James Garner, Star of Maverick and Rockford Files

Posted on Oct 29, 2011 under ARCHIVES, Uncategorized | 5 Comments


Born Apri 7, 1928

I have always been a huge fan of James Garner and found his charm, good looks and sense of humor endearing!  I’ve always been proud that we share the same birthday April 7th.

James Garner was born James Scott Bumgarner on April 7, 1928 in Norman, Oklahoma.  He was one of the first actors to excel in both films and television.

His television career spanned more than five decades making him one of the most recognizable actors of all times.

The youngest of three sons, Actor Jack Garner (1926-2011) and Charles Bumgarner, a school administrator (d 1984).  His mother (Mildred) was half Cherokee and passed away when Jim was 5 years old.  After his mother’s death the boys were sent to live with relatives.  In 1934 they were reunited with their father (Weldon) when he remarried.

Garner hated his stepmother (Wilma) who repeatedly beat the three boys.  When Jim turned 14, he had enough of her and after a very heated battle, she left for good.  Jim stated that she would punish him by forcing him to wear a dress in public!  They literally had a physical fight, knocking her down and choking her to keep her from killing him.  This incident ended the marriage to his father.

His father moved to Los Angeles while the boys remained in Norman.  At sixteen he enlisted in the U.S. Merchant Marines near the end of World War II.  Although he fared well with his shipmates, he suffered from chronic seasickness.

At seventeen he joined his dad in Los Angeles and enrolled in Hollywood High School where he was voted the most popular student.  He modeled for a short time but stated he hated it and shortly thereafter quit to return to Norman.  At Norman High School he played football, basketball and competed in track and golf teams.

He joined the National Guard, serving seven months in the United States. He then went to Korea for 14 months in the Army, serving in the 24th Infantry Division in the Korean War.  He received the Purple Heart twice for two injuries, first by shrapnel in his face and hand and the second from friendly fire diving into a fox hole.

In 1954, Paul Gregory a friend he met while attending Hollywood High, persuaded Garner to take a non-speaking role in the Broadway production of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial where he was able to study actor Henry Fonda.

Jim then moved into television commercials and then into television shows.  He starred in several television series including Bret Maverick in the wildly popular  western-comedy Maverick (1957-1960) and Jim Rockford in the drama The Rockford Files (1974-1980). He ended the run of Rockford, despite it’s high rating because of the physical toll it was taking on him.

The studio changed his name to James Garner (without permission), then he legally changed it upon the birth of his first child.  His brother Jack, who was also an actor, also changed his name to Garner.

Jim starred in more than 50 films including The Great Escape (1963), Paddy Chavefsky’s  Americanization of Emily (1964), Blake Edwards’  Victor Victoria (1982) and received an Academy Award nomination for his role in Murphy’s Romance (1985)

Jim is known for his enormous charm and comedic timing.  His performances in both Maverick and The Rockford Files showcased his comedy as well as in many of his films such as Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) and Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971).

I have always loved his sense of humor and ability at comedic relief as well as his enormous dramatic abilities. Jim Garner is a fine, fine actor!

Other works of his that I really like are Lonesome Dove, Streets of Laredo and Barbarians at the Gate.

For his contribution in the film and television industry, he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 1990 he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK.  In 2005, he received the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

When Morgan Freeman won an award that Jim was also nominated for, Freeman led the audience in a sing-along of the Maverick theme song!

James has released his biography “The Garner Files”

For an extensive list on Jim Garner’s films, visit this link

My Prayers & Thanks to the Men of Alamo

Posted on Oct 22, 2011 under ARCHIVES | No Comment

The Siege of Alamo (February 23 – March 6, 1836)

There is no doubt I am a Texan! The Alamo is a huge part of our history here in Texas. I do strongly believe the Alamo should always be remembered and honored. I travel to San Antonio once a year to pay homage and remember those 185 heroes who gave their lives for Texas Independence. I will be setting out to that sacred mission very soon – it’s time to go. I don’t really do the tours anymore,  I just stop by in the quiet of the evening and leave my silent prayers and pay homage.

