1938 Don Drowty October 5th. Virgil Drowty (Sweden) Mary Churchill (England)
My parents had been cheerleaders in High School in Chesterton, Indiana. My father
often abused my mother. My mother worked in an ammunition plant in Gary, Indiana during WWII
and after the war, employees passed the hat to help her escape. She drove up route 66 in Chicago and
headed west. Historic Route 66 ended at Santa Monica Beach.
1947 A struggling Life in Santa Monica
I only saw my father a few days during the rest of my life. They arrived in Santa Monica
safe, hungry and with $22.00. My mother rented a small garage at Lincoln Blvd and Broadway and we
lived there for years. My mother moved 16 times in the next 10 years. I bounced through 11 schools and
7 were in Santa Monica.
1955 Jobs for Juniors at Santa Monica High School
While in the 11th grade at S.M.H.S., Samohi, I thought up a school run program that would
recommend students for employment. I handed in a complete plan and painted the signs that appeared in
newspapers. This Evening Outlook photo shows a picture of me at age 16, getting the first job and the sign
I handed in to get the city and my high school to give it all a try is hanging on the wall. Another treat was the
sport coat my mother bought for me. I graduated from Samohi in 1956.
1957 United States Army Service
Don graduated from Samohi in 1956 and was a lost soul in the West L.A. area. He had little
contact with his parents for years and had no ideas on what to do with his life. He flunked out of Santa Monica
College and followed a few friends into the U.S. Army.
1960 First Record hits Number One in America
Bill Young, Tony Moon and Frank Rosenthal (Samohi football star and school president Class of 1958),
and I (Class of 1956) were discovered at Santa Monica College by Dean Torrance (Jan and Dean). Herb Alpert
and Lou Alder produced and managed our group. Our 1st recording hit #1 as charted in Cashbox and
Record World Magazines. I will always be grateful to Herb, Lou, Jerry, Gill, Michel and all for years of
caring and help.
1960 First Appearance on American Bandstand
After our 1st record hit#1 on the East Coast, our group did our first Dick Clark T.V. appearance
and we were one of the first white groups to play all black venues. We played the Apollo in Harlem, the Brooklyn
Paramount, The Uptown in Philly and the Howard in Washington D.C. America was highly challenged racially
and we were witness to much of it. It was a blow to my soul and I had never seen such hate.
1960 Santa Monica Civic Charity Concert
After returning from our 1st concert tour, we joined Jan & Dean by performing at the
Santa Monica Civic Auditorium for an all girls charity fashion show. I had been shocked by racism in
America and saw charity shows as a tool to benefit all children and others.
1960 Concerts For Special Children
We did a charity concert with Jan & Dean at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and that opened
my mind to how many concerts we could do for the children who are bed ridden, wheelchair bound, on
Indian Nations, or in hospitals, etc. We did our first concert in 1960 & we do them even today. It seems to do
more for our band than for the special kids.
1965 Red Cross Volunteer Services
I served eight years of active duty and in the reserves of our U.S. Army. When discharged,
I was stunned to learn that some of my Santa Monica High School friends were killed in action in the
Vietnam War. I had been volunteering for the Santa Monica Red Cross and went to work at the new
Red Cross office at 11th and Broadway. One of my first volunteer jobs was to begin helping with
1965 Military Funeral Support
One of Don's friends in Santa Monica was Danny Varner, a young man who had a very
tough childhood. When Danny died in Vietnam, Don began working in the background to get out a crowd
to honor Danny. Don still does that and more today.
1965 Service for Veterans and their Families
I had been on the road singing with Ray Charles, James Brown, Brenda Lee, Neil Sedaka,
Dion and dozens of my favorite singers. When I was in Santa Monica schools, many of these stars joined
me in providing necessities for our troops and their families.
1967 Beginning Out of Pocket Free Youth Services
Many Santa Monicans encouraged him to keep up the brotherhood, love and caring actions for
challenged Children in Santa Monica, West L.A. and across many Western States. Key people were
Fred Judson, Trinity Baptist Church, the Ramsey family, Stanley Mosk, teachers, businesses, police and
fire workers. Don didn't have much money but began paying for it all. Your heart is often where
your money goes.
1967 Free Youth Fine Arts Centers
Don returned to College and his studies improved. He had been writing and singing with
Herb Alpert and started a music partnership with a great friend in N.Y.C. named Bert Berns. Don opened
up a West Coast office for Robert Mellin Music in Hollywood and started a Youth Center on Pico Blvd
and crowds of kids did come.
