Jack Lord : From Stoney Burke to Hawaii Five-O

Jack Lord 1920-1998

Jack Lord was born John Joseph Patrick Ryan on December 30,1920 in Brooklyn, New York according to the rememberingjacklord.com website. Jack attended John Adams High School in Queens.

It didn’t take Jack long to understand what hard work meant, since his father sent him on freighters, during the summer, which traveled all over the world. He had the unique distinction of playing on the varsity football team, and being an accomplished artist, while attending high school.

After graduating from high school Jack played on the New York University football team as a tackle. He and his older brother Bill opened the Village Academy of Art in Greenwich Village, and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibited two of his paintings.

These two paragraphs from his biography at rememberingjacklord.com tell of his first marriage and being torpedoed by German U-boats during World War II:

In 1942, Jack married Ann Cicely Willard. Jack described it as a youthful romance and said they married following a whirlwind courtship. The marriage was not a good one, for the couple were young, and Jack was working away from home. They had a child, John Ryan, Jr., who died at the age of 13 following a brief illness. 

During World War II, Jack served with the U. S. Maritime Service aboard Liberty ships.  It was not an easy assignment, for the German U-boats were always on patrol. The ship on which Jack was serving was torpedoed. With the fantail, rudder, and after-stern were destroyed, and the ship began to sink. There being no time to send an SOS, the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship. The ship sank in seven minutes, and Jack drifted in a life boat for sixteen hours before being rescued.

He was visiting his brother Bill in Woodstock, New York, when he saw a house that interested him. After meeting the owner Marie L. De Narde they were married later on January 17, 1949.

Changed His Name To Jack Lord

Jack found out there was already an actor, in the actor’s union with the name Jack Ryan, so changed his name to Jack Lord, but only for acting purposes, as he didn’t change his legal name. He picked the name Lord from his family tree.

His first acting job was in the movie Project X in 1949, which was followed by Cry Murder in 1950.

Jack Lord as Stoney Burke 1962-1963

1957 would see him appear in Have Gun – Will Travel and Gunsmoke. He would alternate between television and the movies, for the next few years, until he was given the starring role of Stoney Burke on the Stoney Burke television series from 1962-1963. He portrayed a rodeo cowboy on the show.

Jack would freelance between television and movies for the next five years, before landing the job that would make him a household name.


Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O

I am now watching Hawaii Five-O on Netflix and have almost finished Season 9. I like the way that Jack as Steve McGarrett takes charge and gives almost impossible orders, like Chin Ho and Danno. He tells them to do things, like check every surfboard shop on Oahu, and get the name of everyone, that has bought a surfboard in the last 10 years. Well, maybe not that drastic, but if you watch the show you will notice him giving out orders.

Jack Lord has a presence on the screen, that tells everyone, that he is the one to see, if anyone wants something done the right way.

There are two Hawaii Five-O shows out there now, with CBS running a newer version currently, but the 1968-1980 series is the one I watch, since I left Hawaii in 1966 and can identify, with some of the locations shown and/or mentioned during an episode.

Jack Lord and his wife Marie

Jack Lord made his only appearance, after the end of Hawaii Five-O in M Station: Hawaii a television movie in 1980. He never acted again in the years, which led to his death, on January 21, 1988 in Honolulu,Hawaii at the age of 77.

He lived the last 30 years of his life in Hawaii with his wife and liked to walk on Kahala Beach, where he had his ashes scattered after his death.

After he and his wife died they left $40 million to many charities in Hawaii, which are detailed in the following article:


Jack was considered for the part of Captain Kirk in Star Trek 1966, but was turned down, since he wanted to be co-producer and own a percentage of the series, so William Shatner had to be thrilled, that Lord turned down the role.

I have noticed that it is difficult to find a photo online of Jack Lord in later life.

This website tells about Jack’s interaction with the other actors:

  • Lord was infamous for being imperious and hard to work with. However, fellow?Hawaii Five-Operformers Kam Fong, Zulu, Harry Endo, and Jimmy Borges have credited him as professional, generous, and normally soft-spoken. Many cast members considered him a friend and a mentor. Jack Lord was 6’2″ and liked to appear as the tallest actor on-screen – he often wore elevating footwear when appearing with Richard Denning, Al Harrington, and tall guest stars.

Other trivia from this same article:





Who’s Alive From Classic Television Shows

Ron Howard and Jim Nabors are only Andy Griffith stars still alive.

Andy Griffith Show

The Who’s Alive and Who’s Dead website lists Ron Howard 59 and Jim Nabors 80 as the only surviving stars of the Andy Griffith Show. Howard McNear who portrayed Floyd the Barber was the first cast member to die, since he passed away in 1969 the year after the show left the air. He died at a comparatively young 63. Frances Bavier (Aunt Bee) died 20 years later in 1989 at the age of 86.