I ask my fellow Texans to join me -  stop by – let them know  – you will never forget  The Alamo!

In Memory of Marty Robbins…

Ward Bond (1903-1960) Film Star

Posted on Oct 12, 2011 under ARCHIVES, CATEGORIES | 1 Comment


April 9, 1903 – Nov. 5, 1960

Ward Bond made his screen debut in Salute (1929) then went on appearing in over 200 supporting roles.  He rarely played the lead until starring in the extremely popular western TV show “Wagon Train as Major Seth Adams” from 1957 until his death in 1960.

I absolutely loved Ward Bond and his many, many films.  Being a huge 30s and 40s buff, I could swing a stick and hit at least a dozen films at once that he was in. His impressive 6’2″ height and his gentle persona made him an indelible image on the screen.

Born Wardell Edwin “Ward” Bond, born April 9, 1903, whose rugged appearance and laid back persona put him high in demand with John Ford and other films directors such as Frank Capra.

He was born in Benkelman, Nebraska just a few miles from both Kansas and Colorado.  He, and his family, Father — John W., Mother — Mable L and Sister Bernice lived there until 1919 when they moved to Denver, Co.  He graduated from East High School in Denver and then attended the University of Southern California where he played football.  At 6’2″ and 195 pounds, he was a starting lineman on USC’s first national championship team in 1928.

His lifelong friend and colleague, John Wayne played tackle for USC in 1926 before an injury ended his career .  Ward Bond, John Wayne and the entire Southern Cal team were hired to appear in Salute a 1929 football film starring George O’Brien and directed by John Ford.

During the filming of Salute, both Wayne and Ward became friends with John Ford thereby being in many of Ford’s future films.

John Wayne and Ward Bond, Tall in the Saddle (1944)

As mentioned earlier, Bond was cast in more than 200 roles.  To list all his films would be quite extensive.  He had a long and very good working relationship with John Ford and Frank Capra.

Reverend Capt. Clayton, The Searchers (1956)

Some of Ford’s films included:  The Searchers, Drums Along the Mohawk, The Quite Man and Fort Apache, The Grapes of Wrath and Mister Roberts.  He made 25 films with Ford.

Capra’s films: It’s a Wonderful Life and  It Happened One Night.

Other Films, to name a few: Bringing Up Baby, Gone with the Wind, The Maltese FalconSergeant York and Rio Bravo.

He also appeared in Raoul Walsh‘s 1930 wide-screen wagon train epic The Big Trail, which featured John Wayne in his first leading role.

He was in 11 films that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, which may be more than any other actor.

In 1957 he was cast as Major Seth Adams, Wagon Master in the extremely popular TV Show “Wagon Train“.  His bigger than life stature, booming voice and kindly persona made his character one of the most popular with viewing audiences.  He remained on Wagon Train until his untimely death in 1960.


In 1942 he was cast as  John L Sullivan in Gentleman Jim with Errol Flynn as Gentleman Jim Corbett.  John L Sullivan was the first Heavyweight champion of gloved boxing (Feb 7, 1881 0 1892)  and was generally considered the last heavyweight champion of bare-knuckle boxing.

 He lost his title to ” Gentleman Jim” Corbett on Sept 7, 1892 in New Orleans.  The fight began at 9 p.m. with over 10,000 viewers at unbelievable ticket prices of $5 to $15 a ticket.  (That’s approximately $117 to $353)  In the 21st round, Corbett landed a smashing left that put Sullivan down for good and declared the new champion.

Gentleman Jim is one of my very favorite Ward Bond movies because of his performance.  He played Sullivan with such passion and depth, I can’t imagine anyone else in the role.  Upon losing his title , Bond’s performance brought  tears to my eyes and does every time I see this film.


