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plaint and train song, with Western brutality Reno, just to watch him die"). to Town;' is a mournful
("I shot a man in
His 1958, "Don't Take Your Guns rhythm change,
dirge with an interesting
about a cowboy who spurns his mama's advice with fatal consequences. In real life Ca~~ and his band members, perhaps too carelessly, took theirguns to whatever in motels and in cars. towns they played, discharging them
Once, on HollywoodBoulevard,Johnny and fiddlerGordon
Terry tied upand gagged singerWarren Smith. Then they drove up to a bank, Johnny armed with a shotgun and Colt .45 ...but a blase pedestrianwalked up and simply ask~d how to get to Hollywood Bnd Vine. Johnny practiced with his single-action Colt .45 till he could cock, kept that thing cleaned
draw, and fire in less than ~ ilialf-second "I ...
with powder solvent, oiled her down every day and had a hair spring trigger." Sometimes at night Johnnywould strap on his piece and go
out in the yard looking for bad men •••"I thought it was 1881 and ~Qmebody was comin'after me .•.Wound up shootin' every tree in the yard
full of holes and God only knows why I didn't shoot off all my toes." Then Johnny bought a cap-and-ball addicted Civil War pistol, and became
to the smell of black powder ("I was like a wild burro.
It does strange things to a man •..").
(14a) in the 1960s scenes scruffy some of Johnny Cash's album covers Johnny realistically looked like like a title
from Italian Westerns. outlaw, appearing
"Mean as Hell"--to quote one album's
song about a Te xa e t own unbelievablytough on whatever to live there.
man or beast had
Johnny cash is part Cherokee, and in 1964 his Bitter Tears Indian album appeared. Several of the songs were by Peter La Farge, notably.
"The Ballad of Ira Hays" about _ an Iwo Jima, World War II hero dies drunk in an irrigation some disc jockeys refused ditch on an Arizona reservation. When
to play it Johnny
a full page in The
to ask radio stations,
"Where are your guts, etc."
song still managed he wrote·~ to a vanished Indian victory Leaves"
to become Number Three. Apache bones
In "Apache Tears" which mute monuments that an and "Talking
tribe; his song GliI) "Custer" over white troops is called
and his Cherokee
(lS) alphabet. Indians would come to Cash's defense in 1967, when he was sued for $125,127 by the U.S. Government. camper's exhaust had destroyed Two years earlier~sparks from his
508 acres of California
forest land. Califor-
nia's Tribal Land Rights Association
threatened to claim all the Fores t if the officials didn't ease up
Service land in southern California, on Johnny Cash! the government ny
They cited an 1887 settlement gave the Indian position
act, but of course respect .•.John-
finally agreed to a slightly reduced figure and paid it. Also in 1965, a rough period for Johnny personally, the "Man in
Black" recorded the double-album Records, its
Ballads of the True West for Columbia
taking its title from True West magazine.
In Austin he/visited him on
editorial offices, where founder Joe Small encouraged
his plans (the album had originally English-born Don Law). Acid Tex
been suggested by Columbia producer, ideas
Ritter added to Cash's developing
by talking for three hours into a tape recorder. books by J. Frank Dobie, ballad-collector popularizer B. A. Botkin.
Johnny also perused
John A. Lomax, and folklore
Johnny did his field research by jeep, sleeping on the ground, meditating in an Indian cemetary, drinking occasionally cactus and hunting from a barrel
rabbits with a Bowie knife •.."Yes, it was an obsession, It's still there, even though the
but I learned the ways of the West. people I sirg about are all gone ..."
Back home, Johnny screened over 300 songs. West contains
Ballads of the True great Carl
"The Ballad of Boot Hill" by rockabilly
Per ki.n t "Hardin Wouldn't Run" about the no t o.r t ous Texas k i.Ll er t Johnny's s own "Mean as Hell'_) and "25 'Minutes to Go," which Johnny got from prisoner whQ doesn't
Tex Ritter, about a drunken, gallows-bound
intend to go gently into that good night. interspersed.
