The eighteenth century philosopher Voltaire wrote about experiencing "the best of both possible worlds". He may have had Don Cherry in mind when he penned those words as he is the only person ever to hold successful dual careers both as a singer and a golfer. In fact, many of Don's fans think he is two different men. Some know him as Don Cherry the golfer; others know him as Don Cherry the singer. But most know him as the singing golfer.
Donald Ross Cherry
was born January 11, 1924 in Wichita Falls, Texas
and was the youngest of
Don at 6 months
Don graduated from Wichita Falls High School. After graduation, he entered and won the city's
Junior Golf Championship. A month after the U.S. entered World War II, Don was drafted into the Army-Air Corps.
17 year old Don (on right) at Junior
Age 18 in the
When his four year service to the country was completed, he went back to competing in amateur golf tournaments. To everyone's amazement, he turned out to be a prodigy in the sport because he ended up winning 24 titles and earned 90 amateur trophies in a period of less than 9 years. He soon came to realize that he could simultaneously handle both a golf career and singing career. His clean lifestyle allowed him the energy to compete in golf tournaments during the day and perform during the night. His mellow baritone voice touched people, and he was quick to find work singing at local clubs.
Files Of The Times
Sept. 6, 1945
Sunburned Don Cherry, who corporals at Sheppard Field when he is not swatting a golf ball, set a blistering pace to defeat Buck Laxon of Brownwood to win the 18th annual Country Club Invitational crown and his second tournament title of the summer.
In 1950, the record companies started taking notice of the young man with the velvet voice. Decca Records was the first to snatch him up with a contract. On May 5, 1950, he recorded his first record with Decca, "Mona Lisa" with Victor Young and his Orchestra. Don's name wasn't on the label and people started making inquiries into who the voice belonged to. A short time later Decca teamed Don up with Artie Shaw to record "Just Say I Love Her" and "Don't Worry 'Bout Me". This time his name appeared on the label. His third recording, "Thinking Of You", shot to the number 3 position on the Hit Parade, instantly selling 700,000 copies and giving him his first hit single.
Soon Don's career skyrocketed. Throughout the decade he had many hit records including "Wild Cherry", "I'm Still A King To You", and "Ghost Town". But by far the most memorable was the million seller hit "Band of Gold". It was not uncommon to find at least one of Don's songs on the table top jukeboxes in the local diner or corner soda shop.
In 1952 Irving Berlin heard Don's recording of "Maybe It's Because" and invited Don to his office. He proceeded to tell Don that it was one of the best recordings he heard of his songs, and that it had prompted him to write a country song just for Don. Unfortunately it wasn't one of Mr. Berlin's best songs, but the mere fact that he had composed it strictly for Don overshadowed its flaws.
1954 Walker Cup with Don Cherry,
Jack Nicklaus (and others)
In 1953 Don won the Canadian Amateur which allowed him to compete in the 1953 Walker Cup. He won for the U.S. He finished 1953 as a semi-finalist in the Southern Amateur and was honored as a member of the U.S. team in the America's Golf Cup. His music career was taking off as well. He recorded the hit "Vanity" for Decca Records which shot straight up to the top of the charts.
In 1955 when Don played again for the Walker cup, Lord Brabazon, Captain of the Royal and Ancient Association, announced to the audience that "Bing Crosby and Bob Hope tried to make it to the British Amateur Golf Tournament but couldn't qualify. We finally found a golfer who could play golf and also sing. Mr. Cherry would you please honor us with a song." So on the steps of St. Andrews, Don sang "I Believe" and was rewarded with an ovation which he will never forget. The next day the English papers published the following article:
Big Bill Campbell hugging Don and Harvey Ward after their 1955 Walker Cup Win
Walker Cup in St. Andrews, Scotland
More Than Golf Is Needed To Beat These Americans
by Laurie Pignon
They don't think much of crooners in St. Andrews, even Bing's swing leaves them cold. But when cheery nightclub singer Don Cherry stood on the wet grey steps of the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse and cooed into the mike only the bronze face of Old Tom Morris frowned from its plaque. Here is a man to respect. A man who helped give Britain's best Amateur golfers their biggest home defeat in the Walker Cup by ten matches to two.
