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Don Walser continues holding on

By Jon Weisberger, November 2000

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Walker tried to get a friend at TNN to book Walser on the show, but without success, but that wasn't the end of the story. ≥A new guy (Opry General Manager Pete Fisher) came in," he says, ≥and he did it. That's the way I got on it."

Though he's tagged as ≥Americana" or ≥alternative country," Walser says that mainstream country ≠ ≥I call it soft rock," he chuckles ≠ doesn't bother him in and of itself, and he appreciates the way the Opry covers all the musical bases.

"Just because I don't like something don't mean that other people don't like it," he opines. ≥I'm not like a lot of other people; I don't want to see that music go away. If it comes from the heart, no matter what it is ≠ if it's rockabilly or rock or what I consider that soft rock ≠ well, there are people who love it, you know, and who am I to say that it's not good music?

Because if it's coming from the heart, that's the way it ought to be, it ought to have an outlet, people ought to be able to hear it. I just wish the same thing for the real country music," he laughs ruefully. ≥The thing that I don't like is not so much that the soft rock has taken over the country scene, but that they just pushed the real country out. I've been singing country for 50 years, and all of a sudden I'm alternative country. That's not right."

"You know, rock 'n' roll's got about five different formats, stations that play different rock, rockabilly and all these different things, but country's got one thing, and it's not country. It's not altogether bad, but those young - and I'm not too worried about Merle Haggard and those guys, they're still recording, they're not getting played. but they've got the fan base out there that they can live off of for the rest of their lives ≠ but the young people who are trying to do real country have got no outlet except Americana and college radio and public radio, and that's wrong. There's a real hunger for it, too. I don't know who controls all that, but it's got to be controlled."

Still, Walser's tickled to have a new album out, and happy with his recent National Heritage Award, presented to him in Washington in September.

"It was a real honor to be put in the company of guys like Doc Watson and B.B. King," he says. Honors aside, though, Walser's still as down-to-earth as ever.

Asked about his guitar, he laughs again and launches into another story. ≥I've had it ever since about 1959 or 1960, and I've sent it back to the factory twice. Once, when we moved out to El Paso, it started cracking all over ≠ it's real dry out there ≠ and I sent it back and had them fix the cracks, and then it was in a wreck, and it got messed up. Well, I was talking to Hank Thompson, who had a guitar that he had just had redone, and I said 'Hank, they tell me that if you do that, they're not worth as much.' He said, 'hell, I don't care, Don, I'm the only one that's going to play it anyway.' And I said, 'you know, you're right, and so I sent it back and had them completely refinish it, and it looks like it did when it was new. It may not be worth as much as it was, but I'm the only that's going to be playing it anyway."

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