The album has narrations
The 1972 Johnny Cash: America, a 200-Year Salute in
Story and Song has tunes like "Remember the Alamq" and "Big Foot" (written celebrating by Cash) and several narrations / . Westward migration. Guy A 1977 hit for Johnny was/Clark's elegiac "The Last Gunfighter Ballad," about an old man whose memories of "the smell of the black
powder smoke/ And the stand in the street at the turn of a joke" fatally are/interrupted by the 20th century in the shape of an unseen automobile at an intersection. The Johnny Cash Museum in Hendersonville Western artifacts--balls displays characteristic
and chains from (where else?) Folsom Prison,
an exhibit of "Wire that OMU&J Fenced the West," original drawings by Remington, a .44-.40 Winchester carbine purportedly owned by Buffalo
Bill Cody, and a Colt Single-action
Army pistol owned by Hank Williams.
Also under glass are copies of scripts from Johnny Cash films •.. another phase in his crowded career (see pp.
5. The Hollywood-~-Nashville
and Trail: Sheb Wooley/ Tex Ritter,
SheIby': Wooley was born on a farm in Ericka, Oklahoma and grew up pasturing had never been ploughed, see hundreds steers on his father's ranch.
Much of the ground
and Qver several acres young Shelby could where tl:eherds would roll in Occasionally he \IovOuld find an arrow-
of bufflo wallows--places
the dirt to shed their winter coats.
head, and in his imagina tion::::::::; "see the great shaggybeasts being could pursued by Indian braves on spotted ponies." , Sheb, as he came to be called:l began rodeoing "until I found out there was an easier way to Wooley traded career has
make a living than falling off them damn horses."
a shotgun for a guitar, and for the rest ot his complicated never turned his back on music.
He began playing parties that were
awash with horne brew,though
free of fights.
in the~ecember Nashville
In 1945 he carne to Nashville, 1945 session
and the four songs he recorded
for Bullet Records were the first on portable equipment nor in WSM's studio." of himself pictures
songs cut "neither
He also sang on WLAC radio, and over the air sold pictures for 25¢ apiece. of himself He even began hawking
a song book containing
posed with singers connection
Ernest Tubb and Eddy2 Arnold,
his professional Finally
with Eddy consisted
of mowing his grass.
Wooley was fired from WLAC for allegedly firm. Certain in
publishing executives Hollywood guess maybe
his songs 5xm his radio show with a Chicago sensed Sheb's abilities and encouraged might better
the young man to go West, go West ..."I I looked and acted
they either thought they jus t wan ted Sheb detoured
like a cowboy,
to ge t me out
town." singing on the radio, acting lessons.
to Texas for a few years,
then finally reached Hollywood, He was selectee
and took a few months' (Warner Bros.,
for Rocky Mountain
1950), with Errol
Flynn and Slim Pickens. soldiers attempted called helped coming across
Sheb plays the leader of a "bunch of ragtail the South after the Civil War ...shining Wymore, the heroine of the flick." in his Sheb
rape of Patricia
Errol Flynn "a hard boozer and a nice guy," since Flynn and him get conspicuous footageja chance for more film work. was filmed in Tucumcari, New Mexico,
and at the hotel bar him for her illusions time with
one night an enthusiastic
Errol Flynn (they both had beards). --"I
Sheb did not ~ll
did some of my best acting that night. accent."
I had a helluva
Sheb Wooley next got into a Gary Cooper movie, and recalls playing the guitar in the evenings with Coop' joining him on harmonica. ~avorite, He
played with Cooper in the film that is his personal Noon (United Artists,
of Ben Miller
(18 ) impressed fellow singer-songwriter-actor Merle Travis:
When I saw Ben Miller waiting for his brother to arrive on the the twelve o'clock train I hated him! His ex-convict brother, Frank, was returning to kill the sheriff who had made the arrest. Ben was~swaggering, trigger-happy, unshaven, drunken egotist. I felt he deserved it when Gary Cooper shot the scoundrel and he fell face down in a dusty, deserted street. Sheb Wooley was also in such Westerns 1951) with Lloyd Bridges, (Lippert, as Little Big Horn (Lippert, Hellgate
John Ireland and Hugh O'Brian;
1952) with Sterling Hayden,
James Arness and Ward Bond; and
Man Wi thout ~ Star (Universal-Int:et:ratiaru,1955)wi Douglas. th Kirk When George 1956) he invited drunken speech. Stevens was preparing to ,direct Giant (Warner Bros., climactic eyes--"Now
Sheb to read the Jett Rink character's Sheb's audition brought
tears to Stevens'
'I s~e I can get sympathy
for Jett Rink"--and
since James Dean had ~lyeoc!J But his
been hired for the Rink role, Sheb was given a smaller part. real job was to teach Dean his own Oklahoma-Texas In 1958 Sheb Wooley four-and-a-half accent.