On Feb. 5th 1960 Ward Bond died from a massive heart attack at noon in Dallas, TX.  There was a rumor that country singer Johnny Horton was killed in a car accident (on the same day) while driving to see Ward Bond to discuss a fourth season of Wagon Train.  Although Horton was killed in a car crash on the same day at 1:30 in the afternoon, he was headed to Austin — Not Dallas.

Ward Bond was only 57 when he passed away and John Wayne gave the eulogy at his funeral.  In Bond’s will, he bequeathed to Wayne the shotgun with which Wayne had accidentally shot Bond!

Ward Bond has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the Television & Motion Picture industry.

Ward Bond (Bert) Jimmy Steward (George Bailey) Frank Faylen (Ernie)

Not only was he one of the most sought after and finest supporting actors of his time, he was one of my very favorite actors.  I categorically love the scene with Ward Bond and  Frank Faylen serenading George and Mary Bailey on their wedding night under the window of the “old Granville place” with “I Love You Truly”in “Its A Wonderful Life”.  I do believe that the tenor in the harmony was Ward Bond and Feylen was singing baratone.


One Final Note:

Many actors along with most men in the U.S., during World War II, enlisted in the armed services.  Being epileptic, Ward Bond was rejected by the draft.


James Arness ‘Gunsmoke’ Star & TV Legend

Posted on Oct 03, 2011 under ARCHIVES | No Comment

May 26, 1923 – June 3, 2011

I think I have always considered Jim Arness as “The Man” in western television shows, because no other show ran for the amazing 20 years that Gunsmoke did.  An entire generation grew from childhood to adulthood watching Matt Dillon taming Dodge City!

James King Arness was born May 26, 1923 in Minneapolis and is best known for his portrayal of Marshal Matt Dillon in the television series Gunsmoke.  James Arness played the role of Dillon in five separate decades from 1955 to 1975 and then in Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge (1987) and four more made for TV Gunsmoke movies in the 1990s.

Arness was of Norwegian and German decent, his last name was originally Aurness.  Peter Aursnes, James’ grandfather emigrated from Norway in 1887 and changed his last name to Aurness.   Peter Graves (1926-2010) was James’ younger brother and took on the last name of Graves which was a maternal family name.

He attended West High School in Minneapolis, during which time he worked as a courier for a jewelry wholesaler, loaded and unloaded railway box cars and logging in Pierce, Idaho.  Although he was a rather poor student and skipped many classes, he graduated from high school in June, 1942.

James wanted to be a naval fighter pilot but feared his poor eyesight would prevent that from happening.  His whopping height of 6’7″ dashed all hopes of being a fighter pilot as the height limit was 6’2″.  He did join the Army and served as a rifleman with the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division.  He was severely wounded during Operation Shingle at Anzio, Italy.

On January 29, 1945, after undergoing several surgeries, he was honorably discharged.  Years later his wounds continued to bother him, suffering from chronic leg pain often caused a great deal of  hurt while mounting horses.

His decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, European African Middle East Campaign Medal (with 3 bronze battle stars), the World War II Victory Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

After leaving the service he attended Beloit College in Wisconsin and began his performing career as a radio announcer in Minnesota in 1945.

His film debut was in The Farmer’s Daughter with Loretta Young in 1947.  He was a close friend of John Wayne and co-starred with him in Big Jim McLain, Hondo, Island in the Sky, and  The Sea Chase, and starred in Gun the Man Down for Wayne’s company.

It was rumored that John Wayne was offered the lead role as Matt Dillion in Gunsmoke and turned it down, but recommended Arness for the part.  The only part that is true is that he did recommend Arness for the part.  Ironically, both The Duke and Jim shared the same birthday, only Jim was born 16 year later!

