The Founder: Don Bernier

Born in 1937, Don Julian Bernier, “founded” Julian Records in 1961 while working as a disc jockey at the Wenatchee, WA radio station KMEL. Don had started DJ-ing at the age of 19, having graduated valedictorian from Winthrop High School in northern Washington.

Bernier, pictured in 1991. Credit: Wenatchee World

Bernier, pictured in 1991. Credit: Wenatchee World

At 24, Don originally started Julian Records to release “Blane” Gifford’s songs. A 25 year old aspiring musician Robert Blane Gifford had brought a reel of a self-written song to Don, hoping that he could play it on the radio. They then went into a business partnership that would last until the late 60’s.  The label’s name came from Don, who’s middle name was Julian. Gifford eventually recorded under his real name (On Julian J-112), but early in his career he chose to record as “Blane”, to retain some of his anonymity around town.

Throughout Julian’s active years, Gifford moved down to California for a few years before returning to Washington state in the late ’60s. Gifford’s involvement with the running label was almost solely behind the scenes. Since Don was one of the most popular jockeys on KMEL, he had a lot of power in pushing new music and played local music as much as possible, often interviewing groups on the air and advertising their performances. Aside from Frank Cook’s releases on the label, Don produced all of the Julian recordings, most of which  recorded at Spokane’s Sound Recording Studios (most known for recording singer Bing Crosby in the 1950s).

The center label was designed by the pressing plant. Robert & Don had wanted it to look like the waves of the ocean, and were both disappointed when they got the first record back in the mail. The green and pink color scheme was utilized as it was 2 colors frequently used during the Apple Blossom Festival (a yearly festival held in the Wenatchee Valley). After using 2 different publishing names, they finally settled on “Apple Capitol Music”, playing on Wenatchee being known as the “Apple Capital of the World”. This name did create some complications as years went on, with the unbelievable fame the Beatles gained in the ’60s. Originally the Beatles’ US records were released on Capitol Records, until 1968 when they began releasing material on Apple Records. Both Bernier and Gifford received countless calls over the years from people believing them to be the Beatles’ record company.

When Gifford had returned from California, he and Bernier had plans to start another label, Gale Records, hoping to perfect their “waves of the ocean” center label. Aside from the Julian releases 112 and 113 released as a “Gale Production”, the Gale label never came to fruition.

Robert Gifford kept playing and recording music until the ’80s but never released anything after his last Julian release. Bernier remained at KMEL (later KWWW or Kw3) through the ’90s and became well known for his great taste in music and eccentric broadcasts.

When Don passed in 2010 the Wenatchee World published this article on him:
“Don Bernier Taught Wenatchee How To Rock”


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