went to work in the TV series Rawhide. Pete Nolan,
of its seven years he portrayed
on the cattle drive.
Clint Eastwood waS Ro~dy Yates in the series, and blistered
and SH@b recalls a saddle-sore used to riding
trying to get
("he was allergic
Sheb wrote a few Rawhide the "world's second
Also in 1958 there appeared
fas tes t selling recordJ' ~ written and performed
the infamous "Purple People Eater" but by Sheb Wooley;/he was too busy with Rawhide
to go out on tour.
Though he didn't write~the
theme song from
Rawhide, years later he would retain Once when he was in Viet-Nam was forced to keep playing rollin'"
the song in his live repe~oire. Sheb's band "Rollin', rollin',
over and over inanely, while waiting
for the star to make
his en trance. _ Sheb was momen tari ly auto f action of "Rollin', rollin', from diarrhea, he finally
but after eight minutes hit the stage.
Sheb Wooley also sang and wrote most of
. ( .. S ." Song~ from the Days of Rawhlde 9 )he b ' s compos lton M. rrag e " eva k es A the famous "Cool Water"; his "Goodnight Loving Trail" narrates a cattle
drive on a famous trail, where Indians attack but "We shot them down them devils, ears and all." the Windows," tune: Some of the
with musket balls! We scalped songs are co-written, dirge,
such as 'Bars Across
and "Lonely Man," an old time cowboy
He must drift evermore on the range Fer that old wanderlust in his veins Makes him strangely akin To the strong restless wind That blows .•. A second concept-album is Tales of How the West Was Won (MGM, 1963), The songs (and reci ta tions)
capitalizing' .~ on the movie of tha t name. form a loose narrative
West" from Kentucky--where
of people who "Gatta Pull Up Stakes and Move on "It's Injun country to mention but I don't care! For by Don celebrates "Wagon pathos, Indian
elbow room, I'll risk my hair," Robertson. The excellent
a song written
the fur trade, too often neglected Master's Diary •••Buffalo Ittcaces Stamp~de"
Wooley's of realism,
is a masterpiece
and courage. attacks graves
a wagon train across
the plains through
("We'll try to reach the river before
day is done! Dug eight snow storm as bad as of the the
instead of one"), and on through a mountain
that which assailed the Donner party. emi~rants building die before
In all about one-third
they reach California.
Other songs chronicle
of a railroad, girl.
farming in a new land, and the charms of a
include The Outlaw Joesy a violently realistic
Wales with Clint Eastwood film praised
(Warner Bros., 1976),
and damned with mach intensity 1986; also in video),
and Uphill all
the Way (Melody, besieged starring Hee Haw ----
where Sheb plays a storekeeper end-of-the-West spoof,
by bandits. Nashville's
This film is a slapstick,
Mel Tillis, plus Roy Clark,
the stars of television's
(Sheb wrote He~ Haw's theme song). -- --with Nashville (he lives in Hendersonville),
Long identified Sheb Wooley continues when Hollywood andAGene country
to tour as a singer, and reports for duty
calls (as with Jane Fonda in the TV classic _-_ The Dollmaker in Hoosiers). He is remembered for his Ben Colder
and, incredibly, after t h i r t y years "Purpl,e But among his countless record
People Eater" is 'gotngto inspire a movie. albums, the two Sheb Wooley concept-albums
of the West merit reissue.
