Love, Fantasy… & Cowboys

I don’t have tv so sometimes I miss watching channels that show the old shows from the 50’s and 60’s.  So I was at my neighbors watching “The Lone Ranger” [the series, not the movie] and lo and behold, there was James Arness in a bit part!!!  Pre-Gunsmoke.  All glorious 6’7” of him.  So I decided to re-run this little tribute piece to the cowboys we grew up with.


I have often made the statement “I love the 1800’s”.  I love the clothes, I love the history, I love… the fantasy.  Yes, we love the dress and the life because we have air-conditioning and indoor plumbing.  It’s ok, America loves its fantasy, one of them being “The Old West”.  We love the movies, the clothes, the… fantasy.  If given the chance to actually live in the 1800’s, I don’t think anyone would raise their hand.  And nothing shows more of what America USED to love, than that of the TV Cowboys of the 50’s and 60’s, when men were tough, yet gentle.  They didn’t actually ever kill the bad guy.  They treated the women with respect.  Mostly, everything that modern movies DON'T portray.


TV Cowboys

TV cowboys origin came from real, historical cowboys, an American tradition recognized the world over. But the Mexican vaqueros were the model for our American cowboys. Our guys learned everything they needed to know from watching these very skilled cowboys and they did a great job of mastering the cowboys skills. So good in fact that, even though the cowboy character that we know and love didn't originate here in the States, this is where the cowboy fable began and, eventually, the TV cowboy appeared.

After the Civil War, newspapers began reporting on the Texas cattle trails and Kansas cow towns. Then, when the first of the dime novels began to be circulated, they painted a very romantic picture of the American cowboy. The hard realities of the American frontier became rousing stories of horsemen, covered wagons, Indian wars, all set in an awesome untamed land. They were written about as modern day knights who conquered the wilderness and did in all evil-doers. And, because of that, they became instant heroes.

Radio and television businessmen knew there was great potential in bringing to life these American heroes, and so we were introduced to characters that we quickly grew to love - like the Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, and Roy Rogers to name just a few. They were a "dressed up" version of the real American Cowboy, and became stars of the shows.

The cowboy was transformed from a hired hand on a horse into America's greatest hero - honest and good, and always ready for adventure! And, boy, did we fall in love with them!

This is how real cowboys looked around 1880 or 1890 - pretty rugged, huh?






And here is TV's "dressed up" version, around 1950 or 1960 - just look at 'em now!





New addition:

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Courtesy True West Magazine:
Best Cowboy Photo
A Texas Ranger during the Civil War before becoming a cattle businessman, Texas John Slaughter opened his final ranch near Douglas, Arizona. Robert G. McCubbin, the world’s foremost Old West photo collector, says this circa 1885 cabinet card of Slaughter’s cowboys is the best group photo of real working frontier cowboys. (Top row, from left) James Pursley, Walter Fife and James G. Maxwell. (Bottom row, from left) Billy Riggs, J.H. Mclelme and Judge John Blake.

So…. Who were some of these great Cowboys of early television, men we once admired, fell in love with, watched faithfully on our tiny black and white televisions, and learned our morals and good conduct from.



The Cisco Kid

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What did I like best about the Cisco Kid? His horse Diablo! More than just a black and white horse, he was a spectacular pinto with dramatic, jagged markings and sensational eyes.  I can still see Diablo in my mind. And, of course, the 2 stars - Cisco and Pancho.

[ok, the 
original video I had was taken off… so this had a really funny commercial]


Background of the Show

Back in about 1929 there was a short story written that was called The Caballero's Way. It was about a bandit like Robin Hood who took from the rich and gave to the poor.

This character turned up in silent films and later, in the 1940's, in a popular radio series; there was even a comic strip that lasted until 1968.  So the TV character of the Cisco Kid was modeled after that bandito from the short story.


All about the Show

The Cisco Kid flick was on TV from 1950 to 1956.

An actor named Duncan Renaldo played the part of Cisco. His trusty sidekick Pancho was played by a guy named Leo Carrillo. They made quite a team on TV!

Cisco and Pancho wandered all around the old Southwest, running off bad guys and saving the day for whoever was in need. They were a fun-loving pair. Cisco was a Mexican charmer and Pancho was the guy who was always good for a laugh!

But, picture this - Cisco wore an all black outfit with fancy embroidery (and it never got dirty)! He was very dashing and super charming and all the ladies fell for him! Of course Cisco was dedicated to doing good everywhere, so the most a lady ever got was a kiss before he and Pancho rode off together!

