Charlie Louvin Dies at 83

Grand Ole Opry member Charlie Louvin has died at 83.

Charlie Louvin longtime member of the Grand Ole Opry died at 83 at his home in Wartrace, Tennessee on January 26 from complications due to pancreatic cancer.

Louvin teamed with his brother Ira to form the Louvin Brothers and  sing gospel music but they later switched to secular music and would become part of the Grand Ole Opry in 1955. The Louvin Brothers broke up in 1963. They were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001 but Ira was admitted posthumously having been killed by a drunken driver in 1965.

Charlie was still a member of the Grand Ole Opry at the time of his death having been a Grand Ole Opry member for 56 years.

Charlie Louvin singing Just Between the Two of Us.

The world of country music has lost another pioneer that I grew up listening to. Charlie still sang for 46 years after the death of his brother. Both the Louvin Brothers have died and the following obituary in the N.Y. Times tells how much Emmy Lou Harris enjoyed listening to their music and gives more information about his life and death.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/arts/music/27louvin.html

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Know the Face, Not the Name: Burt Mustin

1884-1977

Burt Mustin was born February 8, 1884 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Pennsylvania Military College in 1903 with a degree in civil engineering. He was an auto salesman at one point in his life.

It would be 28 years after graduating  before Mustin made his entry into show business working for KDKA radio station in Pittsburgh.

1951 would be the year he first appeared in a film which was named The Last Outpost at the age of 67.

Mustin would make his television debut the same year in an episode of the Adventures of Kit Carson.

According to radiogoldindex.com he only was in only one episode of Lone Ranger in 1955  before the death of old time radio in 1962.

One of his best known roles was as Gus the Fireman in Leave it to Beaver from 1957-1962. He was 78 when he made his last appearance on the show.

He also was seen in 14 episodes of the Andy Griffith show portraying several different characters including Jud, Old Geezer, Mr. Crowley, Sam Benson, Judd with 2 d’s, Jubal, Jud Fletcher and a townsman. He was in the first six years of the series from 1960-1966 and was 82 when he left the show.

For the next 10 years he appeared in a variety of television programs ranging from the Monkees to All in the Family to Laugh-In to Dragnet to Gunsmoke and ended his acting career in 1976 in three episodes of Phyliss with his last episode being the December 6, 1976 episode. He died about two months later on January 28, 1977 in Glendale, California at the age of 92 just short of his 93rd birthday which would have been on February 8.

Burt Mustin appearing on the Tonight show with Johnny Carson on March 5, 1976 less than a year before his death.

His acting career was relatively short spanning from 1951-1976 but he probably appeared in more different television shows than most actors did in a much longer span.

My favorite memory of Burt Mustin was when he portrayed Gus the Fireman on Leave it to Beaver.



Western Stars of the Past: Lash LaRue

Alfred "Lash" LaRue 1921-1996

Lash LaRue was born on either June 14, 1921 according to Wikipedia and on June 15, 1917 according to the Internet Movie Database and there is a question about his birthplace but he is generally listed as having been born in Gretna, Louisiana but Michigan has also been mentioned as a possible birthplace for LaRue.

He was known for using a bullwhip in his movies although his first attempts to use one resulted in several lash marks on his body before he was trained by Snowy Baker an expert with the bullwhip.

He had been told by director Robert Tansey who looking for an actor for his movie Song of Old Wyoming that he needed someone that knew how to use a bullwhip so LaRue lied and said he had been using one for years while in fact he had never used one in his life.

When Tansey saw the scars from LaRue futile attempt to learn on his own was when the PRC studio hired Baker to teach LaRue the tricks of the trade.

He was credited as Al LaRue in Song of Old Wyoming and Jennifer Holt the sister of western star also appeared in the movie with LaRue playing the Cheyenne Kid in the movie.


First Movie Credited as Lash LaRue

Three movies later in Law of the Lash he was credited as Lash LaRue for the first time. He once stated that he changed his name to Lash and his mother called him Lash.

LaRue did his own stunts since the PRC studio was famous for its penny pinching so they were paying LaRue for being an actor while probably not paying him any extra for doing his own stunt work.


Re-Used Scenes From Previous Movie

Scenes from Frontier Revenge were re-used in his next movie The Black Lash saving the studio money. He continued to star in movies until 1952.

