Arrangements For Hit Songwriter Don Wayne

Don Wayne

[Updated 9/14]

Visitation will be 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. today (9/13) at Harpeth Hills Funeral Home, 9090 Hwy. 100, Nashville, TN (615) 646-9292.

A life celebration will be held 2:30 p.m. Thursday (9/14) at Harpeth Hills Funeral Home with burial to follow at Harpeth Hills Memory Gardens.

Sign the online guestbook.


Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Don Wayne has died at age 78.

Mark Ford of the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) states that the famed composer of such hits as “Country Bumpkin” and “Saginaw, Michigan” passed away last night, Sept. 12.

The songwriter was born Donald William Choate on May 30, 1933. He was a Nashville native. As a boy, he enjoyed listening to Grand Ole Opry stars such as Ernest Tubb and Eddy Arnold on the family’s radio. His early career was as a tool and die maker.

In 1953, Wayne had his first major-label cut as a songwriter when George Morgan recorded his “Lonesome Waltz” for Columbia. The songwriter was also a recording artist, himself. He recorded for Look Records and released several albums on his own in later years.

Don Wayne signed with Tree Publishing in 1963. The following year, Lefty Frizzell took his “Saginaw, Michigan” to the top of the country charts. Wayne went through a somewhat fallow spell as a songwriter, then bounced back with “Country Bumpkin” in 1974. As recorded by Cal Smith, the tune earned Song and/or Single of the Year honors from the CMA, ACM and NSAI.

Other notable Don Wayne copyrights include “The Belles of Southern Bell” (Del Reeves, 1965), “It’s Time to Pay the Fiddler” (Cal Smith, 1975), “What In Her World Did I Do” (Eddy Arnold, 1979), “If Teardrops Were Silver” (Jean Shepard, 1966), “She Talked a Lot About Texas” (Cal Smith, 1975), “Nashville” (David Houston, 1971), “The Marriage Bit” (Lefty Frizzell, 1968) and “Hank” (Hank Williams Jr., 1973).

Wayne’s “Walk Tall,” a 1965 top-10 hit for Faron Young, later became an underground rock favorite via recordings by Stiff Little Fingers and The Popes. Val Doonican made it a huge hit in Great Britain.

Don Wayne’s songs were also recorded by Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Connie Smith, The Osborne Brothers, Jerry Garcia, Tanya Tucker, Tex Ritter, Jack Barlow, Jim & Jesse, Sheb Wooley, Hank Thompson, Ernest Tubb, Doug Kershaw, Tommy Cash, The Wilburn Brothers, Hank Snow, Burl Ives, George Jones, Bobby Bare, The Browns and Dick Curless, among many others.

Don Wayne was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1978.

He had been hospitalized for some time and was moved to home hospice about a week ago. At press time, no funeral arrangements had been announced.

Wayne was one of the songwriters who performed at last year’s inaugural event at the Woods at Fontanel. Proceeds from Songwriters Sing for Nashville went to flood relief. Seated (L-R): Fontanel co-owners Marc Oswald and Dale Morris; Standing (L-R): Hugh Prestwood, Roger Murrah, Mike Reid, Dickey Lee, Mark D. Sanders, Don Wayne, Jim Weatherly, Dallas Frazier, Dennis Morgan, Kye Fleming.


Wayne was part of the 1978 class of the Nashville Songwriters Association Hall of Fame. Pictured (L-R): Joe Allison, Danny Dill, Don Wayne, Zeke Clements, Curly Putman, Cindy Walker (center), Don Robertson, Marijohn Wilkin, John Loudermilk, Hank Snow, Harlan Howard, Boudleaux Bryant, Jack Clement, standing in for Tom T. Hall - Mrs. Hall.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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