As you know, Cisco's horse was "Diablo" and, by the way, was all decked out in silver saddle and bridle! Pancho's horse was "Loco".

Cisco did carry a gun but usually all he ever did with it was shoot the gun out of the bad guy's hand. Pancho, a big funny guy, did most of the fighting (see, he didn't wear a fancy outfit!) and he was really good with a bullwhip. So, The Cisco Kid flicks didn't have a lot of gunplay.

Pancho didn't speak English very well and you may remember one of his regular lines - "Ceesco! Let's went!" He was always looking out for Cisco because the local sheriff (or "shereef" as Pancho would say!) was usually hot on their trail!

This colorful duo had exactly 156 episodes on TV; everyone of them ended with a corny joke that had something to do with the adventure they just had. They would both laugh, and Cisco would say "Oh, Pancho!" and Pancho would say "Oh, Cisco!" and then they would ride off into the sunset as the credits rolled.


More about the Actors!

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DUNCAN RENALDO, whose real name was Renault Renaldo Duncan, had a rather uncertain history. He is thought to have been from Spain but that is just because his earliest childhood memories were from Spain. He was orphaned and never knew his exact place and date of birth, though that is thought to be April 23, 1904. He emigrated to the United States in the early 1920's on a 90-day seaman's permit, but stayed because the ship caught fire and burned to the waterline.

Duncan tried to make a living as a portrait painter but couldn't support himself and, somehow, got into producing short films and, eventually, signed a contract with MGM in 1928. Since he looked Hispanic he was usually cast as a Latin lover.

In the early 1930's he was arrested and almost deported because he was an illegal immigrant. As luck would have it, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, who owned one of Duncan's paintings, heard about his problem and persuaded her husband, President Franklin Roosevelt, to intervene on his behalf which he did by issuing a pardon for him.

Duncan Renaldo starred in several minor films, playing both hero and villain. He also co-starred as one of the Three Musketeers. He retired soon after the end of "The Cisco Kid" series, his best-known role, and died of lung cancer at the Goleta Valley Community Hospital in California in 1980, at the age of 76.

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After "The Cisco Kid" series ended production, LEO CARRILLO appeared in the episode "Rescue at Sea" of the military drama series "Men of Annapolis". He died in Santa Monica, CA on September 10, 1961 at the age of 81.


The earlier TV cowboy shows, like The Lone Ranger or Hopalong Cassidy, were more about heroes and not so much about the real West. But then, along came Gunsmoke, one of the first "adult Westerns" on TV.

This show was more realistic and the Gunsmoke cast had a lot of interesting characters.

Background of the Show

The Gunsmoke TV series started out as a radio show in 1952 with the actor William Conrad doing the role of Matt Dillon, the town marshall. The show was on the radio for 9 years.


Here's a neat piece of info -

John Wayne was the first choice to play Marshall Dillon when the show was added to the TV lineup in 1955. But he didn't want to take on the commitment (in favor of his blossoming movie career!) so he suggested his young friend, James Arness, who was an unknown actor at the time. That was a stroke of good luck for James Arness who turned out to be perfect for the part that he played for the entire 20 years that Gunsmoke ran!


All About the Show


The show was set in Dodge City, Kansas around about 1873. And, originally, there were 4 main, regular Gunsmoke characters.

Matt Dillon (played by James Arness) was the central character as the town Marshall, standing for justice, sincerity and truth. His strong will kept him coming back even if he was beaten up, shot and ambushed!



James Arness was so tall (6 ft. 7 in.) that co-stars often had to stand on platforms - or have Marshall Dillon stand in a low spot - to film scenes where they appeared next to him!


There was a cast of continuing characters who interacted with Marshall Dillon, and each other, as they went about their regular business.

Chester (played by Dennis Weaver) was Matt's loyal deputy. He walked with a limp (which was added purposely to make Dennis look more like a sidekick than a leading man). But this did make him one of the first regular characters on TV with a physical disability.

And do you remember his twangy voice and how you would hear him loudly calling for the Marshall, "Miisstterr Diillllonn!!" Who could forget that?

Miss Kitty, (played by Amanda Blake) ran the Long Branch Saloon. She was beautiful and didn't look like she belonged in a saloon. And she was a tough businesswoman, but with a very soft heart. She was a friend to anyone who needed one, and was like the oasis in a desert! She also had a real soft spot in her heart for Matt, but the most we ever saw between the two of them were meaningful smiles. Everyone knew that Miss Kitty really wanted to be romantically involved with the handsome Marshall!