He then portrayed seven different characters in seven episodes of the Judge Roy Bean television show in 1956.

Then from 1958-59 he played Sheriff Johnny Behan on the Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp television show. That would be his last appearance on television in a series.

Like most actors LaRue had a couple of movies he would rather not have appeared in like Alien Outlaw and Dark Power. He used the bullwhip to fight zombies in Dark Power which influenced one reviewer of the movie at Amazon.com to toss their DVD of the movie into Tampa Bay.

The movie’s claim to fame, the casting of Lash LaRue, was yet an additional painful addition. It was as if someone found a washed out drunk at a biker bar (no offense to Harley enthusiasts), threw a whip in his hand and said “go nuts”–and he did, with no attention to content, directive or acting. But then, he was tied for worst actor in the film…with every other actor involved.

It’s not that this movie was bad. It’s that it was so bad that it made me want to take the chopsticks (with which I was eating while suffering through this film), jam them in my eyes, swirl them all around, and force them through to my brain to end the suffering.

I will offer one olive branch to those who may disagree with me. I am someone who knows that, when watching B-movies, one should surround himself with friends and adult beverages. I did not do this (a rookie mistake for which I would normally scold others) and, as a result, I side-armed this dvd like a discus off my balcony into Tampa Bay. To my credit, however, normally I can identify those which would be good drinking movies under any circumstances and there are simply too many other options to consider Dark Power. (I guess I just stomped on that olive branch–sorry)

Baptized in Shreveport, Louisiana

This paragraph from Wikipedia tells about how LaRue came to be baptized in Shreveport, Louisiana and also about him being in Alexandria:

He was a born-again Christian who was baptized at Shreveport Baptist Tabernacle by pastor Jimmy G. Tharpe. Tharpe initially met La Rue inAlexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish, when LaRue was visiting the home of his daughter. He and another minister, Don Chelette of Alexandria, were at the time knocking doors to win souls to Jesus Christ, when they met LaRue and his daughter. Tharpe thereafter declared a “Lash LaRue Day” at his church at which LaRue gave his Christian testimony: “He came, and we had a wonderful service in our gymnasium. There were thirty-seven people saved in the gym that day. He cut paper from the mouth of Debbye, my daughter, with his whip. We all rejoiced over Lash LaRue and his testimony. I introduced Lash to others, and several churches invited him to give his testimony, and he accepted.”[3]

New York Times Obituary

The New York Times obituary for Lash LaRue stated that he had died on May 21, 1996 at Burbank California and that he had recently undergone triple bypass surgery and had suffered from emphysema. The obituary also noted that when he took a screen test for Warner Brothers that he been rejected because he too closely resembled Humphrey Bogart who was already signed by Warner Brothers.

The article also tells of how he was arrested in 1966 for vagrancy with only 35 cents in his pocket. His wife at the time of his death Frances Bramlet LaRue said that he didn’t the names of his family disclosed upon his death but he did claim at one time that he had been married ten times.

For those interested in learning more about  the life of Lash LaRue can find more information and photos at:

http://www.b-westerns.com/lash.htm




Western Stars of the Past: Sunset Carson

Sunset Carson 1920-1990

Sunset Carson was born Winifred Maurice Harrison on November 12, 1920 in Gracemont, Oklahoma. Having been stuck with a first and middle name that could only bring grief he couldn’t have been too heartbroken to have his name changed to Sunset Carson after being signed to a contract with Republic Pictures.

The date of his birth is questionable since no birth certificate has been found but the family Bible lists the Nov.12, 1920 as of above but when he applied for a Social Security card he listed his birthdate as Nov. 12, 1918 while his death certificate lists his birthdate as Nov. 12, 1926.

It is still a mystery as to his true birthdate since other publications and documents have also listed 1922, 1924 and 1927 as the year of his birth with 1927 on his driver’s license. So with a total of six different years being called his year of birth it is very questionable as to which is the correct year.

In 1940 he traveled to South America to ride in rodeos for two years after having earlier appeared in a western show owned by the first king of the cowboys Tom Mix.

Those who have seen the 1943 movie Stagedoor Canteen may remember Carson playing a soldier named “Dakota” in the part where soldiers spend some time at the local stagedoor canteen before shipping out for overseas duty.

