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Don Varner

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Biography

Soul singer Don Wilson Varner bears a striking resemblance to Ike Turner, a tad heavier, but facially they're almost twins. He grew up in the same Birmingham, AL, neighborhood as Eddie Kendricks, who always asked where Varner was singing when he came home. Varner starting singing in high school and relocated to Chicago after graduation to pursue his music career; he found work in clubs but recording opportunities didn't come his way, and after six years, he returned South because of all the hoopla taking place in Muscle Shoals, AL, home of Rick Hall's Fame Records, who was scorching the charts with recordings by artists like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Candi Staton, and others. He befriended Jerry Wexler, Franklin's producer, and got the opportunity to write (with William Crump) "I Keep Holdin' On" for Sam & Dave. Varner worked extensively with Quinn Ivy at Ivy's Sheffield, AL, studios, recording productions by the late Eddie Hinton: "Masquerade," "Down in Texas," and "Tear Stained Face," released on Ivy's South Camp Records (distributed by Atco/Atlantic) in the late '60s. Most of his recording projects never got out the studio, but he kept busy during live shows in the South with some of soul's major artists. He moved to California in the mid-'80s and embarked on an extensive tour as the lead singer of the Johnny Otis Show. Varner settled in Moreno Valley, CA, in the late '80s with his wife Francine and began recording and publishing gospel music for Retour Records and Ceevee and Gospel Truth publishing companies; the couple also runs a concert promotion business. Varner's recordings can be found on Charly Records, including a version of "You Left the Water Running." The CDs Tear Stained Soul, Vol. 1 and High on the Hog (Overture Music) feature tracks by Don, as well as Brenda Varner -- his first wife. ~ Andrew Hamilton
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