Doc Adams (played by Milburn Stone) was the crusty, but kindly, old physician who took care of everyone's ills and patched up the guys who wound up on the receiving end in a gunfight!

There was also a supporting cast of other Dodge City residents who showed up in episodes now and then. They included -

Quint Asper, blacksmith (played by Burt Reynolds); Newly O'Brien, gunsmith (played by Buck Taylor); Thad Greenwood, Matt's young friend (played by Roger Ewing); Halligan and Ed O'Connor, local ranchers (played by Charles Wagenheim and Tom Brown); Louie Pheeters, town drunk (played by James Nusser); Barney Danches, telegraph agent (played by Charles Seel); Howie Culver, hotel clerk (played by Howard Culver); Percy Crump, undertaker (played by John Harper); Hank Miller, stableman (played by Hank Patterson); Nathan Burke, freight agent (played by Ted Jordan); Mr. Bodkin, banker (played by Roy Roberts); and Ma Smalley, boardinghouse owner (played by Sarah Selby); Sam, bartender (played by Glenn Strange).

Only James Arness (Matt Dillon) and Milburn Stone (Doc Adams) played their parts for the entire 20 years the show was on TV. During that time some key changes happened.

In 1964 Dennis Weaver (Chester) left and was replaced by the actor Ken Curtis who played Festus, a scruffy hillbilly deputy, until the show ended in 1975.

In 1974 Amanda Blake left the show and was replaced by the actress Fran Ryan who played Miss Hannah and ran the Long Branch Saloon.

Gunsmoke was at the very beginning of a huge wave of Westerns on TV from the mid-50's to the mid-60's and, when it ended in 1975 after 20 years, it had run longer than any prime-time series with continuing characters in the history of TV!


More about the Actors


JAMES ARNESS  was  best known for portraying Marshal Matt Dillon for 20 years in the CBS television series Gunsmoke.  Arness has the distinction of having played the role of Dillon in five separate decades: 1955 to 1975 in the weekly series, then in Gunsmoke: Return To Dodge (1987) and four more made-for-television Gunsmsmoke films in the 1990s. In Europe, Arness reached cult status for his role as Zeb Macahan in the western series How the West Was Won.  He was the older brother of actor Peter Graves. He passed away in his sleep on June 3, 2011. At age 88 he was the last member of the original regular cast.

MILBURN STONE, a native of Burrton Kansas, got his start in vaudeville. He played many different movie roles in his career but was best remembered as "Doc" in Gunsmoke (and was awarded an Emmy in 1968). He was the first regular cast member lost. In 1980, at age 75, Milburn Stone died of a heart attack.

AMANDA BLAKE had guest appearances on many other shows after Gunsmoke left the air in 1975, but died in 1989 at only 60 years of age. Her early death was caused by liver failure, brought on by viral hepatitis. She had contracted the AIDS virus from her fourth husband.


KEN CURTIS had roles in many other TV Westerns such as "The Yellow Rose" and "Conagher" but died of a heart attack in 1991 at 74 years of age.


DENNIS WEAVER went on to star in "McCloud" and "Emerald Point N.A.S." and became a humanitarian activist and an environmentalist later in his life. He died of cancer in 2006 at age 81. Remember how Chester walked with a limp? Well, Dennis said that doing things with a stiff leg was very hard and he took yoga classes to be able to move that way.


The Lone Ranger

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What was the one difference that set the Lone Ranger apart from other western hero’s ? I'm tempted to say "Silver", but what it was

- was the mask!


That's right! Think about it. His mask is what separated him from all the other TV cowboys. He was the guy who always saved the day and left the grateful townfolk asking "Who was that masked man?"


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Background of the Show


George W. Trendle and Fran Striker (a very creative writer) are generally regarded as the fathers of the Lone Ranger, but the character wasn't created that simply. A lot of people contributed to the idea of the character, his style, his appearance and everything about him. It took several months to create the moral, upright hero that we know. He was a little bit of Robin Hood and a dash of Zorro, and it proved to be a perfect mix.

So let's talk about the story behind this mysterious masked man.

Well, this guy was part of a possee of Texas Rangers who were chasing after some desperadoes when they were ambushed in a canyon and all were left for dead. But what the bad guys didn't know was that one of those Rangers, John Reid, survived and crawled off safely to a nearby waterhole!

In short order along came a friendly Indian named Tonto. Because John Reid had once helped him, Tonto nursed him back to health and vowed to help this "lone ranger" (yep! that's how he came by his name) avenge the deaths of the other 5 posse members and any other wrongs that needed avenging.