1968 Free Photo, Art, Crafts and Music Classes
The only classes I got strong grades in while in High School and College were fine arts classes.
Our vocal groupís bass singer, Frank Rosenthal, married Ann Gowland and her father and mother were
famous photographers and in 1961 they had given me my 1st camera. I was getting good at photography
and we taught free classes in all those subjects. Many music business people helped in our music classes, etc.
1968 Moved from Music Business into Education
Even though the careers of Bert Berns and Herb Alpert had taken off and they were
knocking off many hits, Don stuck to his new calling and went in a new direction as he decided to be a
teacher and work in minority areas. Money quickly ran out.
1968 Native American Cultural Exchange
During Don's 1st Project TOUCH free deliveries to Native Americans, he made many
lifelong friends. Since that 1st trip, we have taken over 1,000 students out to volunteer for disabled,
abused, orphaned, ill, troubled and needy children. We have also brought many Native Americans to
West L.A. for educational and fine arts enrichment. Please note photos from 2000 with
Denzel, Moss, Jan & Dean & more.
1968 Project TOUCH Supplies Donated to needy kids
A rally was held one Saturday at our Youth Arts Center and a huge crowd showed up.
L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley became one of our best allies. We asked kids what was troubling in their lives
and their list was long and sometimes foolish. Two Indian kids had attended that meeting and said they
had no electric or bathrooms in many of their homes. Soon every young person stopped complaining and
wanted to help the families on that Indian Reservation. We went to Lawrence Welk and the owners of
The Horn (night club) and our first deliveries to Indians were rolling. From our first year until 1990 his
key support came from Herb Alpert, Jerry Moss and Gil Freisen, founders and owners and president of
A&M Records and composer Michel Colombier.
1969 Primary, Secondary & College Student Awards 1969
We began to make each child's life as positive as possible by giving them as much real love,
caring, tutoring, clothes, shoes, books, wheelchairs and much more. We also had large and small gatherings
after school, weekends and during school where we saluted each child's progress and good deeds with awards
and limelight caring.
1970 Support Services
Don began providing food baskets and a few doctors & dentists provided free care as
well as all that you see in 1969 "School Awards" just before this paragraph. Trinity Baptist Church loaned
us many large rooms in their educational building. We ran our first eleven free programs out of those
1972 Senior Citizens Services & Field Trips
We began visiting older citizens who were lonely or unable to get out much or even
take good care of themselves. The Santa Monica Sunrise Optimists Club gave me a little financial support
along with our Santa Monica Red Cross & we took hundreds of seniors on outings, to movies, to be tutors,
on picnics and more. Fun for all.
1972 1st American Red Cross Youth Choir
I began teaching school at Madison Elementary School on Santa Monica Blvd & 11th Street.
I was now working about two blocks from our Red Cross office & began using the Madison Auditorium & our
Red Cross hall for running many youth programs. All programs were after school and on weekends. The biggest
was the first American Red Cross Choir with children from nine public and private schools. We made many
recordings about helping others and were joined by many famous stars.
1972 Celebrity Red Cross Commercials
The founding of the first American Red Cross Children's Choir was just the beginning of new
ideas and exploring new activities with our Red Cross, as well as building up our fund raising and more support
for our blood drives and life saving classes & more. Don then requested help from Herb Alpert, Paul Williams,
Jan & Dean, The Captain & Tennille, our Santa Monica Mayor, and Dr. Wilson Riles, our
State Superintendent of Education.
1973 Una Familia/Welcome New Americans Dinners
We started having these dinners, luncheons and picnics with lots of entertainment and lots of
love for people from Mexico, South America, Asia, Africa and around our world. When I served in the Army
and as I sang around America, I witnessed many dangerous groups of white men (hate comes in all colors)
bring terror, beatings, torture, filthy language, frame ups and even murder to black people, Asians, Jews,
Catholics, Native Americans, Hispanics and more. I witnessed the oppressed peoples form groups to protect
themselves and soon their children started gangs. Today many of us live in fear of these dangerous gangs, who
often act just like the horrible men who dished out hate and even death to their families (because of their race,
color or faith). We arrange these welcomes to America gatherings to try to stop the cycles of hate and lunacy
that seem to rise up with each new generation. We are just using love to lead the way and to stop the chain of
violence by also caring, welcoming and service through decent actions. English classes too.
