DON O’NEILL (1992 Inductee)

Don O’Neill was born on November 27, 1942 and raised in Kemptville, Ontario. Interested in music from an early age, he took guitar lessons at age 13 and joined Ron McMunn’s Country Cousins in 1958, when he was 16 years old. The band, at that time, included, among others, future Hall of Fame members Ward Allen and Garnie Scheel, along with Ron. While playing with the Country Cousins at venues like the Lakeshore Hotel in Portage du Fort and the famous Gavan’s Hotel in Quyon, Quebec, Don was also a part of Ron’s first album released on the Banff record label and performed on many radio shows aired over CJET in Smiths Falls. Ralph Carlson had joined the Country Cousins a couple of years after Don and the band had become a large unit. Because of this, Ralph, in 1966, formed his own band, The Countrymen, and was joined by Don, along with Lloyd Grant and John Chamberlain. The Countrymen played numerous venues in and around the Ottawa Valley, beginning with a 17-month gig at the Mississippi Hotel in Carleton Place.

In 1976, Ralph renamed the unit "Country Mile", and they became a road band, traveling all across Canada, with Don on guitar, Andy Angus on Bass and Sam Henry on Drums. In 1979, Don left the band to return to his barbering job in Kemptville, a location commemorated in song by Barry Brown ("Don’s Barbershop"). While working his day job, Don played with various Valley artists and toured with Tommy Hunter for eighteen months in 1982-83. Don’s talent on the Bass guitar was recognized when he and Ralph teamed up with Ray and Glen Adams as Bytown Bluegrass (later joined by Eddie Pigeon) and played all of the major bluegrass festivals of the time as well as Bluegrass Night at the Cedars for a number of years.

Don continues to play locally and has been a member of The Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame Band for many years. Over the years, he has backed many country artists, such as Mac Wiseman, Neville Wells, Rick Thompson, Howard Hayes and Fred Dixon, as well as playing regularly with a swing band, "Swingbridge". In addition, his guitar is heard on Edie Thomas’ "Singing Grandmother" album and many other early Snocan Recording Studio sessions.

Don and his wife, Linda, live in Smiths Falls, and have two sons, a daughter, and three beautiful grandchildren.

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