John Reid became "Kemo Sabe" (which means "Trusty Scout") to Tonto and, of course, the "Lone Ranger" to everyone else.

Not wanting the desperadoes to know that one of the Rangers had survived their ambush, John Reid "buried" himself along with the other 5; one of them was his brother Dan. Then, with Tonto's help, he tamed the beautiful white stallion that he named "Silver", put on the mask, got him some pretty snazzy looking duds, too, and set out to get the guys who killed all of his friends (which they did by finally cornering the outlaw Butch Cavendish).

They were now a team, along with their faithful horses "Silver" and "Scout", and went around righting wrongs in the old West!


All About the Show

The radio show started locally in 1933, but it was so popular that it quickly became a national radio show.

Then, in 1949, it was made into a half-hour TV show with simple characters and plots - basically "good guys vs. bad guys". Clayton Moore was the actor who played the Lone Ranger, except for a short time from 1952 to 1954 when the actor John Hart played the role. But there was only one Tonto - Jay Silverheels - who played the poker-faced, mixed blood Mohawk Indian to perfection! The series ended in 1957, but reruns continued thru 1961.

Each episode began with this familiar invitation - "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!" The William Tell overture was the Lone Ranger theme song, chosen because of the "galloping" sound it had, and you would hear it playing in the background.


Pay attention to the big rock formation. Some interesting details follow about that famous place.



That big boulder in the well known scene at the beginning of each episode where Silver rears up in front of it, is called "Lone Ranger Rock", and it wasn't a staged "set". It is a natural formation, located near (what was) Iverson's Ranch in Chatsworth, California (a little north of Los Angeles). It is still there today but the scenery has changed. The rock is no longer in the wild country where so many Lone Ranger scenes were filmed. It is now surrounded by condominiums, and a major highway roars past it.


The shows were action-packed and loved by a big audience, especially kids. Parents liked the fact that this masked man spoke kindly (and in perfect English) and went around helping people who were in trouble; these traits made him a good role model for their kids.

Imagine that, putting as many bad guys in their place as the masked man did, he never actually killed anyone! He often worked it out so that the bad guys killed each other!

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But he was in a lot of fights (though he seldom ever lost his hat & never got his clothes dirty!) and, if he needed help, Tonto and even Silver were always close enough to come to his aid.

Every week the Lone Ranger would save the day for a rancher, a prospector, or maybe the school marm and, after being properly thanked by all, he would ride off calling out the familiar "Hi-Ho, Silver, away!"

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What Happened to the Actors?


JAY SILVERHEELS was born Harold J. Smith on May 26, 1919. One of 7 brothers and sisters, he was a full-blooded Mohawk Indian born on the Six Nations Indian Reservation in Brantford, Ontario, Canada and legally changed his name in 1971. He was athletic, participating in lacrosse, boxing, and wrestling. He was on the Canadian National Lacrosse Team and came to the United States with the team in 1938. He also won wrestling championships and finished second in a Golden Gloves championship in Madison Square Garden. After his acting career, Jay became a successful horse breeder and racer. Someone asked him once if he ever thought about racing Scout. He smiled and said "Heck, I can beat Scout!". Jay's health deteriorated after a stroke in 1974, and he died on March 5, 1980 at the Motion Picture and Television Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA at the age of 62. His body was cremated and the ashes were scattered over the Six Nations Reservation in Canada.

CLAYTON MOORE was born on Sept. 14, 1914 in Chicago, the son of wealthy parents (his father was an investor). He was very athletic and spent a lot of his youth at the Illinois Athletic Club where he learned gymnastics and swam. He was good friends with a young Johnny Weissmuller who also swam at the IAC and they were lifelong friends. Clayton later became a trapeze artist and left college so his troupe, The Flying Behrs, could accept an invitation to perform in the 1934 Chicago World's Fair. Before he got his most famous role, he was also a movie stuntman. Clayton died of a heart attack in West Hills, CA on Dec. 28, 1999 at age 85, survived by an adopted daughter.


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 Opps!    Wrong era!

Gene Autry

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Gene Autry is a real person who played the part of a cowboy called "Gene Autry". And again, his best partner was his beautiful horse, "Champion".


Most TV cowboy's horses were really smart and helped them out of jams, but Champion could do almost anything! This horse was so talented that he got his own TV show called "The Adventures of Champion"!


All About the Show

The professional life of Gene Autry included music (he was a singer!), Western movies (he was a star!), and he was a big hit in his TV series, "The Gene Autry Show", which began in 1950 and ran through 1956.

