Don Dexter, 2004
Photo: Dick Nosbish
Background as a Musician
Professional Bio of Don Dexter
Thumbnail: Don Dexter, Ph.D., has an extensive background
as a musician, playing drums with numerous artists such as
Ricky Nelson, Del Shannon, Mason Williams, and Glenn Yarbrough. Don has
performed on national TV shows, recorded with name artists, and
played at Carnegie Hall. He is also an award-winning video
producer, broadcaster and educator. In addition to owning a video
production company, Don teaches film, video, and digital media
production at the college/university level.
Don Dexter's passion for playing drums began as a young boy of 9 when he would listen to the radio
in bed at night just before he went to sleep. He listened to rock, country, blues, and jazz from
distant radio stations and dreamed of a life as a musician. Although he was taking piano lessons at
the time, it was then that he realized what he really wanted to do was play drums. His dream began
for him at age 10 when he joined a competitive Scout Drum and Bugle Corps and stayed with the
marching unit for the next 5 years.
When he was 12, Don began studying with Buddy Krizneski, former drummer of the popular Ralph
Flanagan Orchestra and the Washington D.C. Navy Dance Band. Eventually, Don bought Krizneski's drum
set, a White Mother-of-Pearl Gretch four piece kit. His mother along with the neighbors, would
attest he practiced for hours every day. His drumming vibrated throughout the neighborhood of his
hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin.
Buddy Krizneski mentored Don and encouraged him to set up goals and importantly, write the goals
down on paper. He did just that. At age 16, Don wrote down these goals, (1) to play at Carnigie
Hall, (2) to play with major artists, (3) to play recording sessions in Hollywood, (4) to play on
national TV shows with major artists, and (5) to complete all of the goals by age 30. (Don
fulfilled all of those goals before his 27th birthday)
One month before his 16th birthday, Don played his first professional gig with a rock & roll band
called, "The Downbeats," made up of some of his peer musician friends. He couldn't believe that he
was paid for doing something he loved.
In his sophomore year in high school, he and a few friends traveled to Milwaukee to see a "Jazz at
the Philharmonic" concert that featured Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. Don managed to get backstage after
the concert and meet both drummers. Don said that Buddy Rich was a little "abrupt," but Gene Krupa sat
down and talked to Don and gave him words of encouragement. (10 years later, Don again saw Gene
Krupa playing at the Metropole Club in New York City while Don was in New York to play on the Ed
Sullivan Show and at Carnigie Hall.)
Don played drums through high school and upon graduation joined the U.S. Marine Corps. After boot
camp and ITR training, Don auditioned for the Marine Band and Drum and Bugle Corps at the San Diego
Marine Base. For the next three years he played in various Marine bands on the West coast and in the
Far East. After an honorable discharge, he played with various rock and blues road groups ending up
in Los Angeles in the early 1960's.
During this time Don developed skills and experience as an announcer and program producer for
television and radio. (Through the years, he would collect more than 30 national and regional awards
as a video producer/director, including an EMMY nomination.)
Breaking into the Los Angeles music scene is often difficult. But, Don networked himself, persisted,
and within a short period of time he was playing drums in clubs in Hollywood and the L.A. area and
doing a few recording sessions. (while full-time in music, he worked part-time as an
announcer/producer for a top FM station in L.A.)
Opportunity knocked and Don auditioned for a band called, "Joe and Eddie," which, at the time was
the number one folk-rock group in the country. Well known studio musician, guitarist Louie Shelton
headed the group at that time. Don was hired and began touring with the group. Singer/writer Mason
Williams was the "warm up" act to Joe and Eddie. A professional relationship with Mason Williams led
to many recording sessions with Williams, the Smother's Brothers and David Carroll. Sadly, Joe was
killed in a freeway accident and later, the group disbanded.
Don began working with studio musician Jerry Cole. With Cole, Don played concerts and recorded with
numerous artists which included, Nino Tempo and April Stevens, Billy Daniels, The Shirelles, Del
Shannon, and Ricky Nelson. Don said, "What a gig. With Rick Nelson, everything was first class. We
flew first class and always stayed in first class hotels." Don also recorded with Jerry Cole on a
few of his albums on Crown Records. Jerry Cole formed the original Stone Canyon Band with Don as the
Some of the recording sessions Don played on, other than rock artists, were for TV commercials. He
played on the sound tracks and received royalties for nationally broadcast television commercials
such as, United Airlines, Gleem Toothpaste, Levi's and Tom McCann Shoes.
Other popular artists that Don played and/or recorded for include, Sonny James, Red Rhodes, The
California Earthquake, Dorsey Burnette, Wynn Stewart, Danny Thomas, and The Fred Ramirez Trio, along
with four concerts with the Grand Ole Opry road tour in Los Angeles. In addition, Don played with
jazz groups such as the Johnny Pike Quartet and the legendary John Harmon.
