Don Wayne penned classic country songs performed by major artists including
Lefty Frizzell, Jean Shepard and Eddy Arnold, but he is best known for writing
"Country Bumpkin," which won Wayne three major country songwriting awards in
Wayne was a veteran songwriter in the early 1970s when he heard about a
publishing executive's dismissal of his songs as being too down-home to sell
well in the contemporary market. "Nobody wants to hear about that frost on the
pumpkin," is what the executive said, and Wayne filed that comment away for a
few years, until he began to write a song about an awkward, inexperienced
barroom drinker who meets a "barroom girl with hard and knowing
"She said, 'Hello country bumpkin,'" Wayne wrote. "How's the frost out on the
pumpkin?" The song's verses followed the two characters through their lives.
"The story just unfolded," Wayne told interviewer Philip Self. "I thought to
myself, 'Man, I've stumbled onto a hit song here.'"
Wayne had indeed stumbled onto a major hit, one that topped the
Billboard country chart, propelled the career of singer Cal Smith, won
CMA and ACM top country song awards and helped Wayne earn the NSAI's Songwriter
of the Year award in 1974.
Wayne was born in Nashville and raised as something of a country bumpkin, on a
farm in White Bluff, Tennessee. He began playing guitar as a teenager, and he
became a fan of the country singers he heard on the Grand Ole Opry, broadcast
over WSM radio.
"That hurtin' in them sad old songs settled deep in a poor boy's bones," he
later wrote in "Nashville," a 1971 hit for David Houston. "And I vowed I'll
someday pick and sing in Nashville."
Wayne worked in a tool-and-die factory after dropping out of high school, then
went into the military from 1954 through 1956. Before bring drafted, he landed
a song, "Lonesome Waltz," with Opry star and Columbia recording artist George
Morgan. Following the service, Wayne attempted a solo recording career, but
wound up settling into the songwriting life by 1963, when he signed an
exclusive writer agreement with Tree Publishing Company.
A year later, he scored his first #1 hit when Lefty Frizzell took "Saginaw,
Michigan" up the charts, and he followed that with notable songs recorded by
Shepard, Del Reeves, David Houston, Hank Williams Jr. and others. He also
served as president of the Nashville Songwriters Association International.