He fit the TV cowboy model of a handsome, well dressed cowboy whose only purpose was to ride from town to town upholding the law in the Southwest. And, like other TV cowboys, he had a way of doing that without ever getting dirty or seldom ever firing a shot!

Remember I mentioned Gene's other talent - he could sing! In fact he sang so well that he was known as "the singing cowboy"! The show's theme song was "Back in the Saddle Again".

His sidekick "Pat" (played by Pat Buttram) always managed to get into some kind of silly predicament in each episode, Gene would find an opportunity to burst into song, and Champion (the Wonder Horse) wound up saving the day! Remember - this was one very talented horse!


The Cowboy Code

From 1940 to 1956, "Gene Autry's Melody Ranch" was a huge hit as a weekly show on CBS Radio. Gene knew that lots of young fans were listening to his radio show and watching his TV show so he created the "Cowboy Code" for these fans. Under his code, the Cowboy must:


1. Never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.

2. Never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.

3. Always tell the truth.

4. Be gentle with children, the elderly and animals.

5. Not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.

6. Help people in distress.

7. Be a good worker.

8. Keep himself clean in thought, speech, action and personal habits.

9. Respect women, parents and his nation's laws.

10. Be a patriot.


More About the Actors

ORVON EUGENE AUTRY (Gene to his fans) was born on Sept. 29, 1907 and died of lymphoma on Oct. 2, 1998, just 3 days after his 91st. birthday, at his home in Studio City, CA.

Gene was born in Texas but grew up in Oklahoma, working on the family ranch. He left high school early and went to work as a telegrapher for the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway. While working there, Will Rogers heard him singing and playing the guitar and encouraged Gene to sing professionally. With that confidence he auditioned for RCA Victor around 1928 and spent several years recording music and singing on various radio shows. In 1932 he had his first hit song, "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine", which he sang as a duet with Jimmy Long. He followed that up with "Back in the Saddle Again" and a lot of Christmas songs including "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", "Frosty the Snowman" and his biggest hit ever, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". Over his career, Gene Autry made 640 recordings and he wrote, or co-wrote 300 of those. His records sold more than 100 million copies and he has more than a dozen gold and platinum records, including the first record ever certified gold.

In 1932 Gene Autry married the niece of Jimmy Long, Ina May Spivey, who died in 1980. In 1981 he married Jacqueline Ellam who had been his banker. He had no children by either marriage.

He began his movie career in 1934 as part of a singing cowboy quarter, starring with Smiley Burnette in "In Old Santa Fe". As part of Republic Pictures, Gene made another 44 films by 1940, all B Westerns in which he starred (riding Champion!) with Smiley Burnette. After returning from his WWII service, Gene chose Pat Buttram to work with him and they made 40 films and over 100 episodes of his TV show together.

From 1936 to 1955 Gene Autry and Roy Rogers held either first or second place in the top 10 money-making Western stars polls.

Gene Autry was a very smart businessman. As early as 1942 he had a string of rodeo stock so he became a partner in the World Championship Rodeo Company which furnished livestock for many of the country's major rodeos. In 1954 he acquired Montana's top bucking string, moved it to a 24,000 acre ranch in Colorado and continued to provide livestock for most of the major rodeos in Texas, Colorado, Montana, and Nebraska. For his work as a livestock contractor, Gene Autry was inducted into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Associations ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979.

He bought real estate, beginning in 1953 when he purchased the 110 acre Monogram Movie Ranch near Newhall, CA. He renamed it Melody Ranch after his movie of the same name. After promptly selling 98 of those acres, he kept the remaining 12 acres of Western town, adobes, ranch cabin sets, and some open land for location shooting. In 1962 a fire destroyed most of the original sets but, making lemonade from lemons, Gene used the devastated landscape for filming productions such as "Combat".

He purchased the Los Angeles Angels baseball expansion team in 1961 and remained its sole owner until 1995 when he sold a one-quarter share to the Walt Disney Company, then a controlling interest in 1996 with the remaining share to be transferred after his death. The team honored Gene by retiring the number "26" (representing the 26th man on the 25 man roster), so strong was his support for his team.

Some of the honors bestowed upon Gene Autry include induction into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK in 1972. He was also a life member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Burbank Lodge #1497. His autobiography, "Back in the Saddle Again", was published in 1976 and CMT ranked him #38 in their "40 Greatest Men of Country Music" in 2003. In 2007 he became a charter member of the Gennett Records Walk of Fame in Richmond, IN. In 1978 Johnny Cash recorded a song called "Who is Gene Autry", and Gene autographed Johnny's famous black Martin D-35 guitar. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2003 and in 2004 the Starz Entertainment Corporation (working with the Gene Autry estate) restored all of his films which can now be seen regularly on Starz's Encore Western Channel on cable TV.


