Durward has been a singer all his life. Born in Kentucky in 1937, he followed his coal-mining father’s advice and headed west. The Navy got him to California and hard work kept him there. He ended up in a dream job on a fish and game reserve in San Mateo, working as a ranger for the San Francisco Water Department. But he never stopped writing, playing and singing his own unique country songs. In 1968 he recorded “Mod ‘n’ Country," songs he wrote and sang, and yes, paid to record. Back then it was difficult to get heard. It’s still not easy, but now everyone stands a chance.

His new album “Reminisce” is, once again, all Durward. Here’s some background on the songs and his life in the business:

I was in Nashville recording my first album and during a lunch break the janitor at the studio came up and asked if I was looking for new material. Well, I was trying to get my own music on the air but I said I’d listen to what he had. It blew me away. But I had paid for all my arrangements and studio time, so I passed up the opportunity to record the janitor’s, aka Kris Kristofferson’s, “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “Bobby McGee.” Live and learn.

I don’t remember how but I had made a friend of Bob Wills. He was appearing outside San Francisco and I wound up back at his bus with Bob, Leon McAuliffe and some of the Texas Playboys. Bob was pouring “tea” – which he poured very well. He, of course, had his trademark fiddle with him, and having had some “tea” I asked him if he ever played it. Well, he didn’t that night.

I was with the Johnny Cash show out at San Quentin, and in passing John mentioned he needed a new prison song. So I wrote what I thought was a good one, “Q.” John thought it was good too. But that was my first lesson in songwriting: Established stars seldom need songs they don’t own.

This was back in the ‘60s and I was doing whatever I could to make it. I was appearing at some show in San Jose , did my bit, and the promoter came up to me and another guy and said we should go out and kill time until the next act that people recognized. Well, neither of us was known, much less well known, so I said I’d go first. I got through it and then the other guy got on and by then the crowd had had enough and boo’d me and Willie Nelson off the stage.

I was a Teamster before and while I was singing. Some people, I guess, have disagreements with unions, but when I was discharged from the Navy and moved to San Francisco I got a job tearing down the buildings, by hand, on the site of the future Bank of America building. It was very hard work but I was glad to get it. One day the Teamsters rep stopped and talked to me about applying for a truck driving job. I never wanted for a job again. I worked as a chauffeur for the mayor, and later drove a rock truck. This eventually led to my job as a ranger. I remained an active member of organized labor until my retirement.

I’ve performed all over the country and also in England. Some were real classy moments and others were the rubber check circuit:

Wembley has hosted the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, 49ers v. Broncos. So there was I on a planeload full of great Country Stars, and me, on the way to Wembley, just outside London. I sat and talked to Tex Ritter, Loretta Lynn, Roy Acuff, Skeeter Davis and many more. And then a few days later performed in this massive stadium full of Country Music die-hard fans. It was exhilarating. I was amazed at their love of the good-ole Country Music. I signed autographs until my hand cramped, but what a thrill.

I opened a show for Jeanie in San Carlos (south of SF), CA and made an important discovery. You never say, “And this song is for a special lady” on stage, unless your mother is in the audience.

Then the not so glamorous: I was performing on stage in a dump in Petaluma and some guy became incensed because he thought I was flirting with his girlfriend – a difficult thing to do on stage since the stage lights absolutely blind you to the audience. So he sailed a beer bottle toward me and I could hear the “whoosh” as it traveled by. Unfortunately, the drummer wasn’t so lucky.

As an up-and-coming singer I’d be sent out to charity events.

I was a pretty good athlete and decided to take up golf. Anyone who plays golf knows that catching a baseball or shooting a basket does not prepare you for golf. But I was sent out by a promoter to play in this benefit with some pretty big stars, and I was lucky enough to be teamed with Jackie Gleason. His ability with a pool stick was fairly well known, and he was also a terrific golfer, but most of all he was an entertainer. So early in the round he tells me, “Kid, you’re never going to be any good unless you learn the belly shot.” (At that time I didn’t have one, but I’m better at it now.) “You take the club, stick it under your belly, hold on, and throw your weight to the right” (or left). Which he did, and the ball went right where he called it, between two branches of this big oak tree, 30 feet in the air. What a guy! Unfortunately, at that time his show didn’t include country singers. But he was great.

Another time, another benefit, I was out on a course in San Mateo waiting to tee off, and the great Willie Mays was there about to swing. He was on the elevated blue tees and, of course, there was a fair sized crowd watching. So he takes a beautiful swing, smacks the ball, and it takes off like a bullet, travels about 50 feet, hits the women’s tee marker, and ricochets right back at him. This part is unbelievable – he bare-hand catches it coming right at him, places it on the tee and hits it about 250. Fortunately, I wasn’t playing immediately after him.

Fan clubs are priceless. Thanks to their work, I was invited in the mid-'70s to appear in Meridian, MS at the Jimmie Rodgers Festival, celebrating the life of the "Singing Brakeman." Again, it was a huge event, as it should be, since Jimmie Rodgers is a part of the past that ushered in traditional country music. I‘m hoping with the internet that the members of my Fan Club from the '60s, ‘70s and ‘80s will hear these songs and get back in touch and that I’ll make some new fans.

You can purchase a CD by sending a check for $13 to
Big Stah Studio, 383 Corral de Tierra Rd, Salinas, CA 93908
They are also available online through CDBaby