The famous Western actor and singer Tex Ritter yea rs
lived the last nine
f his 1 ife inN ash viII e, dyin gin
19 74 ina n epis 0 de
t might have
come from_a Country, if not a Wes~ern; song. Texwas at the Nashville jail, bailing out a band member who was being held for non-support, attack struck. He died in the emergency room when a heart at Baptist Hospital.~
h1infield;1 said "the people of Tennessee Dunn
have los t a hero," and singer-wri ter when Tex was buried back in Texas. in Murvaul, Texas in
Tom T. Hall was one of the pallbearers Woodard,
Maurice Ritter was born in 1905,
Panola County'"!'His father was of German descent, fought in the American Colonials, Revolutio~
and his forebears had then for the
first for the British, offered
and "George Washington
free land on the fron tier
if they would stay--the and Kentucky."
frontier at that time of course being Tennessee then Frank Ritter,
They settled near Shelbyvl'lle, T ennessee;
"Tex's first name is usuallfgivenas Woodward,but The Handbook of Texas, Vol. III(1976) -cites original documents wi th the "Woodard"spelling.
\21 ) Texis great-grandfather, moved ln 1830 to Texas, Panola County heritage." six years before
the Alamo and independence.
folk were "very good people, Yo ung wo odard 's father
but with a very deep Tennessee raised cotton, corn, peanuts,
hogs and cattle,
and "would ride two The
days and a night and carry his own fiddle for square dancing." boy early learned to ride and rope, and began soaking up cowboy
"tall tales" and songs. was a high school debater At the University science
He loved to argue "law cases" as a boy and at the top of his class. in political and he studied
of Texas (1922-27) he majored subject),
(history being his other favorite
law for a year.
But he fell under the spell of John A. Lomax, ( who , d discovered
cowboy song collector
on the Range ") ,
as well as maverick
J. Frank Dobie, who more than Under the into Lomaxglee
anyone made Wes tern folklore academically respectable. fluence of Oscar J. Fox, who wrote commercial lyrics, Ritter became president with the guitar melodies
of the university
club, while dabbling In 1928 mtffir~ Maryland
and trumpet. of Maryland, ~ He got into the
seeing every performance
at the Hancock Opera House in Austin.
show's male chorus, went on the road and ended in New York, where at times he subsisted on French fries flooded with free ketchup, Northwestern University
That same year he seems to have entered in Chicago and mountain to study law.
Yet also in 1929 he was singing cowboy as perhaps "the first
songs on station KPRC in Houston, singer on American radio."
major Western written
A 1930 letter survives explaining that he will miss
to his adviser
his final examinations the Hammers tein-Romberg had joined the Theater
due to his part in the men's chorus of show, The New Moon,' in New York. Ri tter
GUild, and was about to study "vo· "t lce
his Texas accent when a lady casting director "the boy's authentic"--and he became
tartly pronounced and Franchot Tone's
understudy in J.2l;:een Grow the Lil_acs, predecessor to Oklahoma. (Appropriately; the title song itself derives from Texas and the Mexican War.) became "Tex" to the cas t and crew. Immediately Woodard
Next he was Sagebrush Charlie in The
Round-QE. Then he was Red Dog in a drama about the founding of San Francisco called Mother Lode,with Melvyn Douglas. Soon Tex was the featured singer with the Madision Square Garden Radio in 1932, becoming the "most important Western performer in the East" via the New York radio --in "The Lone Star Ranger" (WOR, 1932), "Maverick Jim" (WOR) , "Death Valley Days," and "WHN Barn Dance" (1934) plus "Tex Ritter's Campfire" (WHN). For three years
(1933-36) he was co-star of "Cowboy Tom's Roundup" (CBS; WHN: WMCA) , the most popular children's radio show on the East Coast, abetted by Pawnee Chief Joseph Shunatona. Tex Music," also had a one-man him road show, "The American Cowboy and His
S'i.ng.ng Lecturer." i
In 1933 Tex Ritter began recording cowboy songs for ARC (American Record Co.), and the discs are reportedly rather primitive, vocally and instrumentally, if realis tic. ' Edward J. Finney records. of CrandeNat ional. Pictures: was impressed with Tex' s when Finney approached him'
Tex was working at a New Jersey dude ranch
with an unorthodox offer. as movie producer.
