Don Haley Music
Don Haley Music

PG Free Press Article

Written by Frank Peebles for the Prince George Free Press, 2001

Show up.

Sixty per cent of success is just showing up. Don Haley has learned some hard lessons about life and show business, but he keeps showing up and the more he does, the more respect he earns for being a country music player. He’s a bit of an outlaw, in the Waylon and Willie sense of the word. It’s his sound. It’s also where he was in a literal sense, opening for those two legends and touring like a road dog. But extremities got in the way addictions, dysfunctional marriage, a heart attack at age 24 but he has regrouped and here he is today, showing up. With his first CD.

"It’s a five song CD. It’s just a demo," he says. "It came about because I heard Bill (Starrett, local musician) sing some of his songs and I thought they should be heard. I told him I’d record them for him. I got some help from Martin Robert who is such a beautiful friend of mine who does music because he likes to. It was a simple recording, not a lot of money, but it is a CD that is not overly produced, nothing mimicked and it’s a good mix."

Bill wrote four of the songs and the fifth was co-written by Don himself with Martin. They will be heard in the live setting on July 12 at the opening ceremonies for the B.C. Special Olympics. Don is disabled and wants to play for this event to show, like the athletes involved, that everyone has obstacles to overcome.

"I have cerebral palsy," he explains. "It’s not really noticeable but you need your muscles to sing and play. Sometimes when I’m playing, my muscles may spasm and I may blow it. If it’s cold and rainy I pretty well know I’m going to struggle to play simple stuff. I also have difficulty remembering short-term chronological things. That’s why I hire the best people I can to play with, people like Bill and Carl Barstad, so I can concentrate on entertaining."

Physical disabilities are not the ones he worries about, though. He is more concerned with the music scene. There are very few full-time musicians in Prince George, and very few he can depend on for continuing support. “The musicians here are by-in-large part time players with part time allegiances,” he says. This makes it hard to put together a sustained public appearance schedule. He also laments the apathy of local residents who won’t support players from their own town.

"I think there is a lot of fine talent in this town and I would like to see it nurtured," Don says. "There are artists here who have put years and years into their craft and they are good enough to be paid for what they do. To say we’re not going to pay you as much because you are local’ is wrong. But you have to give people something. Most club and bar owners know spit about music, but they know a lot about running a business. As a professional musician you have to act like a professional, and give a club owner something to work with so you are worth their money, from a business sense."

Don was born in San Diego, lending to his self-selected moniker the California Kidd. He bounced around through foster homes as a child, until he was eventually adopted by a couple who moved to Prince George in 1980, and Don moved with them after a year at the University of Laverne in California. In 1981 he hit the road as a musician. He made great money, was making a name for himself, but was living a fast life of self destruction. He dug his way out when he saw the need to come back home and look after his aging parents. His father died a few years ago, his mother is now living in a retirement home in Toronto at the age of 94. Don’s sister Beth also lives in Toronto while his brother George is in Prince George. Now that he is back in PG Don sees no reason to curtail his ambitions with music.

"It’s all about capturing the dream I’ve had since I was seven years old. I saw Glen Campbell on TV. I still had the braces on my legs and I told myself that’s what I want to do’ and now, finally, I have a demo CD. I’m half way there."

The opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics takes place July 12 at 7 p.m. at CNC.

Don Haley Music Don Haley Music