Adam West (Batman) 85 and Burt Ward (Robin) 68 are two of four surviving members of the Batman cast.

Two actresses who played Catwoman are the only other surviving members of the cast. Yvonne Craig is now 76 and Julie Newmar is 78. Madge Blake who portrayed Aunt Harriet died in 1969 at the age of 69. The next one on Batman to die was Stafford Repp who played Chief O’Hara, who died in 1974 at the age of 56.

Donna Douglas 80 who portrayed Elly May and Max Baer Jr. 76 are the last members of Beverly Hillbillies cast that is still alive.

Beverly Hillbillies

Irene Ryan who played Granny on Beverly Hillbillies was the first to die, at the age of 70 in 1973. Raymond Bailey who portrayed banker Milburn Drysdale died next at the age of 75 in 1980.

David Canary who played Candy Canaday on Bonanza is only surviving member of the show at the age of 75 and Bonanza was on the air from 1959-1973.


Dan Blocker who portrayed Hoss Cartwright died before the show finished its run dying, at the age of only 43 in 1972 due to a pulmonary blood clot. Michael Landon who played Little Joe Cartwright died at the age of 54 in 1991 from pancreatic cancer.

Robert Reed who portrayed Mike Brady on the Brady Bunch and Allan Melvin who played Sam the butcher are only actors on the show who have died at the age of 59 and 85 respectively.

Brady Bunch

Ann B.  Davis 87 who played Alice on Brady Bunch is one of several Brady Bunch actors and actresses still alive. Florence Henderson is now 85 and portrayed Carol Brady. Barry portrayed Greg Brady and is now 59. Maureen McCormick who played Marcia Brady is now 57. Christopher Knight is now 56 and was Peter Brady on the show. Eve Plumb played the part of Jan Brady and is 55 years old. Mike Lookinland is now 53 and played Bobby Brady. Susan Olsen is the youngest surviving Brady at the age of 52. She played Cindy Brady on the show.

To check to see what other celebrities are alive and which ones have passed on:


Dale Robertson of Tales of Wells Fargo Fame Dies at 89

Dale Robertson 1923-2013


Dale Robertson who starred in the television series Tales of Wells Fargo died last Wednesday at the age of 89 in San Diego, California at the age of 89.  He died of complications from lung cancer and pneumonia.

Robertson was born Dayle Lymoine Robertson in Harrah, Oklahoma on July 14, 1923. He served during World War II in a tank crew and in the combat engineers in North Africa and Europe. He sustained an injury in both the North African campaign and in the European theater.

Will Rogers Jr. advised Robertson to avoid formal acting training and to just be himself.

Robertson made his movie debut portraying a policeman in The Boy With Green Hair released in 1948. He only appeared in movies till 1956, when he made his television debut in an episode of Ford Television Theatre. He continued to appear in television and movies till 1957 when he became the star of Tales of Wells Fargo was Jim Hardie on the series. The show ran from 1957-1962 and Robertson appeared in all 200 episodes. The show featured several well-known guest stars including Eddie Albert, Chuck Connors, Buddy Ebsen, Michael Landon, Steve McQueen and Jack Nicholson.

He then starred in Iron Horse which was seen from 1966-1968 and 47 episodes of the series were filmed. He didn’t star in another television series until 1987-1988 when J.J. Starbuck ran for only 16 episodes, in which Robertson played the title role. Jimmy Dean portrayed Charlie Bullets in 15 of the 16 episodes.

His last role was as a guest star in two episodes of Harts of the West, with one episode airing in 1993 and the other in 1994.

I will always remember watching the show when it was on network television. The following list shows 10 westerns among the Top 30 shows for the 1957-1958 season, with Tales of Wells Fargo ranked third behind Gunsmoke and Danny Thomas.







Old Time Radio Poll

The last old time radio show aired on September 30,1962. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Suspense and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar being the last old time radio shows to be broadcast.

The poll today breaks down by age groups of people who have heard old time radio shows either live from 1920’s till September 30, 1962 or media such as MP3 CD’s and downloads:

Archive.org: Great Multimedia Website

Archive.org will keep a reader entertained for hours.

Archive.org is probably the best source for audio and video online this side of YouTube.  The home page for the website as I write this article has a link to an audio version of a Grateful Dead concert at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum at New Haven, Connecticut on May 11, 1981.

The concert is only one of 803,305 audio recordings at the website.  There are 2,214 old time radio related links to old time radio shows and magazines that were printed during the height of the popularity of old time radio.