His first western was Call of the Rockies which was released in 1944. He played the part of Sonny “Sunset” Carson. He appeared in five movies in 1944 and six more in 1945.

Republic executive Herbert G. Yates personally fired Carson when he showed up for a party of the studio’s western stars inebriated and with an underage girl.

Smiley Burnette appeared in some of the early Sunset Carson movies playing Frog Milhouse the name he used in many different movies. It is strange he used the same character’s name in movies with Gene Autry and Sunset Carson but used his own name for many of his other movies.

Carson last film for Republic was Red River Renegades released in 1946. Another cowboy star Bob Steele played Carson’s brother in the film.

His career was all but over after leaving Republic with his leading role coming in the 1950 movie Battling Marshal.

Carson wouldn’t appear on the big screen again till 1972 in the Marshal of Windy Hollow which also starred western stars Tex Ritter and Ken Maynard but Carson did appear on television in an episode of Tales of Wells Fargo portraying the legendary Kit Carson in 1957.

 

His last movie was Alien Outlaw released in 1985 which ended Sunset Carson’s 42 year movie career. Somehow aliens and Sunset Carson just don’t mix well.

The film is currently being sold new at Amazon by a dealer for $2.63 for those that would want to see the extra added feature of Sunset Carson interviewing western star Lash LaRue who was also in the film.

This reviewer at Amazon minced no words while stating their opinion of the movie:

 

This review is from: Alien Outlaw (DVD)

 

HORRIBLE, TERRIBLE!! QUITE POSSIBLY THE WORST PIECE OF JUNK I HAVE EVER SEEN. DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY, YOU CAN HAVE MINE FOR FREE!!

The reviews get worse but you get the idea.

Sunset Carson appeared in wild west shows and bwesterns.com relates how good of a shot Carson was:

Sunset was introduced by his driver (assistant/manager?), and he essentially talked to the audience about his movie experiences. His act consisted of placing a safety background in front of the screen and then moving back about 20 rows in the aisle (there was only the middle aisle in this theatre) and having someone hold a piece of chalk between his fingers whereupon Sunset would shoot the chalk out of the holder’s fingers with a .22 calibre rifle. I can assure the kind readers that this was not a trick shot of any kind. He actually shot a standard piece of chalk out of my hand — the only negative aspect was that as the chalk exploded, my front of my “black outfit” was covered with chalk dust. There is no question that he was a “crack shot”. The show was a success in that the people loved him and his act, and I still have all my fingers.

Carson died May 1, 1990 in his hotel room in Reno, Nevada at the age of 69 assuming the birth year of 1920 found in the Carson family Bible is correct.

For Sunset Carson fans who want to read several more pages of information and photos at bwesterns.com:

Click on next at bottom of front page of Sunset Carson page at bwesterns.com. It may not show up on some screens so pull scroll bar to bottom of page and it can be seen.


http://www.b-westerns.com/sunset.htm

Gene Autry, Roy Rogers in The Old Corral

Gene Autry and Roy Rogers both appeared in the 1935 movie The Old Corral. According to imdb.com it was only the second movie Roy Rogers appeared in.

The movie is unusual in that Autry is the good guy while Rogers is reportedly a bandit in the movie. The following summary of the plot tells about Rogers robbing a bus.

From the clip it seems like Chicago gangsters are fighting with cowboys.

Western Stars of the Past: Gene Autry

 

Gene Autry 1907-1998

I have been following the career of Gene Autry for many years but only today did I know his first name was Orvon and that he was Orvon Eugene Autry when he was born on September 29, 1907 in Tioga, Texas.

His family moved to Oklahoma in the 1920’s and after becoming a telegrapher for a railroad company he would practice singing especially after midnight. Will Rogers overheard him singing and told him he should be a professional singer.

He signed his first recording contract with Columbia Records in 1929 and three years later he recorded his first hit song  That Silver-Haired-Daddy of Mine. Back in the Saddle Again was another of his early hits.

Autry not only received a Gold Record for That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine but it was the first Gold Record received by any recording artist according to his official website.

Although Autry is known for singing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer he wrote the Christmas standard Here Comes Santa Claus.

He would make his movie debut in 1934 in the movie In Old Santa Fe with Smiley Burnette who would be his sidekick portraying Frog Milhouse and Burnette also wrote many of the songs sung in the Autry films. He appeared in 80 of the Gene Autry westerns.