In this hit parade, cheerful Cherry sang "I Believe". He couldn't have picked a better song, for in those two words is the secret of America's golf supremacy. Americans BELIEVE they are the best. Americans BELIEVE they can play their best when the pressure is on, and do. Here is just an example of their belief during their two-day battle: Ward and Cherry played two in the same bunker and didn't lose the hole. Cherry played an explosion shot out of a pot bunker and got a three - and the hole against Carr.
A Letter From George H. W. Bush
Former President George Bush's father started the Walker Cup. Don sent him the material and pictures of the Walker Cup Tournaments. On December 16, 2003, President Bush answered..... "Dear Francine and Don, Loved your letter Francine, and I really enjoyed looking through the Walker Cup information you sent. Don, those CD's are terrific. Thanks so much. Warmest wishes for a wonderful Christmas and the happiest of New Years. Sincerely, George Bush"
The 1960's brought about some major changes for Don. In 1960 at the US Open at Cherry Hills in Denver Colorado, Don finished just four strokes behind the winner Arnold Palmer and two shots behind Jack Nicklaus who finished in second place. Jack and Don shot the two lowest scores ever shot in the US Open by amateurs. He was again chosen to play in the Walker Cup and not unlike their first two appearances, the United States once again finished undefeated. In all, during his amateur career Don competed in the Masters 9 times, the Walker Cup 3 times, the America's Cup twice and 8 US Opens. In 1962 he decided it was time to turn professional. During this time Don continued to perform to standing room only crowds in Laughlin, Reno, and Las Vegas showrooms. He also took his show on the road throughout the United States (as well as other countries) and appeared on every major television show.
A few of Don's Golf Medals
The golf clubs that MacGregor made with Don's name on the set and were available for sale to the public.
Dan Jenkins, novelist and sports writer for Golf Digest, wrote "Contrary to popular notions, Jimmy Demaret wasn't the best golfer who could sing and Bing Crosby wasn't the best singer who could play golf. The all-time best golfer/singer, singer/golfer is Don Cherry."
During one of his visits to Las Vegas, Don met the person who would have the most influence in both his professional and personal lives – Dean Martin. The two hit if off almost immediately and became inseparable for many years to come. They would regularly meet out on the course in the morning to trade jokes and just talk about anything and everything. Dean started his own television variety show about the same time Don signed on with Monument.
Don was a regular guest on
The Dean Martin Show in the '60s
The level of respect and admiration between these two men for each other ran so deep there wasn't anything one would not do for the other. Don relocated permanently to Las Vegas in 1967, where his name was a fixture on many marquees including The Sands, The Tropicana, The Dunes, The Hilton, The Golden Nugget, The Aladdin, and was a mainstay at The Desert Inn.
From Don Cherry's Album "CHERRY SMASHES"
"We think that Mr. Don Cherry sings the Country Western music better than anybody in the business, but how he can do it so well and not "DRINK" is something we can't figure out. But he is Great."
Dean signed Don on as a regular host during the 1967 summer show (also hosted by Vic Damone, Carol Lawrence and Dean's daughter Gail)
Cherry Never Really Had To Sing For His Meals
Jim Murray, syndicated columnist, once profiled Don in an in-depth review. In the last paragraph he wrote: “Don is the only one in Las Vegas last week who was starring in the Sahara Open during the day and also singing at the Sahara Hotel at night. Get him to sing you Green, Green Grass Of Home and shoot you a 67 with two 3 putt greens and if you don't get goosebumps, then you wouldn't be impressed if Caruso went 3 for 4 in the World Series in the afternoon and brought down the house in Pagliacci at the Met at night.
If you switch on your television and watch Charlton Heston's movie "Will Penny", you will hear Don singing the entire theme song "Lonely Rider" at the end of the movie. Charlton Heston once told Don that he thought Will Penny was one of the three best movies he had ever made.
George Bush, Francine & Don Cherry
In the book "Texas Golf Legends", an entire chapter is devoted to Don's contribution to the game. On November 13, 1995 he was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall Of Fame (along with Former President George H. W. Bush). Ben Hogan was once asked at a seminar who was the best iron player that he ever saw. His answer: Don Cherry. Don continues to carry his lifetime membership card as a PGA member. To date, Don has had 30 holes in one!