Gunsmoke  ran for two decades, making it the longest running drama series in U.S. television history.  This record was tied in 2010 with the final season of Law & Order.  Unlike Law & Order, Gunsmoke featured its lead in every one of it’s 20 seasons.  Gunsmoke also aired 179 more episodes, and was in the top 10 in the ratings for eleven more seasons, for a total of thirteen, including four consecutive seasons at number one.

After Gunsmoke, he went on to perform in western movies and television series including How the West Was Won, and in five made-for-television Gunsmoke movies between 1987 and 1994. He also starred as a big city police officer in the short-lived 1981 series,  McClain’s Law.  His role as Zeb Macahan in How the West Was Won turned him into a cult figure in many European countries.

John Wayne did introduce the opening of the first Gunsmoke:

“Good evening. My name’s Wayne. Some of you may have seen me before; I hope so. I’ve been kicking around Hollywood a long time. I’ve made a lot of pictures out here, all kinds, and some of them have been Westerns. And that’s what I’m here to tell you about tonight: a Western—a new TV show called Gunsmoke. No, I’m not in it. I wish I were, though, because I think it’s the best thing of its kind that’s come along, and I hope you’ll agree with me; it’s honest, it’s adult, it’s realistic. When I first heard about the show Gunsmoke, I knew there was only one man to play in it: James Arness.  He’s a young fellow, and maybe new to some of you, but I’ve worked with him and I predict he’ll be a big star. So you might as well get used to him, like you’ve had to get used to me! And now I’m proud to present my friend Jim Arness in Gunsmoke.”

— John Wayne – Gunsmoke TV episode one
”Matt Gets It.”

James Arness had a very long and extremely successful career and to this day, is one of the most recognized actors of his genre and time.

Stop by the James Arness Official Website for more great information:

Salute to Dillon, Doc and Kitty:

- Johnny Western

Richard Boone: Actor – Writer – Paladin – Legend

Posted on Sep 20, 2011 under ARCHIVES | 4 Comments

Richard Boone, aka Paladin: Have Gun Will Travel was born Richard Allen Boone (June 17, 1917 — January 10, 1981).  He was the middle child to Cecile (Beckerman) and Kirk E. Boone, a prominent corporate lawyer.

He was the direct descendant from Squire Boone — the younger brother of Frontiersman Daniel Boone.

Richard attended Stanford Univerity in Palo Alto, CA but left prior to graduation.  He took up oil-rigging, bartending, painting and writing before enlisting in the Navy in 1941.  He served on three ships in the Pacific during WWII.  He saw combat as an aviation ordnanceman and gunner on TBM Avenger torpedo bombers.

Richard starred in over 50 films and was best known for his portrayal of Paladin in the hugely popular western series Have Gun will Travel.

After the war, using the GI Bill, he studied acting at the Actors Studio in NYC.  He was considered “serious and methodical” in his acting and debuted on Broadway in 1947 in the play Medea.  He was also in Macbeth (1948) and The Man (1950).

Elia Kazan used Richard to feed lines to an actress for a screen test for film director, Lewis Milestone.  Milestone was not impressed with the actress but was extremely impressed with Richard Boone’s voice.  Richard was given a 7-year contract with Fox.

In 1950 Richard debuted as a Marine in Milestone’s Halls of Montezuma.  In 1953 he played Pontius Pilate in The Robe with Richard Burton, who played the centurion ordered to crucify Christ.

During the filming of Halls of Montezuma, he befriended Jack Webb, who was producing and starring in Dragnet.  The writer of Dragnet was preparing a medical drama “Medic”.  Richard became known for his leading role and received an Emmy nomination for Best Actor Starring in a Regular Series in 1955.

In 1957, he became a national star with his role as Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel.  Originally, the role was offered to Randolph Scott who turned it down.  He in turn gave the script to Richard while they were making the film Ten Wanted Men.

Have Gun Will Travel ran from 1957 to 1963 with Richard receiving two more Emmy nominations in 1959 and 1960.

He also starred in three movies with John WayneThe Alamo (Sam Houston), Big Jake and the Shootists.