One Roy Rogers episode has been downloaded 74,882 times showing that the website is available for downloading many of the old time radio shows we grew up with.

Old time radio fans will love looking at list after list of old time radio shows available for downloading including some of the more obscure shows which have very few episodes in existence.

The live music archive features 88,813 archives while the moving image archives total 451,934.

Avid readers will enjoy knowing that there are 2.694,639 texts including books and ebooks. The new Bookreader at the site includes Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin and is the example shown of how the Bookreader works.


There is an audio version of some books but the one I listened to was not of the best quality and seemed to be a computer generated voice which probably would be tiring to listen to for an entire book.

Most readers may not enjoy the voice and instead opt to read the books without sound. For those that like the audio they should enjoy the feature that highlights the portion of the book being read by the voice.

The Mega Reader iPhone app provides access to the 1.8 million free books at archive.org so they each iPhone user can have their own personal reader.

Each volume of the Warren Report investigation of the assassination of  President John F. Kennedy is available to read.

The site is an excellent source of reading material for educators and students who are looking for books that are no longer copyrighted.

One word of caution: it could take hours just to look at what is available at archive.org. This website may have the most content of any website online and is worth going to the website to see for yourself what is available.


Pat Brady and Nellybelle

When the name Pat Brady is mentioned most Roy Rogers fans instantly think of Brady and Nellybelle his jeep.

Pat Brady was born on December 31, 1914 in Toledo, Ohio as Robert Ellsworth Patrick Aloysious O’Brady. When the Sons of Pioneers hired him to replace Roy Rogers he was hired and agreed to change his name to Pat Brady.

Brady appeared in his first movie Outlaws of the Prairie in 1937 as a singing ranger. He made several movies as a singing cowhand or singing rancher and was seen in many films that the Sons of Pioneers sang in.

Pals of the Golden West was his last movie which was released in 1951. That same year he appeared in his first Roy Rogers television program and never acted in movies again.

He was known for saying “Whoa Nellie” when driving the Willys CJ 2A jeep.

He played himself in the series from 1951-1957 and appeared in 100 episodes over that span. The Find A Grave website has this tribute to Brady:

If it were not for this man I would not be on this earth as he saved my fathers life during WWII. This man will always be a Hero to me.
– Rick T
Added: Jan. 10, 2011

He received two Purple Hearts in Germany and served with General Patton’s 3rd Army.

After leaving Roy Rogers television series Brady was only seen in one episode of four different western themed television shows making his last appearance in 30 Minutes at Gunsight in 1963.

For even more information and photos related to Pat Brady this website is an excellent source:


Western Stars of the Past: Bob Steele


Bob Steele 1907-1988

Bob Steele was born Robert Adrian Bradbury on January 23, 1907 with his twin brother William Curtis Bradbury in Portland, Oregon.

From 1933 to 1945 Steele would appear in a staggering 104 movies which averages out to eight movies a year with him appearing in nine movies in 1935 and 11 movies in 1941.

Starting with the Under Texas Skies in 1940 he would portray Tucson Smith in 19 westerns from 1940-1943.

During 1943 and 1944 he would play himself in six movies but after 1944 he would never appear as himself again.

He would sign a contract with Mongram in 1932 in which he was to appear in eight movies a year at a salary of $500 a week which totaled $26,000 a year. Compared to today’s stars it is a very small sum but with the country in the throes of  a severe depression it was more money than most people made if they were fortunate to have an income of any kind.

Steele would continue to make movies but with the advent of television he could be seen in both mediums. 1955 would mark the start of his television career with an appearance in Screen Director’s Playhouse as a deputy sheriff.

Later that year he could be seen in Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. This would lead to appearances in several of the westerns which were very popular at this time.  He acted in Cheyenne, Colt .45, Sugarfoot, Have Gun Will Travel, Cimarron City, Tales of Wells Fargo, Maverick, Death Valley Days, The Californians, Lawman, The Rebel, The Deputy, Hotel de Paree, The Texan, Overland Trail and Rawhide.

He continued to appear in Rawhide, National Velvet TV series, Whispering Smith, The Wide Country, Temple Houston, F Troop, Then Came Bronson and made his last television appearance in Family Affair in 1970.

While making all those guest appearances on television he was also seen in movies in some of the better known movies of the time like Rio Bravo, Pork Chop Hill, The Longest Day (as a paratrooper), McLintock, Rio Lobo and his last movie Nightmare Honeymoon in 1974.

Bob Steele appeared in his first movie in 1920 and his movie career ended in 1974 after making 234 appearances in either television or movies.

