DONNY PIKE

Donny Pike

Lettermen member: 1973 — Dec. 1981

Donald Ray Pike joined The Lettermen in 1973, when his older brother Jim began to experience voice problems. Donny, along with Tony Butala and older brother Gary Pike, kept the group going strong throughout the seventies. His wonderful solos include: "Mandy," "Lovin' You," "You're Smilin' Face" and "Love." He also was the first Lettermen in history to bring his song writing talents to the group.


The following is Donny's personal account of his life in music:

At the age of 12, I was strumming on my guitar, writing songs, and very willing to sing the songs for any audience I could round up. My oldest brother Jim helped me get promotional photos made and we chose two songs for me to record: "Too Young" and "Four Girls"). Both of which I still remember the lyrics to. The year was 1961, and Capitol Records just released the Lettermen's first single "That's My Desire." A local, top rated, radio station, KFWB had started playing the flip side of the single, "The Way You Look Tonight." Another vocal group had just released a version of the same song. KFWB decided to have a battle of the bands on the air to determine which version they would continue playing. I was recruited to run around the neighborhood and convince all of my friends and families to vote. The Lettermen won and needless to say, my recording career was put on hold, as Jim was far too busy with his own to assist me in mine.

I tagged along with Jim to rehearsals and found myself loving the sound of harmony ringing through my ears. I continued singing and writing music throughout school and in 1968 was drafted into the Army. From March 1969 thru March 1970, I served in the Eighth Battalion 4th Artillery in Dong Ha Vietnam. While I was there I wrote a song, "Courtesy Of Uncle Sam." My Captain heard me sing it one day and asked me to sing it at Battalion Headquarters. As a result, I spent the rest of the year singing that song, every night for the officers.

I lost 90% of the high frequency in my right ear from artillery noise. And I learned to use the constant ringing in my right ear as a relative pitch. As a result I developed perfect pitch. I also, am proud to say, recieved the Army Commendation Medal for capturing 3 Viet Cong soldiers, who were setting booby traps on our patrol trails.

It was March 1970, when I returned home to the good ol' USA. I was discharged from the Army and joined The Lettermen on the road as their sound technician. Once in ahile, I would add in the fourth vocal part to a song from the sound console. One night Jim caught me, and put an end to that practice, but with a smile on his face. I also started singing on the Lettermen's studio recordings, as Jim was still having some voice problems. I met my wife-to-be Andrea while toruing in Wisconsin. She told her parents she was going to stay with a friend in California for the summer. We toured together and were very happy.

In 1972, I left the Lettermen to pursue my own career. I got together with Patrick Valentino (a former Lettermen conductor and former member of The Sandpipers) and we auditioned many local musicians from the LA area to form 'Odyssey'. After rehearsing for months, and playing a few local gigs, we had run our credit cards to the limit and had to throw in the towel. In 1973, Andrea and I were married. The Lettermen began to audition singers to replace Jim in the group. Jim phoned me and asked that I come to his house. I knew all the lyrics and the all parts and before long, I was one of The Lettermen.


Donny Pike

My first concert was February 4, 1974 in Hong Kong. As the only song writer of the group, I penned 2 songs that were released as singles: "Thank You Girl" (included on THE TIME IS RIGHT LP) and "I'll Be Back" (included on the LOVE IS... LP). While on tour in Japan, we were presented, one afternoon, with a song that we were told to record the next morning! There was one problem, the song had no lyrics. I went to work writing that night and the next morning we did record it. It was to be used as the theme for a Japanese television show called "007" (an equivalent to the US's "Good Morning America." The title of the song was "Just Say I Love You In The Morning" (included on the Live in Japan 1979 LP). The song was eventually played while weather information scrolled down the screen. And radio stations in Japan began getting tons of requests for the song. That's probably the closest I've come to having a hit single of my own writing. That's alright though. There is nothing like the feeling you get when driving down the road and hearing a song that you wrote come on the radio. It makes you want to roll down the window and scream, "Hey, that's my song playing."

In the late seventies, I wrote and opener for the second half of The Lettermen show. It was called "Peace, Love and Harmony." We didn't record it, but many fans may remember it. From time to time, over the years, while performing the late show at a club engagement, I would play some of my original music. Just me and a guitar and a quiet, attentive audience. It doesn't get much better than that. I was never told to hold back a little or give it more, i just gave my best, as long as one person was in the audience.

It was in 1981, that Andrea and I had waited 8 years to start a family. My voice was starting to show some strain from touring 11 months a year. It was time to look at my priorities and the road is no place to raise a family. My last show with the Lettermen was in December 1981. My son Devon was born on February 4, 1982. I spent the next 9 months assisting Andrea in taking care of our son. In September 1982, I began working with Bell and Howell as a field service technician. I quit music "cold turkey" in order to provide and be there for my family. It was the best decision I have ever made.

In 1990, I purchased a small Avocado ranch, about 50 miles north of San Diego, CA in a small community called Rainbow. There my son could chase lizards and snakes, as well as ride his Honda through the groves (rather than hanging with a street corner gang). At 17, Devon graduated High School and began work at the Fallbrook Sheriff's Dept in their Explorer program. In 2000, Andrea and I separated. In 2001, I was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame with The Lettermen and attended the induction with 7 other past Lettermen. What a wonderful experience it was to see old friends after so many years. It was in 2002, after 20 years, that I left Bell and Howell. My son and I moved to Puget Sound, Washington. My son has since accepted a job with the US government and moved East. I am living on campus at WSU. I am back where I started: broke... alone... but happily creating music full time. I now write music solely on computer, as I have found that it surpasses the limitations of my guitar playing abilities, allowing me to orchestrate my songs.

Donny now lives modestly in Maui with limited means and enjoys a simple life. Back to the basics, which most of us will never experience. Manually working hard, he earns a modest pay and gets to still write and create his own music and sometimes perform on open mic nights in small, local Hawaii night spots. He does this for his love of music and receives no compensation for his talents. If you wish to purchase his abundance of personally composed music, please visit his web site: http://DonnyPike.Tripod.com .

Thanks to Donny for sharing these photos with us.


Please click picture to enlarge it.

1961
Donny Pike
Age 12
1961
1967
Donny with friend
Dr. Larry Pearson
1967
1969
Donny in Vietnam
1969
2001
Fishing in Alaska
2001
2005
First Downloadable solo CD
2005
2006
Donny in Maui
2006
2005 Gold Donny
Donny
2005
2006
Enjoying Life in Hawaii 2006