Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, his family soon moved to Kansas where his father owned a farm and his mother taught music at the local school. Don’s house was small and rural, equipped with a rotary phone that was on a party line, wood-burning stove for heat and an outhouse in the front yard. Don started working on the farm at age five, waking up before school to do chores and working with his father every weekend. “I was constantly listening to the radio because we only had two TV channels that came in clear.” Listening to classic and current country every night, Don started to build a repertoire of songs. “One hot summer night back in 1990, I was listening to the radio and all of a sudden it hit me and I knew what I was going to do with my life. That night, I knew I was going to sing and write country music.”
Bad weather caused the family farm to go bust and the family was forced to move back to Oklahoma to make a new start. No longer working in the fields, Don came home from school everyday and memorized country songs until his parents came home from work. He wanted to know every song on the radio. “I think I’ve learned just about every top 30 country song on the charts since 1985.”
During high school Don began to enter competitions, and felt as though He was where he wanted to be…performing in front of people and becoming known for his talent. “I was becoming more popular in school. I could sing and that was cool enough to meet girls but not weird enough to get beat up.”
After high school, Don entered the University of Tulsa on a full scholarship. “At the orientation my guide asked me what I would be declaring as my major. We were in the middle of a large room with all respected majors around us in booths. I shouted out, what’s the toughest major here. The Mechanical Engineering professor raised his hand. I looked at my guide and said I’ll do that.” Throughout college, Don performed at various venues around Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas. Playing at clubs and honky-tonks within a 300 mile radius of Tulsa. Don’s exposure was to a variety of audiences. From the county fairs to rough-and-rowdy bars, Don entertained them all.
Don is a natural entertainer and a gifted songwriter. His live show captures and energizes the audience. “I want everybody to take a roller coaster ride of emotion with me! I want them to feel what I’m singing and at the end of the day be left with a feeling that life is good!” The picture is clear when you talk to his audience. They love his music, and performance, but more importantly they love him.
Don’s music is best described in one word-REAL. It’s about real life, real people, going through real times. It’s about good people in their everyday lives going through everyday situations. It’s about their joy & pain, their laughter & tears, and all that life presents. The words and music are fresh and quick to capture and hold the listener’s attention. “My music is the music of the everyday American. It’s honest, and honesty is something that people relate to.” It’s only a matter of time before this Oklahoma native and Nashville artist is known throughout country music.
Real music, real life, and real times. That’s Don Derby.