Fourteen years after his appearance in Nightmare Honeymoon he would die on December 21, 1988 in Burbank, California from emphysema.

Because of his lengthy career there is much more information and many photos about Bob Steele at this website:


Western Stars of the Past: Tim McCoy

Tim McCoy and John Wayne seen in Two Fisted Law in 1932 in the first part of the movie. Wayne was 25 at the time of the filming and another veteran actor Walter “Real McCoys” Brennan was 38.

Tim McCoy was born on April 10, 1881 in Saginaw, Michigan as Timothy John Fitzgerald “Tim” McCoy.  He was the son of an Union soldier and served in World War I and World War II.

McCoy appeared in 20 films during the silent movie era. 1927 would find him in five movies, six movies in 1928 and he made nine movies in 1932.

At one stretch from 1926 to 1936 he made 26 movies and was paid $4,000 for each movie. This was during the height of the depression earning $104,000 during that span.

The Internet Movie Database lists McCoy as having been in 91 movies during film career spanning from his debut in The Thundering Herd in 1925 till his last movie appearance 40 years later in 1965 in Requiem for a Gunfighter.

During various points in his career McCoy would appear in a circus and different wild west shows one which he had a financial interest in lost $300,000 according to McCoy.

He married Inga Arvad in 1945 after divorcing his first wife Agnes Miller in 1931. Arvad had a very controversial past before marrying McCoy.

Arvad who was a Danish journalist had been investigated for being a possible Nazi spy since she was seen with Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Olympics. She been married several times before their marriage.

She had enough connections with Hitler henchmen Hermann Goring and Joseph Goebbels to be the first to scoop the news of the  wedding of Goring and arranged through Goebbels an interview with Hitler. In her article after the interview she stated about Hitler:

 “You immediately like him. He seems lonely. The eyes, showing a kind heart, stare right at you. They sparkle with force.”

Her being shadowed because of her Nazi connections led to her being discovered that she was having an affair with John F. Kennedy in 1942. FBI director had the couple photographed and had hidden microphones installed in the bedroom but they apparently knew they were being taped since they would sometimes say “whoever is listening.”

It is a mystery of how a Danish journalist who had been seen with Hitler and  had an affair with John F. Kennedy would wind up marrying a cowboy hero in Tim McCoy. She died of cancer in Nogales, Arizona in 1973.

Tim McCoy died on January 29, 1978 at the age of 86 in Fort Huachuca, Sierra Vista, Arizona.

McCoy was another of the early cowboy stars who appeared in both silent films and talkies. B-westerns.com has an excellent website with pages and pages of information and photos about Tim McCoy.



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:


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)



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.


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.


Tom Mix: First King of the Cowboys

Western movies were often seen on television in the afternoon when school kids arrived home. On our local television station KALB-TV the first show to come on in the afternoon was Howdy Doody followed by the Pinky Lee Show.

Then western movies which had been made in the 30’s and 40’s were telecast and we grew up watching western stars like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and many lesser known stars.

This is not a complete listing of those stars since there were too many western stars to include them all but this article will bring back memories of the ones we still remember 60 years later.

These movies led to 26 western television series being shown during prime time hours at the height of their popularity in 1959.

Tom Mix was an early pioneer in television westerns but only appeared in nine talkies since he appeared in his first movie short in 1909 in The Cowboy Millionaire. His last movie was released in 1935 which was 26years after his film debut.

Despite appearing mostly in silent films Mix earned $6 million during his movie career. If he had been born 10 to 20 years later he may have been one of the best known western actors and he appeared in 315 films during his career.

He reportedly was a pallbearer at Wyatt Earp’s funeral.

His own life ended tragically when he was reportedly driving 80 MPH in his 1937 Cord 812 Phaeton between Tucson and Phoenix in Florence, Arizona when he couldn’t brake in time to avoid construction barriers and rolled into a gully.

An aluminum suitcase filled with money, traveler’s checks and jewels slid off a shelf behind him and hit him in the back of his head killing him instantly.

Tom Mix may not be mentioned much today since he died 70 years ago but he was the first king of the cowboys.

Today’s article starts a series profiling western movie stars and will include singing cowboys like Roy Rogers, Rex Allen, Tex Ritter and Gene Autry plus will include articles on western stars of the past like William Boyd better known as Hopalong Cassidy, Johnny Mack Brown, Ken Maynard and Sunset Carson.

Weird Movie Titles: Billy the Kid Versus Dracula

Circle Productions released Billy the Kid Versus Dracula in 1966 and was one of the weirdest movie titles ever released. Mixing the wild west with the horror film genre was bound to draw attention.

