Area musicians and friends of Don Eagle will salute the memory of one of Spokane’s best-known players next Saturday at The Crescent Court. A private graveside service was held Thursday at Fairmount Memorial Park.
They’ll honor the longtime guitarist, who died this week at the age of 78. The memorial service will start at 2 p.m. and include tributes by people who worked with Mr. Eagle for decades.
It will include music played by many who knew Mr. Eagle over the more than 40 years he performed in Spokane.
“Music was his life,” said his sister-in-law, Nancy Eagle.
He grew up in west Spokane and enrolled at Gonzaga University, where he became a friend of Bing Crosby. After graduation, he went to California like Crosby to pursue a career in music.
An arranger and performer, Mr. Eagle got work with some of the best bands of the era: Louie Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Paul Whiteman and Glenn Miller.
He spent much of World War II touring for the USO entertaining troops.
After the war he formed a group called “The Three Dons” and toured widely across the Western United States.
From time to time he worked with Crosby and with Crosby’s musician sons. Mr. Eagle appeared in Crosby’s movie, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” plus two other films.
He returned to Spokane in the 1950s and quickly became one of the town’s busier club performers. His main group, The Don Eagle Quartet, entertained for 17 years at the Ridpath Hotel.
“He was a great player and a walking encyclopedia of popular music,” said Bob Juhlin, a singer with big bands and a Spokane friend of Mr. Eagle’s.
He remembers being at Mr. Eagle’s house in the 1970s while Mr. Eagle received four phone calls from another former Spokane musician, pianist Jimmy Rowles.
Rowles was calling Mr. Eagle, much the way others around the country who knew him, did.
“Jimmy would be asking Don, ‘How does that one song go?’ Or the next call was: ‘What’s the bridge to such-and-such tune?’ And Don would always hum it for him. He knew the music.”
Mr. Eagle was also a devoted advocate and alumnus of North Central High School, which he had attended.
He was assistant football coach there and often attended team games with an honorary letter jacket given by the team.
He is survived by his wife of 61 years, June; two daughters Joyce Dimond of Englewood, Colo. and Shirley Deranleau of Spokane; one brother Daryl Eagle of Spokane; one sister Alvina Morrison of Spokane; eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
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