MAXWELL EMMETT "PAT" BUTTRAM was born in Addison, AL on June 19, 1915, the youngest of 7 children.

Trying to follow in the footsteps of his Methodist minister father, Pat began college studying for the ministry but soon realized that he enjoyed performing in college plays and on a local radio station much more, and became a regular on the "WLS National Barn Dance" in Chicago.

Pat married Dorothy McFadden in 1936 and they adopted a daughter named Gayle, but divorced in 1946. In 1952 he married actress Sheila Ryan and they were still married when she died in 1975. Their daughter Katherine (nicknamed Kerry) was born in 1954.

He went to Hollywood in the 1940's and became a sidekick to Roy Rogers. But since Roy already had 2 regulars, Pat was dropped. Gene Autry picked him up soon after that and they starred together in more than 40 films and over 100 episodes of the Gene Autry TV show.

Thru his career Pat Buttram starred in a few movies and was one of the writers for the "Hee Haw" TV show. He is probably most remembered as Mr. Haney in the "Green Acres" TV show. During the 1970's he did voices for several movie characters. He described his distinctive voice as "it never quite made it thru puberty". Others would say it sounded like a handful of gravel thrown in a Mix-Master.

Pat Buttram was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and also has a star on the "Alabama Stars of Fame" in Birmingham, AL. He died of kidney failure in Los Angeles, CA in 1994 and is buried in the cemetery at Maxwell Chapel United Methodist Church in Haleyville, AL.


Roy Rogers

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Roy Rogers was another of the singing Western movie stars who moved real easily onto the TV screen. His show ran from the beginning of 1951 through most of 1957.


But what may be remembered most about this show was "Bullet", the dog. I think this was the first regular cowboy show to have a dog that was almost as big a star as the star's horse!

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In the Fall of 1951, Post Cereals agreed to sponsor "The Roy Rogers Show". So they had a 30-minute premier called "Presenting Roy Rogers - King of the Cowboys". They featured songs by Dale (and the Whippoorwills), some funny stuff by Pat Brady, and Bob Hope promoting "Son of Paleface", the movie he and Roy had just made together. They even had Trigger in a sketch with Roy and Bob Hope. Then they showed the movie which established the setting and the characters for the TV series.

All About the Show

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The Roy Rogers Show was more contemporary than the other old TV cowboy shows - it wasn't like the "old West" - they had cars and telephones, but the action was mostly on horseback. Dale Evans, Roy's wife, co-starred. And their bumbling helper was Roy Roger's sidekick, Pat Brady.

"Trigger" was his beautiful Palomino horse; "Buttermilk" was Dale's buckskin horse; and Pat had his cantankerous jeep "Nellybelle".

Not only did this show provide us with the usual horse star (Trigger was beautiful, very talented, and all decked out in fancy saddle and bridle), but it went one step further and gave us "Bullet", the dog star (a really smart German Shepherd)!

Roy owned the Double R Bar Ranch in Mineral City and Dale ran the Eureka Cafe. The "King of the Cowboys" got plenty of help from his assortment of partners while he fought for law and order. He wanted kids to see that life rewards courtesy, bravery and hard work. In his show, goodness always prevailed. He took care of all the bad guys, taught us kids some important lessons in the process, and managed to keep those colorful, fringed shirts that he always wore neat as a pin!

Roy and Dale created the "Riders Club" for all the little buckaroos who were their fans. The Club had these 10 rules for us kids to live by:


1. Be neat and clean.

2. Be courteous and polite.

3. Obey your parents.

4. Protect and help the weak.

5. Be brave but never take chances.

6. Study hard and learn all you can.

7. Be kind to animals and take good care of them.

8. Eat all your food and never waste any.

9. Love God and go to Sunday School regularly.

10. Respect your country and its flag.


They loved children and were a great role model for us!



Each show closed with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing their famous theme song "Happy Trails To You"!


What Happened to the Actors?

Leonard Slye (Roy Rogers) was born on Nov. 5, 1911 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Before becoming Roy Rogers, he starred in movies under the stage name Dick Weston, but the studio thought that name was too bland and wanted to change it. So they chose Rogers because Will Rogers was loved by all America, and added the first name of Leroy. That was shortened to Roy and, in 1938, Leonard Slye became Roy Rogers. In 1942 he made the name change legal.