Pat Buttram would later replace Burnette in his movies when Autry returned from fighting in World War II since Burnette had found other employment. However, Burnette played a lot of different characters in the Autry films having different names in most of the movies.

Burnette did return to appear in the last six Gene Autry films which were released in 1953 after being in 56 films with western star Charles Starrett in the Durango Kid movies.

Not only was Gene Autry a recording star and western movie star but he also served in the Army Air Force from July of 1942 till October of 1945 during the height of his movie career. He was a flight officer flying planes in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

Autry also was  an old time radio star appearing on his Melody Ranch radio program from 1940 to 1956. His horse Champion also had a radio show Adventures of Champion.

He wrote the Cowboy Commandments for his young listeners of the radio program:

  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.


Autry’s films were loaded with action and singing and he was one of the first of the singing cowboys in the movies.

The town of Gene Autry, Oklahoma was named for him in 1941 and the 2000 census shows a population of 99 for the town. He bought a 1,200 acre ranch named the Flying A Ranch in 1939 near Berwyn, Oklahoma.

He also appeared on television on the CBS network and even had a Golden Book for children written about him.

Another first for Autry is that he was the first recording artist to sell out Madison Square Garden. He also received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his accomplishments in five categories with stars in five different locations.

Dell Published printed a million copies of Gene Autry comic books in 1948 showing again how popular Gene Autry was in radio, television, movies, childrens books, comics and later as a baseball owner.

Even with all that was going on with his career Autry he also found time to provide stock for rodeos and was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame for his participation as a stock contractor.

He bought several radio stations and television stations and owned the broadcast rights to the Los Angeles Angels baseball team and became the owner of the team. He not only was the first owner of the Angels was the vice president of the American League.

Among his other accomplishments were his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1969, the Angels retired No.26 in his honor even though he never played professional baseball and was honored for his work to preserve the memory of the old west days. Major league teams have 25 player rosters so that is how the No.26 became his number since he was regarded as the 26th man.

His entry into the restaurant business was short-lived when he refused to pay the Chicago mafia a fee to open his business. Gangsters showed up on opening night and ordered the staff to leave and then destroyed the restaurant. That ended Autry’s foray into the restaurant business.

However money was never a problem for Autry as he was on the list in Forbes magazine of the 400 Richest Americans for many years and his fortune was valued at $320 million in 1995 which by then was not enough to be in the top 400 richest.

Surprisingly Gene Autry was the musical inspiraton for Beatle Ringo Starr who made this quote about his interest in Autry:

Gene Autry was the most. It may sound like a joke – Go and have a look in my bedroom, It’s covered with Gene Autry posters. He was my first musical influence.
Ringo Starr

Gene Autry’s life ended on October 2, 1998 due to lymphoma dying at his home in Studio City, California. His death came less than three months after the death of his contemporary singer-cowboy Roy Rogers.

It can said that Gene Autry was a success at everything he attempted in life except for the restaurant business but nobody could have succeeded under those conditions.

 

 

 

Gene Autry died extremely rich but was buried in a grave with a simple marker with all the others in the cemetery. This tells me he never thought he was special but he will be special to those of us who remember seeing his movies and listening to his recordings especially the Christmas songs.

 

 

 

This memorial at the Find A Grave website reminds me of how much I loved him singing Christmas songs:

Santa Claus comes tonight! Thanks, Gene for all you did for us kids of yesteryear. May you rest in peace, and may God be with you always.
– K. Williams
Added: Dec. 24, 2010

What a tribute to a great man who was such a great role model for kids and adults alike.




Western Stars of the Past: Johnny Mack Brown

Johnny Mack Brown was born on September 1, 1904 in Dothan Alabama. He was an All America running back for the University of Alabama in the 20’s and was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1957.

He had been a featured actor in movies with the leading females stars of that time such as Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford but is best known for his westerns.

By 1935 Brown appeared almost exclusively in western films until his last movie Apache Uprising in 1965. His popularity extended to appearing in a series of Johnny Mack Brown comic books.

He died of heart failure on November 14,1974 at the age of 70 due to heart failure.

For those wanting to read more about Johnny Mack Brown this link will take you to one of the most extensive websites I have seen on the internet for anyone. It includes many photos.

http://www.b-westerns.com/brown.htm