In the mid 1960's Hollywood Record Producer Paul Arnold, began an experimental album project. He
recruited five musicians for the job. Don was included for this new rock group along with Jerry
Cole, Glenn Cass, Norm Cass, and Rich Cliburn. (lead guitarist of Smith) The name of this new group
was, "The Id." The album he Id recorded was called, "The Inner Sounds of the Id." It featured rock
and roll in various time signatures like 17/8 time, 7/4 time, as well as straight-ahead blues/rock
in 4/4 time. In his spare time, Don along with the other musicians worked on the album's songs on
weekends over a period of about two years, then went into the studio and recorded the album. It was
released on RCA records in January of 1967. Promotion included a full page picture of the gorup in
Billboard magazine, and the single, "Short Circuit" was reviewed and given a Bullet by the Billboard
music critic. Even though the album was not a commercial hit, it became popular on the undergound
radio stations in L.A. and a few other cities and developed a "cult" following.
The Id debuted in Chicago with little success. After three weeks the tour was canceled. Although Don
was playing with Glenn Yarbrough at the time, he left for one month for the brief Id tour, then went
back with Yarbrough. The rest of the dispersed into other groups and studio work. Over the next 5
years the, "Inner Sounds of the Id" sold approximately 250,000 copies.
In 1966, singer Glenn Yarbrough of "Baby, the Rain Must Fall" and other hits, asked Don to come to
work with him. "This was a great gig," Don responded when asked. "We worked about two and a half
months in the spring and two and a half months in the fall, and were paid a retainer from Glenn for
the rest of the yer. We flew all over America and Canada doing concerts and television. "The road
was rigorous," Don said, "but paid handsomely." During time off from Yarbrough, Don did recording
sessions, club dates, and concerts with other artists and L.A. roducers. He backed up Glenn for the
next four years. They often played the Troubadour club in Hollywood and the Hungary i in San
During his tour with Glenn Yarbrough, Don played on numerous TV shows, including the NBC "Tonight
Show with Johnny Carson," the CBS "Ed Sullivan Show," a CBS Special, "Live at the Hungary i," and a
sold out Carnigie Hall Concert in New York City. With Glenn Yarbrough, Don played numerous concerts
at the Hollywood Bowl, Universla Studios, Wakaki Shell in Honolulu, Hawaii, as well as concerts in
many cities such as Red Rocks in Denver. Glenn and his group were guest artists on a Bob Hope
concert special once at Indiana Universiy. Don said that, "meeting and conversing with Bob Hope was
one of the thrilling points in my career, this man was bigger than
During the interim time off between Glenn Yarbrough's spring and fall tours, Don played on the
tracking dates for many TV shows and some movies which included an ABC Movie of the Week, "Sgt.
Deadhead," with Donna Loren and Frankie Avalon, "Beach House Party," and an ABC TV Special, "The
World of Dr. Goldfoot," with Frankie Avalon, Vincent Price, and various rock artists, (this was a
spoof on the James Bond movie, "Goldfinger")
Don worked with DayVideo/Seals and Crofts Productions in Los Angeles in the area of video
production, promotion, and distribution during the mid 1970's. At the time, Marcia Day, visionary
executive producer and president, headed the Seals & Crofts organization.
There were many more recording sessions, concerts, club dates, and jam sessions into the wee small
hours of the morning that Don has played, but, too numerous to mention. Each of those gigs mentioned
above have a story that has provided lifelong memories of "good licks," good times, and good
In 1977, Don left Los Angeles and moved to the high country of Colorado and began a career in higher
education as well as continuing with his interest in television and video production. Although he
continued to play drums professionally through 1999, it was mostly part-time on weekends, special
concerts and one-nighters.
Don Dexter's Background as a
Documentary Filmmaker and Educator
Presently (2016), Don Dexter, PhD, is a professor of Digital Filmmaking and Video Production at the Art Institute of Colorado in Denver. He holds a PhD, M.A., and a B.Sc.
Previously Don taught for the University of Colorado at Denver and UC at Colorado Springs and the Colorado Film School. In addition, he taught at various Community Colleges in Colorado. When asked how he liked teaching, he stated, "I love teaching and working with students, especially in a studio or on-location, it's challenging and very rewarding." Don and his students have won awards, including six regional Emmy Awards and nine Emmy Nominations for documentary films they have produced in a Digital Documentary class that Don teaches at the Art Institute of Colorado.
Concurrently, Don produces film and video for broadcast television, the Internet, and video distribution. His programs have been broadcast on commercial television, regional PBS stations, the History Channel, and the Biography channel. Over the past thirty years, Don has won more than fifty national and regional awards as a producer/director producing film and video through his award winning production company, Wolf River Productions.
Don still plays drums everyday at home and occasionally sits in and jams with local groups. He feels that he has had an exciting enjoyable career as a drummer. We asked him how he felt about his life as a musician and he said, "I've had the opportunity, the honor, the privilege of playing music with great musicians and some very talented music legends. The career that I dreamed of as a boy came true." Don said one of the high points of his career was playing at Carnegie Hall in New York, which was one of the goals he set at the age of fifteen. Don still plays drums every day. His passion and love for music remains strong.
Page updated April 23, 2016
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