Roy Rogers appeared in his last movie, "Mackintosh and T.J.", in 1976. He died of natural causes on July 6, 1998. He was 87 years old and his health had been failing in the 2 years prior to his death.

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Frances Octavia Smith (Dale Evans) was born on Oct. 31, 1912 in Uvalde, Texas. She suffered from congestive heart failure and died, surrounded by her family singing the hymns that she loved so much, on Feb. 7, 2001.

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Robert Ellsworth O'Brady had always been called Pat, so his character's name became Pat Brady. He was a lifelong friend of Roy Rogers, was a very funny guy, and was a member of the "Sons of the Pioneers". He served in France with Gen. Patton's 3rd. Army during WWII and was decorated with 2 Purple Hearts. Alcoholism plagued his life after the war and he died in an alcohol rehab center on Feb. 27, 1972 at the young age of 57.

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It’s hard to think of this show without that well-known Bonanza theme song immediately playing in your mind, and remembering the whole Cartwright clan riding across the Ponderosa.



Background of the Show


The Bonanza tv show was set in the time during and after the Civil War, and was all about the Cartwright family which included the father, Ben, and his 3 sons Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe.

Did you ever wonder why those 3 brothers didn't look anything alike? That's right! Each one had a different mother and none of those women had survived! Wow; Ben had his share of bad luck in that department! Not wanting to mess up a successful formula, the show stayed consistent with that theme - any love interest that developed for a Cartwright man didn't last any longer than a cold drink on a hot day!

Here's a little bit about the Bonanza cast –

Ben (played by Lorne Greene) was the owner of the very large (1,000 square miles) and very prosperous Ponderosa Ranch, which was situated around Lake Tahoe in Nevada.

Adam (played be Pernell Roberts) was the oldest son. He was an architect and built that great ranch house where the Cartwrights lived. Adam was handsome and always dressed in black - quiet, serious, the strong, silent type!

Next was Eric (played by Dan Blocker), but we all knew him as Hoss, who obviously got that nickname because of his size. He was a big guy who looked even bigger in his trademark 10-gallon hat. Hoss was gentle, sometimes naive, and not the brightest member of the clan!

And then there was Little Joe, who was the youngest. He was hot-headed and, with his good looks and flashy smile, quite the ladies man!




Bonanza came close to being cancelled at the end of its first year! But the fact that it was considered a "novelty" because it was shown in color made all the difference! RCA, the parent company of NBC, wanted to sell more color television sets so they used Bonanza as a marketing gimmick and moved it to a prime Sunday night timeslot believing it would attract more viewers there! Obviously they were right; Bonanza was in the Top 5 shows for 9 of its 14 years on TV.


All About the Show


Unlike the usual shoot'em-up, Bonanza was the first “dramatic” TV Western show. The episodes were much more about relationships between the cast members and the guest stars than they were about hunting down the bad guy. Each episode usually had a serious theme to it, something "issue-oriented", built around themes such as racism, prejudice and social injustice. This was a first for TV because the networks were afraid of letters they might receive.

Another first for Bonanza - it was the first Western to be televised in color.

Each show mixed the adventures of one or two of the Cartwrights, their ranching and mining business, and an assortment of characters who crossed their paths in some way.

The 4 main actors were considered equal stars but, in case you didn't notice, the credits were rotated each week so that top billing was given equally.

A supporting cast of other characters also appeared in the Bonanza TV show. They included -

Hop Sing (played by Victor Sen Yung) who was a Chinese immigrant and the Cartwright family cook; Sheriff Roy Coffee (played by Ray Teal); deputy Clem Foster (played by Bing Russell); "Candy" Canaday (played by David Canary) who was the Cartwright's ranch foreman; Ben's friend Dusty Rhodes (played by Lou Frizzel); Jamie Hunter (played by Mitch Vogel) played the orphaned son of a rainmaker and was adopted by Ben in a 1971 episode; and ranch hand Griff King (played by Tim Matheson) was a parolee in Ben's custody.


Did You Notice This??

From the third season on, all of the Cartwrights and nearly every other recurring character on the show wore the same clothing in almost every episode! Why? To cut down the cost of refiming. They could use the same footage over and over. Here's who wore what:

Ben: Taupe shirt, brown leather vest, gray pants, creme colored hat and an occasional green scarf.

Adam: Black shirt, black pants, black hat and occasionally a yellow trail coat.

Hoss: White shirt, brown suede vest, brown pants, and his trademark 10-gallon hat.