Dracula portrayed by John Carradine intends to make Billy the Kid’s fiancee his vampire wife by impersonating his fiancee’s uncle but Billy the Kid is warned about Dracula’s plans and triumphs in the end thwarting the plans of Dracula.

The internet movie database reviews rate the movie at 2.3 stars out of 10 stars.  This movie has nothing to do with history since Billy the Kid was killed in 1891 at the age of 19 by Sheriff Pat Garrett but in this movie Billy is reformed and working as a ranch hand.

Dracula is supposed to not be able to walk in broad daylight but does in this movie. The only good thing about the movie is that it is over in only 73 minutes.

The Internet Movie Database has this review of the movie by someone who saw the movie:

Author: wdrr

I actually stayed up late to watch this one night. How could I resist a title like “Billy The Kid Versus Dracula.”

Not only was it incredibly historically accurate, but Dracula was very well played by John Carradine. I was thankful that it was shortly followed by another treat with “Jesse James meets Frankensteins Daughter.”

The fact that someone actually green lighted this movie is the most horrifying thing around.

I will say, it is worth the watch just for the final showdown between Billy and Dracula. After firing about six shots into Dracula, Carradine stands with the most sinister of stares only to be belted squarely across the nose with a gun that Billy throws across the room. The quickness and “Doh!” factor almost makes me think John Carradine wasn’t acting. It is a little too realistic (something not characteristic of John Carradine’s acting). I was laughing myself to tears when I saw that.

If you want a good laugh, stick around to the end.

The movie had an obvious goof that was repeated several times but was left in the movie:

Continuity: At many points in the film, “Mrs. Oster” (Virginia Christine) is called “Mrs. Olson”, the character she made famous in the Folger Coffee Commercials – hardly enough reason for director “One-Shot” Beaudine to stop the cameras.

It seems like this movie was supposed to be more of a horror film but turned out to be a comedy and John Carradine called this movie the low point of his career even lower than Bikini Drive-in.

Chuck Connors: Actor, Athlete

The tombstone of Chuck Connors located at San Fernando Mission Cemetery near Los Angeles, California mentions both his acting career with the inscription The Rifleman and logos of professional baseball and basketball teams he played for before turning to acting on a fulltime basis before dying 18 years ago.

Chuck Connors was born Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors on April 10, 1921 in Brooklyn, New York. He picked up the name Chuck from his days as a first baseman when he would tell the other players to “chuck it to me”.

Chuck Connors who grew up in Brooklyn was a Dodgers fan but only played in one game for the Dodgers before being traded to the Chicago Cubs.

The Brooklyn Dodgers signed Connors in 1940 but he only played in one major league game for the Dodgers  in 1949 and was then traded to the Chicago Cubs where he played in 66 games in 1951.

He batted .239 for the Cubs in 1951 and had an OBP of .282 slugged .303. He would never play in another major league game after the 1951 season.

Connors played minor league baseball for nine seasons hitting for a respectable .289 average. He hit 108 home runs during his minor league career. His best season was 1949 when he hit 20 home runs and drove in 108 runs and hit .319 for the Montreal Royals.

Chuck Connors pictured in his Boston Celtics uniform played for the Celtics in their inaugural 1946-1947 season and also played for them in the 1947-1948 season.

Connors made his big screen debut in 1952 in Pat and Mike which starred Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. He continued to appear in movies and television till he signed to star in The Rifleman.

Chuck Connors starred as The Rifleman from 1958-1963 in 168 episodes.

He beat out 40 actors for the role of Lucas McCain in The Rifleman. Johnny Crawford played the role of his son. He would play baseball sometimes with Connors but said it was hard to find the ball after Connors hit it.

It was the singular achievement of his career but stayed busy after the show ended making appearances in numerous movies and television shows.

The show was No.4 in the ratings during the first year. Connors wrote four of The Rifleman episodes.

Leonid Brezhnev made a trip to the United States and asked only to meet one person and that person was Chuck Connors. There was only one U.S. television show allowed on Russian television and it was The Rifleman which was Brezhev’s favorite show.

This quote by Connors from Life.com shows that Connors also liked Brezhnev:

Chuck who said in 1973: The President gave me about two dozen presidential tie clips and ladies’ pins, with instructions to spread them around when I thought it appropriate, Brezhnev will get more than a tie clip. I’ve ordered two engraved Colt revolvers  for the General Secretary, Brezhnev is quite a western buff. (Source: Life.com)

Connors was a heavy smoker and he died from pneumonia due to lung cancer on November 10, 1971 in Los Angeles. Johnny Crawford was one of those who spoke at the funeral.

Ourchuckconnors.com has manyphotos and  statements by those who knew Chuck: