Donny Catron, long time guitarist and tenor singer with The Tennessee Gentlemen, passed away on February 21. He was 60 years of age and had been ill for some time.
The Tennessee Gentlemen had toured extensively since the mid 1960s, perhaps reaching their peak popularity in the 1980s when they won multiple awards from SPBGMA. Based in Memphis, they developed a reputation for zany on-stage antics, with Donny at the center of most of them.
He was known for his high, clear tenor voice and his knack for finding pop and country songs that fit well in bluegrass. With Donny at the mic, the band often featured him in the high lead setting that The Osborne Brothers had made familiar in bluegrass.
Catron also served a stint with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and was called on by Jesse McReynolds to sing with him upon the death of his partner and brother, Jim McReynolds, in 2003. Donny’s soaring tenor was the ideal stand in to sing Jim’s parts from the classic Jim & Jesse songs.
Here’s a 2008 video of one of his signature numbers, a bluegrass arrangement of Anne Murray’s Snow Bird.
Donny is remembered by a legion of fans not only for his remarkable singing voice, but for his warm, entertaining stage presence, and his generosity towards everyone, especially younger bluegrass performers.
R.I.P., Donny Catron.
UPDATE 2/24: We have heard from Donny’s family that a memorial celebration is scheduled for Saturday, March 5 at the Roller Funeral Home in Mountain Home, AR. Both visitation and the funeral service will be held on that day.
The family wanted to give people time to make travel plans, as they have been hearing from friends in the bluegrass community since Monday who would like to attend.
No time has been announced, but will be posted on the Roller web site when it is confirmed.
A live web cam will also be provided during the service for family and friends who cannot make the trip.