He would simultaneously represent Tex as an agent and
Tex agreed--they formed Boots and Saddles production company--
and thus marketed Tex back to Finney's employer Grand National for a fee of $1200 for each film (average shooting time: five days). In their first movie, Song of
the Gringo (Grand Natiional, 1936), ex-criminal and. now lawyer, Al Jennings, appeared, playing a judge. Jennings showed Tex how to make the fast draw. (Though Jennings
may have learned his own gunplay in Hollywood, since his lone, laughably inept train robbery of $300 had netted him five years in prison.) When Tex and Jennings might go about robbing
would go into a bank to cash a cheque, Tex would ask l:im how ~ it.
Song of the Gring~ featured the song "Rye Whiskey" which became Tex's signature
tune; according to one critic, the film established Tex's "engaging personality." Ritter emerged at a time when, according to Douglas B. Green, "many studios attempted to foist operatic and pop singers on the public as singing cowboys."
The six-foot-one Tex looked the part, and a big white Stetson became his ~k.
The Tex Ritter films were distinguished not only for more earthy singing but for
more violent action.
movies But even for their genre the/ were hastily CUt -ra te, righ t down to thebone. example.)
made an~ budgetarily,
(The Autry movies cost more for and sometimes
The titles of B-movies had to be cleared,
not till the filming was over would they be titled. (A look at a Western movie index shows the immensityof the problem--infinities Scrabble-likemmbinations. of of a very few words.) be "Ritter No.4" Sot he w
or "Autry No.7,"
the buyers purchased
them by the bunch (e.g., eight Ritters, eight AUtrys, etc.). Uusually
eight Charles Starretts,
Tex had no idea what the film was Then we I d
abou t ::i'~'[ihey' d say, 'Sing such-and- such,' and I'd sing it.
ride off into the sunset a few times, then we'd chase after some outlaws for awhi~e. It wasn't until I saw the movies in a theater that 'em." A critic
I knew what it was we were doing when we filmed said that one film "was too obviously
made with one eye on the clock looked "like it was
and the other on the purse," and that another tossed together between
takes on some other feature."
actor Charles King became Tex Ritter's brawling and would utilize time between takes to
shadow box, "Jus t figgerin' me up~" As Tex observed
au t more: and be tter ways for Tex to bea t
toward the end of his life, "Roy and Gene Old CHarlie King, I must have killed the same rock."
sang morfr. I killed m~re. him at least twenty times.
1937 Tex Ritter film, Roll Wagons Rol~ brazenly attack footage from a 1915 movie.
Nor was Tek .Ritter favored with the best comic sidekicks-a critic reported tobacco that one of them was unskilled at spitting his Yet Western film
juice through his fake handlebar
(24) historians George N. Fenin and William K. Everson find the Ritter
films "vigorous, "a generally years
often staged on a surprisingly
large scale" maintaining In the (58) than
cer tainly a rela tive sta temen t. in more B-Western musicals
1936-45 Tex Ritter starred
singing cowboy except Autry and Rogers.
In seven of the
nine years Western
(1937-41, 1944-45) he was arro~the top ten money-making
stars. included Rita Hayworth in her film debut; another Monogram, 1941).
One of the ~ was Country
great Red Foley's
first film (The Pioneers,
were not used in Tex Ritter's
films till he complained. roles, but Tex
It was felt they would not like their unsympathetic insisted they would ;appreciate the work. at Republic
Tex Ritter would have fared better
When Gene with
Autry was at odds with them Tex was approached, Finney gram, prevented him filling in.
but his contract
In 1938 Finney and Tex moved
to MonoColumbia~ and for Westerns. was over. often
still recei~ing his current rate of $2400 per picture. Tex for awhile with Bill Elliot?in better movies;
a time he played opposite Johnny Ma~k Brown in some Universal A lesser studio used Tex next, but by 1945 his film cowboying He had long been reinforcing of the actual (or Country) lationship
his screen career with recordings, In 1942 he became
songs from the films.
the first Western re-
singer to be signed bYACapitol
as it turned out.
In 1944 he had the top three songs in
the folk or hillbilly consistant
charts, as Country was then called; he was a For the rest of his life in 1949 i~forming
:iliib~makerin the 'Forties.