After approximately 14 more movies in which he typically played the villain, he starred in the short-lived TV series Hec Ramsey.  Ramsey was a turn-of-the-century Western style detective who preferred using his brain over brawn.

In an interview with Richard, he said: “You know, Hec Ramsey is a lot like Paladin, only fatter.”

He returned to the Neighborhood Playhouse in NYC, where he once studied acting, only this time to teach in the mid 70s.

He lived in Hawaii from Approximately 1964 until he moved to St Augustine, FL in 1970 where he worked with the production of Cross and Sword, when he was not acting ,and continued to until his death in 1981.

His final role was Commodore Matthew Perry in Bushido Blade.  Shortly thereafter he passed away from pneumonia while suffering from throat cancer.  His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean off Hawaii.

A Bit of Trivia:

Richard’s Cousin was Pat Boone who was the father of Debby Boone and Randy Boone’s Uncle was Richard Boone.

Richard Quote:

“He was a heroic figure and a hero. He stood up for causes when they weren’t popular at all and he never hesitated to stand up and get counted, he was that kind of a person.”
- Regarding John Wayne.

Another great actor from the Greatest Generation who left his mark on the sands of time.

Have Gun Will Travel – A Game of Chess

Posted on Sep 20, 2011 under ARCHIVES | No Comment

I never saw Have Gun Will Travel in prime time yet I did get to enjoy it in reruns.  I always felt this show was a league ahead of the typical Westerns in the 50s.  It was intelligent and marched to its own beat; it was a game of Chess!

Paladin was the Chess Knight.  I honestly believe, after watching it as of late, that Have Gun Will Travel was one huge Chess Game. Moves were deliberate and strategically orchestrated.

A Quick Scenario:

Paladin (played by Richard Boone) lived in the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco, he dressed in very expensive suits, dined on gourmet foods and attended the Opera.  His intelligence included being Bilingual, reciting poetry when it fit the moment, and sited everyone from Shakespeare to Plato when it worked to his advantage.

He was the Master Chess Player and his alter ego was the Chess Knight.  Changing from his elegant attire to solid black for his quests into the lawless and barren Western frontier.  Always moving, always having a different move in order to control the situation. This is also a chess reference.

His calling card was an emblem of the chess knight and his holster also donned the chess knight in silver.

From the lyrics of the “Ballad of Paladin” by Johnny Western “A Chess Knight of Silver is his badge of trust.”

The Chess Knight on a chess board is the most versatile, it can move in eight different ways, over barriers and is always unexpected!

Like a Chess Master, he sought control of the board through superior positioning and usually only killed as a last resort.

Paladin was usually the mediator in many disputes trying to find a common agreement among oppositions.

Unlike the popular belief that he was a “hired gun” to kill someone if the price was right. He was the defender of the under dog and protector of the innocent.  After all, it was the 50s and no one would applaud a killer!

The Definition of Paladin:

- Any one of the 12 legendary peers or knightly champions in attendance
 to Charlemagne.
- Any knightly or heroic champion
- Any determined advocate or defender of a noble cause

As quoted in one episode, Paladin remarks: “I might no longer be an Officer and a Gentleman, but I am Not an Assassin.”

Richard Boone was perfectly cast in the role of Paladin as he also was an extremely intelligent man and very learned.   I still watch Have Gun Will Travel, as it is on Encore Westerns.  I never grow tired of it and have never felt it dated. I’m not sure why it didn’t run longer than it did.  Shows were going to 1 hour long vs. half hour long and that might of had something to do with it.

I loved the old Westerns and Have Gun Will Travel is one of the Very Best.


Many Thanks to Mac – Firsthighlander1 for allowing me to place his video on my blog.

Fess Parker: A Tribute to My Hero!

