Born Donald Ray Julian in Houston, Texas, United States, in his teens he moved to Los Angeles, California, where he began performing with local bands.
He performed both solo and with backing bands. His most famous backing group was "The Meadowlarks" (later named The Larks), although most of his film music was performed with instrumental funk bands. The Meadowlarks is considered the first integrated doo-wop group. In 1954, Don Julian and the Meadowlarks' debut single "Heaven and Paradise" became popular with R&B fans. In 1964, the single, "The Jerk" was released under the name The Larks. The single, released on the Money label, was Julian's only chart hit. It went to number one on both the Billboard R&B chart and the Cash Box R&B chart and peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Julian also recorded several solo albums for a variety of record labels throughout the 1970s.