Tex more or less continuously
toured as an entertainer,
the Tex Ritter Western Festival & Circus, day, averaging
doing six or eight shows a Tex rode his
up to 100 dates on one tour alone.
in the world"J
four White was called Western
In 1952 Ritter to help
by Hollywood film.
Tiomkin, farmer whose f~~
save a doubtful to capitalize
had wanted career
a vehicle A moody, called
for his hero talkative, High Noon
was in decline.
wa s _the'Cesult,
(Uni ted Artis ts, 1952). editing was imposed
the audience clock motif
so heavy to
plus a nagging pace.
lyrics by Ned Washington played plot. foghorn") though for med over and Tex Ritter was
"00 not forsake
me, oh my darlin' ... " which the tightened-up called "early
over on the soundtrack sang it, and his voice unf orge ttably perf ec t. Frankie Laine's cover
to emphasize (which
Tex' s version copy was
was a hit record, Tex per
the song at the Academy Awa/rds presentation (the first to be d V\,! televised)--the composers won an awarslJas did Cooper for his actingancl
the editors for their expert scissoring. Tex's treatment ushered in_a long-ru~ning vogue for Western theme songs in films and television Laine, Johnny series, or
some of them sung by Tex (or by Frankie Marty Songs Robbins). Of special Western
Western, Capitol are Tex's/albums
from the Western Wild West
on the Saddle Days (1969). accent,
(1960), As a and
Tex Ritter'~ singer, phrasing,
Tex was distinguished allied to a strong
by "his unusual feeling
to Ihe Harmony his voice
"one of the most appealing turning up in films,
music history." television. guests Ranch was
and on- syndicated one of whose
He ~~~hosted Town Hall Party eleven-year-old which started Hollywood WesterD Barbara
and Tex Ritter's
in 1959, ran for four years. had long given Country music more acceptance within tbe fonrat f o long in the ascendant, of the
but by the 1960s Nashville, city.
Tex Rittertvas a board member
its president in setting
in 1963 and 1964-up the Country Music
in the latter
Po u+d.at ion:~
year Tex was instrumental
In 1~5 Tex moved became voice director Tex Ritter acquired legacy, overhead, down
joining in '66.
of the .oundation made the ideal
With his orotund at a crucial
Nashville Ritter walking Center lore
Hall of Fame. by today's Foundation
The other tourists Libr.ary and Media
unsuspetted is the Country
in the basement. for academic
Tex was passionately concerned that Country music use, not just as an enticement encouragement West, bridged prompted to Johnny Frederick for Cash, E. Danker
fans and sightseers. when he recorded to observe like Songs
Tex Ritter's of_the True
that Tex "in many ways
the gaps some folklorists folk roots, music conscious
to think are unbridgeable folksong revivalism,
or educated cowboy' sincere said
and the country and forties."
of the thirties of a bass voice
Johnny to Ritter's
Cash, whose than to anyone's,
"Of the ones alive
Tex is the one man I admire
most." Perhaps Western horse we might White barn. say that, figuratively, into the C.M.A. Tex Ritter rode his is shaped into the Countr~
museum ••.which fifth inductee
like a country
In 1964 he became the rather
Music Hall of Fame. his position before. with
If that seems C.M.A.,
considering many years
he had won his spurs
6. Johnny Western, and The Riders in the Sky.
Few singers of any recent fined themselves to Western national music. recognition Both Johnny have wholly Western con-
*Fellow Western actor and prolific songwriter and recording artist, Johnny Bond, was a fellow C.M.A. board member, and Tex's eventual biographer.
( 27) Riders in the Sky, however, have popularized songs written primarily
as an outgrowth music,
of Western movie
theme music, and silging cowboy
Johnny Western's persistant--chiefly Cash. Johnny Western Minnesota. what
is slender but
as a prot~ge and longtime
pardner of Johnny
(his real name) was born in 1934 in Two Harbors,
At age five he saw a Gene Autry film and knew "that's He attended interest high school in Northfield, Minne-
I want to be."
sota, wherehis lifelong town's memories with outlaws a "singing
in the Old West was stirred by the gang's bloody bank raid in 1876 By age fifteen ne was youngest" disc stars
of the James-Younger
slain in the street.
on radio station KDHL, "America's magazine, sometimes
like Autry, Ritter, Rogers and Rex Allen. and recording songs.
