part of the Bob Spicker and the Sunset Ramblers group. Bob had previously worked with Bud Moore and His Hillsdale Hillbillies, then went to work with Toby Stroud's Blue Mountain Boys who were on WWVA World's Original Jamboree. After three months with Toby, he hooked up with Roy Scott and his Western Ramblers. The Sunset Ramblers included Pete Spuck on Rhythm Guitar, Gene Nichols on the accordion, his brother Norman Spicker on the fiddle and Donna Darlene played bass and sang.
The local DuBois newspaper reported that Bob Spicker and his Sunset Ramblers were to do at show at the Sandy High School Auditorium on Thursday March 4, 1952. It was to be a two hour show starting at 8:00pm. The article mentions the names of the Sunset Ramblers seen listed in the Cowboy Songs article.
About two weeks later, reporter John Oshenle of the Dubois Courier spotlights an evening of entertainment featuring the Sunset Ramblers sponsored by the Junior Class of Sandy High. Mr. Oshenle did spell Bob's name as Spicher. He also notes that the group played a "...wide selection of favorite hillbilly and western music to the delight of the large audience." He also provide the details of the tunes the band did: Bimbo, There Stands The Glass, So Sweet To Be Remembered, Slowly, I COuldn't Keep From Crying, Dear John, Rover and Hey Joe. He concluded, "...the applause of the audience indicated that the program was indeed a success."
It appears that she and Norman Spicer(Spicher?) were residents of Sabula, a town a bit east of DuBois. The Clearfield Progress newspaper tells us that "Sabula Couple Wins Top Prize in Grampian Contest". A capacity crowd filled Grampian's Penn Grange Community Hall to see a big amateur contest sponsored by Penn Grange and the local merchants. The article noted that Norman Spicer (Spicher), violinist, and Donna Darlene, guitar player and vocalist, of Sabula, one the ten dollar first prize for their rendition of "Hey Joe No. 2". The Harmony Male Quartet of Harmony Grange won second place and five dollars for their version of "On The Jericho Road". And then two Brothers and sisters won third prize of three dollars for "I Get So Lonely".
Things continued to go well for Bob Spicher and his group in 1954. On August 31, 1954, the local newspaper in Dubois announced that Bo and the Sunset Ramblers, including Donna Darlene ("...a touch of romance, female vocalist of the group.") would be doing a radio show on Tuesdays and Thursdays over WCED at 9:15am for 15-minutes. The article states "The popular quintet has won tremendous applause on all occasions and will win additional friends for their new program "Barnyard Follies".
Donna also began to sing as a guest of Toby Stroud and Jimmy Walker on their Western Stars programs that aired over WWVA out of Wheeling, West Virginia. Ms. Kahnell reported that Donna went a two week tour of Canada with Toby's group along with Blue-Eyed Janie, Toby and the rest of the Blue Mountain Boys.
She also did personal appearances with other acts such as Ramblin' Lou, Ila Marie and Scotty, Dusty Owens and the Ritchey Brothers.
She joined Dusty Owens and his Rodeo Boys in May of 1956. They toured Canada during the summer of 1956 along with Buddy and Marion Durham.
She also recorded for Dusty's label, Admiral.
Cowboy Songs magazine mentions her and Dusty in an article about the 30th anniversary of the WWVA Jamboree in 1957. In fact, they were one of featured act in the listing provided of the WWVA cast. That cast then included Rust and Doug and the Music Makers, Skeeter Bonn and the Pickin' and Singin' Boys, the Osborne Brothers with Red Allen and Ray Anderson, Dottie Swan, Crazy Elmer, The Sunshine Boys, Jimmie Williams, Buddy and Marion Durham and Hylo Brown.
In May of 1967, Country Music Life magazine was reporting a joint statement by Buster Doss, General Manager of Wizard Records and Shot Jackson, manager of Donna, announcing that she had been signed to a recording contract with the Wizard label.
Our roaming around the internet finds that Colonel Buster Doss signed Donna to Stardust Records in 1979.
We learned that she was married to Doug Kershaw. They had two sons, Doug Kershaw, Jr. and Victor Kershaw.
She later married the legendary steel guitar / dobro player, Shot Jackson. They had a daughter, named Shotsie Jackson.
Credits and Sources