Posted on Aug 16, 2011 under ARCHIVES | 2 Comments

August 16, 1924 – March 18, 2010

“There have been several turning points in my life, but the most important one came the day I stepped before the cameras as Davy Crockett. The way I look at things, a man’s life story isn’t his alone, but it belongs to a lot of people who have influenced him and done things for him that he can never repay.” – Fess Parker


Today, Fess Parker would have turned 87 yrs old.  He was a personal hero of mine so I wanted to pay  tribute to this wonderful man and celebrate his life.

I was so fortunate, as a child, to have great shows with great heroes. Heroes that were not only bigger than life but great role models.

Two such role models were Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, both portrayed by Fess Parker in the 50′s and 60′s.

Fess Elisha Parker, Jr was in born in Fort Worth, TX on August 16, 1924. He grew up on a farm in San Angelo, TX and graduated from the University of Texas in 1950. Upon moving to Los Angeles, he studied drama at the University of Southern California and shortly afterward made his film debut in “Untamed Frontier” starring Shelley Winters.

He made a few movies before signing with Disney in 1955 to star in “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier”. The show became such a huge success that a merchandising frenzy followed with everything from coon-skin caps to mugs and shirts. Imagine Elvis and the Beetles – that was the frenzy over Fess Parker and Davy Crockett in 1955!  The show consisted of three episodes depicting Crockett as a frontiersman, a congressman and the tragic hero at the Alamo. Davy Crockett is considered the first television miniseries, although the term had not yet been coined at that time. An interesting note on the 3 episodes; the full version of the Ballad of Davy Crockett was broken up into segments throughout the entire 3 parts.  You can hear the entire version at the end of this blog.

“Parker became a contract star for Disney and appeared in The Great Locomotive Chase, Westward Ho, the Wagons!, Old Yeller, and The Light in the Forest. He complained they were all basically the same role. Disney refused to loan Parker for roles outside of that persona, such as The Searchers and Bus Stop.- wikipedia

According to a videotaped interview (for the Archive of American Television) with Fess Parker, Parker stated that this was by far his single worst career reversal. (regarding The Searchers)

The show only ran for one year (1955 – 1956) and Parker was immediately type-cast as Crockett, appearing in various movies regarding the earlier years of Davy Crockett. The added movies of Crockett in earlier years came about (my opinion) because children and parents alike were so upset with Disney’s release of the Alamo  where Crockett tragically died. In 1959 his career had leveled off until 1964 and the birth of the Daniel Boone series.

“Daniel Boone” ran from 1964 – 1970 and was one of the highest rated shows of its time. Parker not only starred in the leading role, he also co-produced the show and directed 5 of the most successful episodes.

At a whopping 6’6″ tall, Fess Parker’s height and good looks were ideal for portraying heroes like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.  Being a fellow Texan certainly added to my great love for this man.

I believe Fess Parker’s Davy Crockett as well as Daniel Boone withstood the sands of time because of his portrayal of these two men.  He radiated great warmth, caring and a soft humor that just made viewers love him!

I absolutely loved & worshiped him as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. Fess Parker was a natural hero as he lived by his own great values. He was a good man, possessed a kind heart and treated people with dignity and respect. I don’t see a lot of people like that anymore.

There have been other actors that have portrayed Davy Crockett, and as much as I might admire their acting abilities – to me, there was and is Only One Davy Crockett and I will miss him forever!

I found some wonderful videos that bring back all those great memories. I hope everyone  will enjoy these great videos as much as I have. I want to thank those who contributed the use of their videos as a Tribute and Well Overdue Celebration to Fess Parker.

Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier..
- Sung By Fess Parker  (Courtesy of: joelynny)

Daniel Boone was a man, yes a Big Man…..
- Sung By Fess Parker  (Courtesy of: DukeFanGermany)


If I were to go back in time, I would be in front of my TV….

Farewell Fess Elisha Parker Jr…..You Served Your Fans Well..

