…I wanted to run away with this man, he was so something! I was married, an I didn’t…but years later, when I learned of his death, I felt the loss, heavily, Don was a great musician.
Donald Eugene Ulrich, best known by the stage name Don Rich (August 15, 1941 – July 17, 1974) was a country musician who helped develop the Bakersfield sound in the early 1960s. He was a noted guitarist and fiddler, and a member of the Buckaroos, the backing band of country singer Buck Owens.
On July 17, 1974, after finishing work at Owens’ Bakersfield studio, Rich was killed in a motorcycle accident. He had been en route to join his family for vacation on the central coast of California. For unknown reasons, his motorcycle hit a center divider on northbound Highway 1 at Yerba Buena Road in Morro Bay. He was pronounced dead at 10:37 that evening. California Highway Patrol officials stated that there were no skid marks and no apparent mechanical problems. Reports indicated that Owens had pleaded with Rich not to take his motorcycle that day and had been pleading with him for years to quit riding.
Owens was devastated by the news, and for years did not talk about Rich’s death. In a late 1990s interview, Owens said, “He was like a brother, a son, and a best friend. Something I never said before, maybe I couldn’t, but I think my music life ended when he died. Oh yeah, I carried on and I existed, but the real joy and love, the real lightning and thunder is gone forever.”