At sixteen he was writing
At age twenty he went to Hollywood Autry happened to hear his powerful
till Gene Gene
bass voice at a party.
hired him; he toured with Aut¥y from 1956-57, and films (37 shows and feature movies). Gunsmoke,
then got into TV credits included
Tales of Wells Fargo, Wagon Train, and Have Gun, Will Travel Boone. For this last show he co,,"wroteand recorded which 39 artists have recorded. (~o-written with
the theme song, liThe Ballad of Palladin,"
Johnny wrote other theme songs for television--Bonanza Johnny Cash) which he sang; The Legend starring Hugh,O'Brien;
of PO,wder River; Dodge Ci ty
Johnny Yuma; and for such movies as Fort Bowie
(28) (United Artists, 1958), in which he appeared, Artists, 1959) starring The Gunfight ~ Dodge
City (Mirisch/United (United Artists,
Joel McCrea, and Geronimo
1962) with Chuck Connors. Cash, who liked the "Palladin" He was on the Cash road appearances since.
In 1958 Johnny Western met Johnny theme and recruited show ~ Johnny
for his own show.
from 1958-65 and has made occasional with Cash required checkpoints
Travelling before packed
a fast gun-hand,
since in those days
Cash and fiddler Gordon Terry Indoor fast-draw shootouts killed
loaded with blanks. once
in hotels were the pastime; Cash seven times in a row.
Johnny Western on around
He also played guitar
Cash recording sessions, primarily 1959-62. In September, 1977 Wesk Y"'f'. JohnnYAwas nearly killed in a car crash near Rawlins, Wyoming; not knowing he was insured, Johnny Cash called and offered medical expenses which were enormous . star Lorne Greene, And Johnny played to pay all the
Also Johnny cut a record with Cash and Bonanza never released due to conflicting artist contracts.
in The Night Rider (Crown International) a short featurette somewhat about Texas gunfighter
with Cash and Merle Travis, John Wesley Hardin, based
on Cash's song, "Don't Take Your Guns to Town." cut a Have Gun, Will Travel album for Columbia in
1962, but his bes t work is Collectedon three recen t issues. (Bear Family, sessions. 1981) contains sixteen
The Gunf igh ter
of the best of the original there is "Palladin," dedicated "Geronimo" to Marty Robbins.
(a hit for George Jones) and "The Gunfighter,"
well as I nc las uded are two by Stan Jones, /ttie theme for "The Searchers" and
"Hannah Lee (High are the Gallows)." Arizona Morning At Cash's Hendersonville studio
Johnny recorded contains
(JRC, House of Cash, 1981) which Also in the 19808, Johnny's they record an album in Nashville
"Mr. Rodeo Cowboy." suggested
(29) to preserve Johnny's best workt~-----~~ Sparer produced
Sings 20 Great Classics
& Legends (Americana Records,
. 1985), wlth such songs as ",/ Wyatt Earp an d "B at Masterson;"
in the Sky"; Johnny's "Ringo";
co-wri tten "Cheyenne''__;The " Washington's "High Noon,"
Dimi tri Tiomkin/Ned at O~.iK. Corral";
For over two-and-a-half decades some of the most famousmuscians have played on the Johnny Western Floyd Cramer,
Bond, Jack Clement, of
The albums constitute
screen and television on cableAre-runs; priately cowboy
themes, some of which continue
to survive Appro-
there are more songs where presides
these came from.
Johnny Westernr music
over a Kansas radio show featuring which is how it
(the pun is inevitable~
all began for him so very many years ago.
Their grand entrance
was in 1977, in_the cramped Nashville.
Phranks & Steins on West End Avenue, U.S.A. Texas, " they were a trifle unusual.
