Donny Ziegelbein’s friends hosting a musical celebration of his life |

Donny Ziegelbein’s friends hosting a musical celebration of his life

Donny Ziegelbein in his most natural habitat, making music with a guitar in his hand. Donny Z died, and many of his friends are gathering Saturday night in the Sonnenalp's Kings Club to play music and remember.
Special to the Daily |

If You Go

What: Donny Z’s best friends

When: 8-11 p.m. Saturday

Where: King’s Club, Sonnenalp

Cost: No cover charge

Information: A musical gathering and celebration of Donny Z’s friends from all over the country

VAIL — Donny Ziegelbein — Donny Z — didn’t waste his life doing things he did not want to do.

Lucky for us Donny Z wanted to play music and make friends.

“For better or worse he never spent one day doing anything he didn’t want to do,” said his daughter, Meg Ziegelbein.

Occasionally it upset the domestic tranquility, she said.

“But in a 9-5 world people wake up, go to work, pay the bills. People can hate it, and do it anyway. He didn’t,” Meg Ziegelbein said. “He lived every day doing exactly what he wanted to do.”

Several of Donny Z’s friends are presenting a musical tribute Saturday night in the Sonnenalp Hotel’s King’s Club in Vail, one of the many places Donny Z played.

Surfing and stories

Donny Z was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and spent lots of time surfing and fishing at Cape Hatteras.

He went to college for about a semester, but there was this obstacle.

“To get to college he had to cross a bridge and you could see the ocean. If the waves were good he’d skip class and surf,” Meg Ziegelbein said.

Meg Ziegelbein said Donny Z was lots of things, but he was a great dad.

“Dad was the ultimate Peter Pan. He lived every moment with a child-like whimsy,” she said. “He dedicated his life to making incredible music and even better friendships.”

We know Donny Z was an amazing storyteller, but here’s one you might not. He a stellar high school athlete, championed the underdog and was even the homecoming king.

“‘DZ’, which is what I always called him, was Uncle Donny to both my daughters, and DZ was my brother for 40 years,” said Brad Quayle. “We started playing music together in the ’70s, and continued to always have fun standing side by side entertaining audiences both small and large.”

In the fifth-grade he started playing worship services in his Catholic church, and never stopped.

He got started with some lessons, but mostly he taught himself. He’d find a song or watch a video and figure it out on his own, like most pickers.

He played in lots of bands and lots of places … 50 years of stories.

“Every story about someone he’d met started with ‘and they were just the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet.’ He didn’t have any acquaintances, just best friends,” Meg Ziegelbein said.

Smee Too

Donny Z was a tricoastal musician, traveling the U.S. for months. Colorado was home, as was Virginia, then he’d hit fishing tournaments in Texas.

He played the guitar, he sang, he laughed a lot and cried occasionally.

He’d occasionally confide that his greatest heartbreak was the day his band, Smee Too, was set to ink a record deal. They were in the studio ready to sign the contract when the studio executives came in and told them the label was going in a different direction. No warning, just rejection.

“It took him a long time to get over that, and he really didn’t until he got to Colorado,” Meg Ziegelbein said. “Playing in the Sonnenalp meant so much. In that room with those people, that was it.”

“Short of a record deal that was all he ever would have asked for.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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