Saturday, April 16, 2016
Many of my Facebook friends are still hurting from the loss of our dear friend, Donny Catron. Donny unexpectedly passed away on February 22 of this year. I wanted to write an article about Donny, so I sent an email to Doyle Catron, Donny's brother, to gather some facts. When Doyle sent the following biography to me in response to my questions, I realized that the story was already beautifully written. So, I'm sharing this story, written by Doyle Catron, and I'm hoping that you all enjoy getting a little insight into the life of one of the finest singers I've even known personally.
Funds are needed for a headstone for Donny's grave. An account has been set up at the Cornerstone Bank in Eureka Springs, AR in Donny's name to raise the money needed for a limestone monument. So far, there is $180 of the $900 needed. The monument will have the inscription: "From his bluegrass family." If you are inclined and would like to honor Donny with a donation, you can send donations to:
P.O. Box 309
Eureka Springs, AR 72632
Attention: Becky Kelly/Donny Catron Memorial
For any questions regarding this fund, you may reach Becky at phone number: 479-253-2265
There will be a small burial service in Eureka Springs, AR in early May. If you would like information about that, you may contact me via Facebook and I will get you the needed information.
Thank you for reading and please donate if your heart so desires.
Donny was only two years older than me and I cannot remember a time without him, when we were growing up in Memphis. While going thru old family photos, my wife commented that she did not see one of us without the other one. When we were young, Saturday nights at the Catron house revolved around the Wilburn Brothers, Porter Wagoner, Buck Owens, Hee Haw, and The Grand Ole Opry. Sunday morning started with the Lewis Family at 6:00 a.m., and went on thru The Happy Goodman Show until it was time to leave for church. We were made to sit and listen quietly, giving the musicians the respect that they deserved. We both hated it at first, but then something clicked. Donny became interested in music, and I followed. Who would have thought that we would have had the fortune to share the stage with some of these people.
As with most bluegrass musicians, Donny started singing in church around age twelve. He started playing the guitar when he was 15. That is when our Mom began entering us, along with our younger sister, in local talent shows. In 1972, at age 16, Donny won first place in the Country Music Round-up.
In Memphis, if you were a young musician wanting to pick and sing, there were two places to let it rip....Lucy Opry on Friday nights and The Lions Den on Saturday nights. We both went there with our family and enjoyed performing, although in separate country groups. Donny performed with Robert Dickey and the Wildwood Rhythms. In 1974, at age 18, Donny won First Place Folksinger at the Fiddlers Convention in Athens, AL.
Donny left Robert Dickey and the Wildwood Rhythms to form our own band called Southwind. I played mandolin and we were joined by childhood friends, Steve Gregory on bass, and Mike Morton on banjo. We played local events and festivals within a 200 mile radius. In 1975, I left to explore other music styles. Donny, Steve and Mike joined Troy Castleberry in the group known as The Tennessee Gentlemen.
The Tennessee Gentlemen was formed in April 1967 by Troy Castleberry, Joe Taylor, Willie Burroughs, and Bob Bowen. In 1975, after many personnel changes, Troy joined forces with the former Southwind, to form a fresh crew for The Tennessee Gentlemen. The group released their first album in 1977 and Donny received his first of many SPGMA awards at the age of 21 for Best Male Vocalist.
After receiving numerous awards, both individually and as a band, along with a rigorous performance schedule on the the road, Donny left the group in 1987 to pursue his career in Oklahoma. While in Oklahoma, Donny performed with Signal Mountain.
Donny moved back to Memphis in 1991 and rejoined The Tennessee Gentlemen. He continued until the group disbanded in 1993.
In 1994, Donny and I formed a group called Neshoba. In 1995, after winning a band contest in Memphis, we opened up for the George Jones and Tammy Wynette Reunion Tour in front of thousands at the Tupelo Coliseum. This was the largest crowd that we ever performed in front of, Neshoba or Tennessee Gentlemen. During this time, Donny toured with Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver as well as Jesse McReynolds and the Virginia Boys. While with Jesse McReynolds, he performed on the Grand Ole Opry several times.
In 1998, Donny and I approached Troy Castleberry about his interest in joining Neshoba. The three of us agreed to rename the group The Tennessee Gentlemen based on the prior notoriety of the group throughout the bluegrass community. We began using the name again in June of 1998 to the present day. Fifteen CDs and one DVD have been produced during this time.
Over the miles and the years, I've had the joy and pleasure of singing, by brother's side, in front of some of the most wonderful people on earth, whom we consider family. We have played many beautiful small towns across America and large venues in Europe. Donny never met a stranger. He sang his heart out and captured everyone else's. Donny's last show was New Years Day in Jekyll Island, GA. Of course, my favorite song is The Lighthouse.....taking it back to Church