Little Joe: Gray shirt, green corduroy jacket, tan pants, tan hat. And, from the tenth season on he also wore black leather gloves.

Candy Canaday: Crimson shirt, black pants, black leather vest, black hat and a green scarf.


The Cartwrights were America's favorite Western family for 14 years while the show ran from 1959 to 1973. But Dan Blocker (Hoss) died suddenly from a post-op bloodclot in 1972 and the show was moved from its Sunday night spot (crucial to success) to Tuesday night, opposite the new comedy "Maude". Many believe that Hoss was an essential character because he balanced out the all male cast, and that his loss had much to do with the show's cancellation.


What Happened to the Actors?


DAN BLOCKER died suddenly in 1972 from a post-op bloodclot following gallbladder surgery in Los Angeles. He was 43 years old.

Here's a little personal info about Dan Blocker:

He was born in DeKalb, TX and was a big guy right from the start.... weighing 14 pounds at birth! He spent most of his boyhood years in O'Donnell, TX and that town has a bust of Dan on display in the O'Donnell Heritage Museum. He was married (wife's name Dolphia) and they had twin daughters (Danna and Debra) and 2 sons (David and Dirk)


LORNE GREENE died in 1987 of complications from prostate cancer in Santa Monica, California. He was 72 years old.

Here's some other info about Lorne Greene:

He was born in Ottawa, Canada and his real name was Lyon Green. His deep, rich voice got him into broadcasting and, during the early years of World War II, he was known as "the voice of doom" because his reporting of the international conflict was so somber and dramatic. In addition to "Bonanza", Lorne was in several movies and TV series, such as "Griff", "Code Red, "Battlestar Gallactica", and he had a number 1 hit record in 1964 which was a spoken (not sung) ballad called "Ringo".


MICHAEL LANDON had 2 very successful series after Bonanza - "Little House on the Prairie" and "Highway to Heaven". He had filmed the pilot for another series when he was diagnosed with pancretic cancer and died in 1991. He was 54 years old.

PERNELL ROBERTS starred in the successful series "Trapper John, M.D." after Bonanza. His last appearance was in an episode of "Diagnosis Murder" in 2001. Pernell died from pancreatic cancer on Jan. 24, 2010.

Here are some more details about Pernell Roberts:

He was born May 18, 1928 in Waycross, GA and showed his talents from a young age. During high school he played the horn, sang, and acted in school plays. His involvement with music continued while he was in the Marine Corps, playing tuba and horn in the Marine Corps Band.

His first professional appearance on stage was at the Olney Theatre in Maryland, in 1949, in "The Man Who Came to Dinner". Over the next 10 years he appeared in lots and lots of productions, including the American Shakespeare Festival, playing both leading and supporting roles.

Pernell Roberts made his television debut in 1956 in an episode of Kraft Television Theater ("Shadow of Suspicion"). From then until he was cast in Bonanza in 1959, he had guest roles in many TV shows such as Gunsmoke, Sugarfoot, Have Gun - Will Travel, Route 66, Lawman, Bronco, 77 Sunset Strip, GE Theater, The Detectives, and Cheyenne. He continued doing theatre productions during this time and also co-starred with James Coburn in "Ride Lonesome". He felt a bit type cast by Westerns but some say those were his finest roles.

He had some reservations about the concept of Bonanza when he was offered the part of Adam Cartwright in 1959, mainly that 3 grown men were portrayed as adolescents needing their father's permission or approval for everything they did. But he accepted the role when he was promised that all 4 characters would be clearly defined with carefully prepared scripts. This never happened, according to Pernell, who considered himself to be a more "serious" actor. While he appreciated the success and popularity of the show, he said that he just didn't enjoy doing it. He fulfilled his 6-year contract and then left the show. Later episodes explained Adam's absence by saying that he was running the family ranching business on the East Coast, or that he was traveling in Europe, or that he was at sea.

The last episode that Pernell Roberts appeared in was "To Own the World" which aired on April 18, 1965. The story line was kept open in case he wanted to come back, but he never did. Show Producer David Dortort later said that he didn't appreciate Pernell enough and regretted letting him leave the show.

After Bonanza he returned to his favorite medium, theatre, and played regional and circuit theaters as well as Broadway where he had the opportunity to use his accomplished singing and acting talents. He wasn't thru with television, though, as he continued to guest star in a variety of regular shows.

In 1979 he returned to television in the starring role of Trapper John, MD until its final airing in 1986. He received an Emmy nomination for this role in 1981.

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 Happy Trails to you. until we meet again..

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