Don and Earl was a Knoxville, Tennessee-based white gospel duo that was nationally broadcast throughout the 1960s. Don, the founder of the group, was born Ladonuel Williams on June 18, 1924 in Briceville, TN. After serving in World War II, he began broadcasting as a singer at a local station in Knoxville Tennessee. In 1950, young guitarist Earl Mays (born May 14, 1935 in Knoxville) joined him on the air. This partnership lasted for 35 years, until Don’s death in 1985.
Don, the tenor of the duo, was a born storyteller, whistler and singer, while Earl provided the guitar accompaniment. In addition to their regular radio shows, they toured, performed on the church circuit, and also ran a sound studio in Knoxville. After Don’s death, Earl’s wife Libby joined him as a partner and to this day they are active performers, recording privately, touring for weeks at a time and singing in churches across the country.
During the peak of Don and Earl’s radio days, their shows were produced at Wolfman Jack’s home station XERF: the “border blaster” based out of Del Rio, Texas. The 500,000 watt signal was broadcast from across the border in Mexico and from there syndicated to over 100 stations on the North American continent. The duo also had shows that originated in Waterloo, Iowa and at WCKY in Cincinatti, Ohio.
Don and Earl recorded tapes for as many as a hundred groups in the Knoxville studio where they began recording and marketing their own LPs during the 1960s, releasing recordings under the labels Gospel Light Records and the Don and Earl Record Company. Their upcoming release on Sandrock Recordings will mark the first time that music by Don and Earl has been released by a third party record label.