The day Don Rich died

July 17th, 2018 by Ken

July 17, 1974, was a long day for Don Rich.

He had spent the day at Buck Owen’s Bakersfield studio and was heading on his bike to meet his family for a vacation.   Buck Owen’s never liked Don riding.  He often asked him to stop and drive a car instead.   Don didn’t listen and headed out US 1.  Sometime in the middle of the night, his bike hit a center divider strip and Don was killed.

A Tumwater kid, Don was an early student of music.   He began playing the fiddle and other instruments and was well-known around the Olympia area.   At the young age of 16 Don was playing the bars around the area, and it was at one of them that Buck Owens noted him and asked him to play.

Buck was living in Tacoma at the time and was playing a regular gig at Steven’s Gay 90’s on Old 99 in Tacoma.  Don played many gigs with Don but wasn’t certain he could make a living at music so he enrolled at Centralia Community College.  He thought he might be a teacher and teach music.

But, Buck continued to insist that Don join him and eventually he did.  His musical style encompassed rock and roll along with country music, with a twang of Western Swing.  After a few starts and stops, Buck Owens had a hit record “Under Your Spell Again” and the rest is music history.

Don was the perfect partner for Buck and influenced Buck’s style into developing the “Bakersfield Sound.”  Don led the band, the Buckaroos, and had his own hit, a western instrumental called “Buckaroos”.

Buck often said that he owes his fame and fortune to Don Rich.

On that clear day in 1974 Don Rich died.  And so did Buck’s career.

(Editors note:  Don Rich (Don Ulrich) was my neighbor in Tumwater.  We went to Olympia High School, although Don was a year ahead of me.  Don is a member of the Olympia High School Hall of Fame – – and has his own display at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.  Some of the information contained in this story came from “The Bigfoot Diaries” on line.)

Posted in History, The Real News

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