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Darrell Connor became friends with country music icon Don Helms

By Susan Shinn
sshinn@salisburypost.com
Darrell Connor never thought he’d become friends with one of the legends of country music.
But he’s proud to count Don Helms among his friends.
Helms was the last surviving member of the Drifting Cowboys, the band for Hank Williams Sr.
Helms, 81, died Aug. 11, just two days after Connor, the Rev. David Ridenhour and others performed a tribute show in his honor.
Helms played the steel guitar with Williams and Patsy Cline and others. He was one of the innovators of country music, Connor says, “a legend in his own time.”
Just after Thanksgiving 2004, Ridenhour contacted Connor about putting together a band for Helms for a fundraiser at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.
But Helms had a stroke early that year, which affected his picking arm. It was the only show he ever missed in his career, Connor says.
Connor and Ridenhour went to visit Helms ó Ridenhour had known him for years.
He met a modest and loving couple. When Connor left the home of Helms and his wife, “Miss Hazel,” he felt like family.
“We went ahead and did the concert and did real well,” Connor says. Another fundraiser followed in July 2006. This time, the couple stayed with Connor, which he says was “awesome.”
Connor kept in touch with Helms, talking to him by phone once a month. When it came time to do a fundraiser for the Family Life Center at St. Matthews Lutheran Church, he wanted Helms to return for it.
But Helms had another stroke, coupled with a heart attack.
“We figured Don would want us to go on the way we did the first time,” Connor says.
Between that fundraiser and a concert Connor put on at his house, the events raised close to $5,000. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans provided matching funds.
Helms wrote a book “Settin’ the Woods on Fire,” (there was a Hank Williams Sr. song of the same name) and autographed several copies for Connor over the years.
“He was the most modest man,” Connor says. “I run my mouth too much sometimes.”
When Helms sent one of the books, he sent along one of his coveted steel guitar slides.
He holds it gently in his hand.
“You can tell it’s been used,” Connor says. “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for it.”
Connor and his band, D.C. and the Chosen Few, play just about every day ó they mainly appear at nursing homes. Connor is retired from the Salisbury Police Department.
The band recently played a the Kannapolis YMCA and at Union Lutheran Church’s Community Day.
Don Helms would be proud.
If you’d like D.C. and the Chosen Few to play for your group, call 704-637-6261.

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