For 35 years, Tennessee-based Don and Earl traversed the country together, bringing their powerful Gospel songs and stories to meeting houses, revival tents, and radio stations from Mexico to Cincinnati. Don Williams was born and raised in Briceville, Tennessee, the heart of the Cumberland Mountain coal fields. A searing tenor and gifted whistler, Don began performing professionally after winning an Army-sponsored amateur contest during his World War II service. After his Army discharge, he soon found work as a singer on a local Knoxville radio station. Knoxville-born Earl Mays, also a seasoned radio performer by then, had been honing his hearty lead vocals, beautiful story-telling, and guitar chops since his teenage years, committing then, after being saved, to use his talent for the Lord. Together, Don and Earl’s radio programs reached a nationwide, and even international, audience. At the height of their radio popularity, Don & Earl were broadcast from over 100 stations between Mexico and Canada. The duo also ran a recording studio, a record label called Gospel Light, and maintained a dedicated touring schedule, selling their LPs dressed in paper sleeves at each appearance. Their partnership ended only as Don passed away in 1985. This Sandrock Recordings release features selections from Don and Earl’s substantial vinyl legacy, now revived, to reach a new generation of listeners. This project was made possible by the generosity of the Kathleen Williams family, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Tennessee Arts Commission.
Produced and designed by Marcianne O’Day
Fieldwork: Bradley Hanson and Bob Fulcher
Produced from recordings preserved by Kathleen Williams, Mastered by Marcianne O’Day