The complete Ballad of Davy Crockett (Courtesy of: DukeFanGerman)

“Remember that a government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take everything you have” – Davy Crockett


“After his acting career, Parker devoted much of his time operating his Fess Parker Family Winery and Vineyards in Los Olivos, CA. The winery is owned and operated by Parker’s family, and has produced several different types of award-winning wines. Parker’s son, Eli, is President and Director of Winemarketing & Vineyard Operations while daughter, Ashley, is Vice President of Marketing & Sales.

The Parker operation includes over 1,500 acres (610 ha) of vineyards, and a tasting room and visitor center along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. In addition to wine, the winery is known for selling coon skin caps and bottle toppers, inspired by Parker’s Crockett and Boone characters, and for appearing in the movie Sideways.

In a reminiscence of his acting days, Parkers’ wine labels have a logo of a golden coonskin cap- wikipedia


Ken Curtis “Festus Haggen” Actor, Singer

Posted on Aug 11, 2011 under ARCHIVES | No Comment

July. 2, 1916 to April 28, 1991

Ken Curtis’ Festus Haggen first appeared on Gunsmoke in 1962, an episode titled “Us Haggens” avenging the death of his twin brother. The character was showcased full-time from 1964 until 1975.  His simple vocabulary and appearance made him a “lovable” character to viewers.  Throughout the history of the series, his character was  the only one that became an official deputy on the show.

Seen often in the Long Branch bantering with Doc Adams served as a constant comedic relief throughout the series. There is little to no history regarding Festus Haggen’s background,  except that he served in the Confederate army and he could not read.

Ken was such a great actor that some folks could not have imagined that he was actually an extremely polished, well educated and highly intelligent man.  He could not have been further from Festus if he tried!  In my own opinion, one of Ken’s most outstanding features was his gorgeous smile!  That smile probably melted the hearts of many a fair maiden!

Ken Curtis was born Curtis Wain Gates on July 2, 1916 in Lamar, Colorado and passed away on April 28, 1991 in Fresno, CA  at age 74.  He was an actor and singer from 1941 through 1991.

He was raised in Las Animas, the seat of Bent County, west of Lamar in southeastern Colorado.  His father, Dan Gates was a sheriff and the family lived above the jail.  His mother, Nellie Sneed Gates cooked for the prisoners.  The jail is located in an historical area of Bent County.

Ken had a long and amazing career long before playing Festus on Gunsmoke.  He was a singer before moving into acting and managed to combined the two upon entering films.  He performed with the popular Sons of the Pioneers from 1949 to 1953 as well as performing with the Tommy Dorsey band.  He replaced Frank Sinatra as a vocalist with the Dorsey band, little else is known about his relationship with the band.

He signed with Columbia Pictures in 1945 and starred in a series of musical westerns with The Hoosier Hot Shots, playing a singing cowboy and romantic lead.  He spent most of 1948 as a featured singer and host of the long-running country music radio program WWVA Jamboree.

Through his first marriage to Barbara Ford (1952 – 1964), he was the son-in-law of famed director John Ford.  He teamed with Ford and John Wayne in Rio Grande, The Quite Man, The Wings of Eagles, The Searchers, The Horse Soldiers, The Alamo and How the West was Won.

Note:  Ford originally wanted Fess Parker, of Davy Crockett fame, in the Jeffrey Hunter role in the Searchers.  Unfortunately, Walt Disney would not allow Parker to take on the role as he was under contract with Disney.  According to a videotaped interview (for the Archive of American Television) with Fess Parker, Parker stated that this was by far his single worst career reversal.

Ken also joined Ford along with Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell and Jack Lemmon in the classic Mister Roberts.

Ken tried his hand at producing with two very low budget monster films: The Killer Shrews and The Giant Gila Monster.  He also appeared on an episode of Perry Mason.

In the 50′s he was featured in the three films produced by Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney.  The Searchers (1956), The Missouri Traveler (1958) and The Young Land (1959).