1973 Gift Parties for Teachers
In a five year period, huge amounts of free art, medical, educational supplies, new clothes and shoes,
wheelchairs, stereo equipment, office equipment and much, much more were coming in. All the space donated by
Trinity Baptist Church was being used and even a hangar at our Santa Monica Airport was loaned out. We began
to have free gift parties for area teachers (Hundreds of minority area teachers too). still do this today. These gift
parties were very large and all items were new.
1973 Optimists Club Member 35 Years
You may have noticed that the Santa Monica Sunrise Optimists Club offered help in some of our
free activities. In 1973, Mr. Norm Green and Mr. Pete Peters came to Madison Elementary School and asked
Mr. Drowty to join their club and run as many youth activities as he could and they would pay his membership dues.
In two years they were selected the number one Optimists Club in California.
1974 Santa Monica All City Elementary Choir
Mr. Drowty's 1st children's choir which recorded for the Red Cross, led Mr. Drowty to start
another choir and you see the name of that choir above. If you remember his first home in Santa Monica was
a garage, he was now a teacher, but he was living in a very small apartment near 17th & Arizona and he worked
after school many nights and weekends. He also started the Madison Music Machine which recorded with
Quincy Jones, Michel Colombier & dozens of local 47 music stars. Lillian Abelson and Don Drowty wrote
the Santa Monica Theme Song titled "That Santa Monica Feeling". It was one of many songs recorded and
released in Santa Monica.
1974 Madison Theater Entertainment Project
This was the only project that Don dreamed of that generally met deaf ears when he wrote
letters with plans and outlines for developing the Madison Auditorium into a great show place for entertainment
in the heart of Santa Monica. Bill Bixby began broadcasting his radio show from the Madison Auditorium, also,
concerts with Drowty's friends from the music business, O.C. Smith, The Lennon Sisters and others entertained
at ďOUR MADISON AUDITORIUM.Ē
1975 Celebrity Guests for Parades and Schools
All of our many free programs and activities just led to one program after another sprouting
up and flowering to benefit and enrich our youth and our community. Some of our greatest supporters were
Mel Blanc, Herb Alpert, Ron Howard, Quincy Jones, The Carpenters, Herbie Hancock, Paul and Mentor Williams
and dozens more. Iron Eyes Cody and I has become great friends. He was much older than he told people and
I picked him up day after day to go out and work for kids in crisis and others. When he passed away he was 94.
Whenever he met a single woman he said he was 59.
1975 Westwood Village Sertoma Club 10 Years
This year I was contacted by my Samohi friend, Bill Keane, to make a presentation to his
Westwood Service to Mankind Club. I really liked this service organization and they helped me a few times
over the next few years. I joined the club and have been a member off and on again, as I moved away quite
often to work for special children with very special needs on Indian Reservations in Arizona and New Mexico.
1975 Street Peoples Services (transients)
Three times a week we would drive the downtown area to offer free sandwiches, fresh fruit,
healthy drinks and water along with simple medicines to people who were living in doorways, alleys, under
highway bridges, in parking lots and worse.
1977 Pride Clubs of the Americas
When Proposition 13 passed in California, there were benefits and many negatives. One real
blow to education was the loss of music in our nations schools. With the help of Jerry Moss, Herb Alpert,
Gil Friesen and their A&M Records we gathered hundreds of volunteers and went to work on our own
Music Enrichment Program for teachers around America and even from other countries. Within months we
had enlisted the support of many of our Nationís biggest music stars as well as our own local 47 musicians union.
Here are a few of the wonderful stars who helped lift up music education in our schools. The Carpenters,
Herb Alpert, Atlantic Starr, Paul Williams, Quincy Jones, Roy Rogers-Dales Evans, Mel Blanc, Ron Howard,
Sting, Amy Grant, Jan & Dean, The Beachboys, Rita Coolidge, Hoyt Axton, The Captain and Tennille,
Bill Dana, O.C. Smith, Jeffrey Osbourne and dozens of others Including Michel Colombier.
1977 The American Music Project
When proposition 13 passed in California, there were deep cuts in many major areas of
need in our state. One of the areas that was hard hit was music in our schools. With the help of Herb Alpert
and Jerry Moss (founders and co-chairs of one of the largest independent record companies; A&M Records).
Don Drowty developed a music minus one program for our nationís schools. A&M was joined by the
Yamaha Music Corporation and the California State Department of Education and the list of record companies,
recording studios and major stars began to grow and grow.
CAP Airlift aids Indian Youngsters - 102 Trips Have Gone Out Since 1968
Supporting Our Fire Fighters during massive lightning fires in Butte County, California in 2008.