Even for "Music City,
This was during the Austin, of "cowboy"
"outllaw" phase, when the latest incarnation
might be more likely to punch out a stranger tonk, than to punch cattle .. Yet "Ranger La Boeur and another outdated
over a girl in a honky-
Doug" Green and "Too Slim" got up and sang such of Laredo." As
fellow (since replaced)
tunes as "Red River Valley"
La Boeur recalls, really enjoyed
"The eight drunks who were
there that night
it." and bigger clubs, and pres-
After only four more years of bigger tigious shows " "The Riders
in the Sky" as they styled themselves
(after the Stan Jones song) joined the Grand Ole Opry, only the sixty-second act to join its exclusive sweet harmonizing roster. of their repe~oire
and a portion
(30) are straight cowboy weeds.
Sons of the Pioneers,
band most remembered To this tradition
for "Cool Water" and "Tumblin'
the Riders have added their own songs. F-hole guitar
"R anger Doug·. (D oug Ias B . G reen ) plays an old-styled, "
.th an arc ed top, me an i.ng h i h er s t r i ng s r.nv tlng; crio d p 1a y i.ng h . ... i, bqrredr Wl 19 high up the neck like 1930s jazz guitarists. baritone or teeth. sings bass. tenor. Green has a warm lips
voice, and can yodel back in his throat without moving LaBoeur plays the old stand-up "Woody Paul" (Paul Chrisman)
"slap" bass, and usually is the fiddler, and sings and the harmonies
The music is all-acoustic
to say the least are ntricate--in modulations (key changes);
and out of minor keys; frequent or non-harmonic precision harmony scales. to it; smoother than
This kind of Western Snging Esquire anyone magazine in history
has a barbershop
says they "yodel probably."
The Riders' backgrounds grew up in California, TV; while in college Bill Monroe, Vanderbilt
are extraordinary. Tex Ritter's
Douglas B. Green
Town Hall Party on
he played with "Father of Bluegrass" in English Literature at
then picked up a Master's
wrote the book Country Roots and countless to books, while toiling in the
other articles Country
Music Foundation banjo
Library and editing
its pUblications. pizza parlor fora while. in
He played dixieland
in an East Nashville
"Too Slim" (Fred) LaBoeur, 1969, perpetrated hoax
while at the University infamous
in the school paper; and he has written
a hit song for Tammy farmer,
Wynette. acquired Institute
And Woody Paul, the son of a Triune, Tennessee a doctorate in theoretical worked plasma physics
for the Atomic Energy Commission fiddle for Grand Ole Opry
at Oak Ridge, Tennessee,
(31) singer Wilma Lee Cooper. needlessly overaducated Green himself calls the Riders "the most trio in America."
schooling can damage the brain, and the Riders'
onstage antics have been called a mixture of the Sons of the Pioneers and the Marx Brothers, or in Woody PatH's words, "a cross between Roy Rogers and Saturday Night Live. Punk Country, if you like."
Their performances are illuminated by a fake campfire (lit with a a portable cactus, 100-watt bulb) ,/intolerable puns ("Poet lariets of the West .•• Compadres of the Sierra Madres") and such advice as "Trail Tip #9:
Drink Upstream from the Herd."
Woody Paul majored in wildlife three-
and .the Riders are likely to emit without warning
part coyote howls and bobcat noises. They take the music seriously,however, since in the words of Ranger Doug it expresses"dreamsand hope... is a very na"ive, It romanticmusic that reflectsa very innocent version of the American dream. It's certainly more noble music
than the standard Count;y songs ~bout getting drunk, falling off bar stools, and swapping wives ~" whodon't (Anyway,they rationalizethat 'people
like their music can at least laugh at their stage props~
The first; seven Riders in the Sky albums have been on the esteemed Rounder label--Threeon the Trail (1980), Cowboy Jubilee (1981),
Prairie Seranade (1982), 'Weeds and Water (1983), Live! (1984), Saddle Pals, a children's (Book-of-the-Month recordings album, and New Trails (1986)--plus Club, 1985). Western Music
Upwards of fifty-per cent of the
are original songs, such as "Cowboy of the Highway" and
"Soon as the Roundup's Through" by Woody Paul, with the Country-folk feel of Ian Tyson ("Four Strong Winds"/"Someday poignant "All These Years." a number of studio musicians complemented album. Soon"), or Doug Green's
Some of these sound like Country singles; the Riders on the New Trails