Don has always been the epitome of good health and one of his pastimes (besides golf) is jogging. While out jogging one morning he met the love of his life Francine. They were married on Oct. 2, l993. She also had an illustrious career that included performing in 28 Broadway shows. She is a talented singer and has been described by her proud husband as the best dancer in the world.
Sept. 11, 2001
Don's life hasn't always been a bowl of cherries however. On September 11, 2001 Don and Francine, along with the rest of the world, were watching in horror at the scene unfolding in New York. Unbeknownst to them, the first plane that hit the towers struck at the precise location of his son Stephen's office. His other son Sean called from Florida to break the terrifying news. Francine and Don clung to each other praying that Stephen wasn't there. It wasn't to be. He left behind four sons.
A young Jack Nicklaus & Don Cherry
JACK NICKLAUS - One of Don's Best Friends
Don Cherry has been a good friend of mine for well over 40 years. We've
played a lot of great golf together and have always had fun needling
each other along the way. Barbara and I used to catch up with Don
absolutely every place we could to listen to him sing and we still love
his music just as much today. We play his CDs at home, in our cars, on
the boat, and in my airplane - we even fight over them!
While everyone knows that Don is an accomplished entertainer, perhaps his
friends and fans don't realize just what an accomplished golfer he is.
When I lost to Arnold Palmer in the U.S. Open in 1960, finishing second
as an amateur, Don finished two shots behind me in fourth place, and we
both broke the amateur record for scoring. We played together on the
Walker Cup team and America's Cup teams too.
Unfortunately, our busy lives don't allow us to get together with Don and
Francine as often as we would like. In fact, I talked to him a few nights
ago and raised hell with him for not letting me know it was his 80th
birthday last week. They had a wonderful celebration, and we would have
loved to be part of it, but we sent him our warmest wishes. He is a
It's me, Carol Mann. Thank God for this medium, internet, e-mail.
What a world! Gary Player, Ben Crenshaw and I do some work
for the World Golf Hall of Fame. The Hall is doing a 50th
anniversary of his three major wins for Ben Hogan in St.
Augustine, FL. I learned that one of the favorite things Mr. Hogan
did was listen to tapes of some of your songs. His personal assistant
told me he used to sit looking out the window listening to you,
daydreaming and really enjoying your relaxing tunes. Did you make
a special tape for him? If so, do you remember what you put on it? If
so, is there anyway to acquire that music so we can play it in the large
gallery where his 1953 and some of his life are being celebrated? Since
it was his favorite thing to do, we believe it is only right to play
this through our sound system.
Today, Don keeps busy performing, playing in golf tournaments and working with charitable organizations such as the American Lung Association, work which he dedicated to his son Stephen, The Children's Adoptive Charities and Lady Bird Johnson's wildflower center in Austin, Texas. In fact, the Wildflower Center presented Don with a licensing appreciation award for his work on the CD “The Eyes Of Texas – A Tribute To Lady Bird Johnson” (recorded with Willie Nelson which benefits the well-known North American environmental organization dedicated to native plants). He also helped raise money to erect a memorial to the victims of 9/11.
Don now has started recording independently. His CD's are currently available in the gift shop on this website.
Most recently, Don performed at the Stafford Centre in Houston Texas with Ray Price and was a featured guest star on the popular TV PBS special called "Magic Moments: The 50's Era", shown continually across in the US. Don's voice remains as good today as it always was. Like fine wine it has become even better over time.
Where in the world is
A live stage performance in Dallas? Perhaps a television or radio interview in New York? Whenever the phone rings, you never know when or where Don will be jetting off to next.
There is so much more of Don's unbelievable dual career that the only way to learn more about him and all of his celebrity friends is to read it for yourself in his first autobiography called "Cherry's Jubilee: Singin' & Swingin' Through Life With Dino, Frank, Arnie, and Jack". Click Cherry to purchase an autographed copy of his book.
Keep watching this site to get to know the real Don better!
Don was the voice for
the Mr. Clean jingle
Watch the Commercial: (wait for music to stop before clicking Play)
In 1956 Proctor and Gamble approached Don to create a jingle for their new product "Mr. Clean". (An accurate description of Don himself because he can honestly say he never drank or smoked his entire life). He did it and it proved to be one of the most successful commercial jingles ever.