He is probably best known for his role as the cantankerous Festus Haggen on Gunsmoke.  Although Marshal Matt Dillion had a total of five helpers over the two decades of the show’s run, Festus was the longest run of eleven years and 239 episodes and was the only helper deputized.

Ken won the role of “Monk” in Have Gun Will Travel with Richard Boone and that in turn led to his role as Festus on Gunsmoke.

Ken said that his character of Festus was patterned after “Cedar Jack”, a man from Curtis’ Las Animas childhood days.  Cedar Jack lived about 40 miles out of town and made a living cutting cedar fence posts.  Curtis said he’d see Jack many times in Las Animas, where he was usually drunk and in jail.

He also  traveled around the country performing a western-themed stage show at fairs, rodeos and other venues when Gunsmoke was not in production and after the show was canceled.

Ken was induced into the Western Performers Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  His last acting role was as an aging cattle rancher “Seaborn Tay” in the television production of Conagher (1991), by author Louis L’Amour and starring Sam Elliott.

A statue of Ken Curtis as Festus in Clovis, Califonia in front of the entrance of the Fresno Educational Employees Credit Union in Fresno, CA.  Ken lived in Fresno until his death in 1991.

Johnny Western: American Song Writer, Singer, Actor & DJ

Posted on Jul 19, 2011 under ARCHIVES | No Comment

The other day I was wandering around  YouTube searching for videos on old TV shows and their theme songs.  Although I was not around when Have Gun Will Travel was in prime time airing, I did get to see reruns some years later and have always loved the theme song.

I was overjoyed when I finally ran into a video with this song!  I was also blown away listening to the performer’s beautiful voice!  His name is Johnny Western….

He wrote and sang the theme to Have Gun Will Travel –”The Ballad of Paladin“.  So off I went to find out more information about this man.

Johnny Western was born October 28, 1934 in Two Harbors, Minnesota and mostly raised in Northfield, Minnesota.  His father was an instructor and officer in several Civilian Conservation Corps camps.  Johnny spent many of his earlier years in these camps, he also lived on Indian Reservations on the Canadian/US Border.

When he was 5 yrs old, his parents brought him to a western movie “Guns and Guitars” starring Gene Autry.  Upon seeing the movie, he decided he wanted to be a singing cowboy.  He received his first guitar at age 12 and by age 13 was performing professionally.

His career began, singing and playing rhythm guitar with a collegiate singing trio.  He got a job on radio at 13 as well as his name in Billboard magazine as the youngest disc jockey and singer on American Radio.

By 16 he was a singer with the Sons of the PioneersKen Curtis, singer and actor also was a member of Sons of the Pioneers. He performed with Gene Autry and 30 yrs later with Johnny Cash.

Along with writing and performing the theme song The Ballad of Paladin, he also co-wrote songs for the shows Bonanza and The Rebel.

Many Thanks to Mac -  Firsthighlander1 for allowing me to place his video on my blog.  So just scroll down and have a wonderful experience walking back in time when westerns ruled the golden age of television.  Whether you were there at the time, or this is a new experience.

Take a moment and listen to his performing “The Ballad of Paladin” .  You will know why I needed to find out more about this incredible singer!


1 – Anyone of the 12 legendary peers or knightly champions in attendance
to Charlemagne.
2 – Any knightly or heroic champion
3 – Any determined advocate or defender of a noble cause

Awards and Honors
TV Theme Hall of Fame (1993)
Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame (2000)
Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame (2000)
Western Music Association Hall of Fame (2001)
Wichita Professional Broadcasters Hall of Fame (2002)
Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame (2004)
Kansas Western Swing Hall of Fame (2004)

The Ballad Of Paladin

Have Gun Will Travel reads the card of a man.
A knight without armor in a savage land.

His fast gun for hire heeds the calling wind.
A soldier of fortune is the man called Paladin.

Paladin, Paladin
Where do you roam?
Paladin, Paladin,
Far, far from home.

He travels on to where ever he must
a chess knight of silver is his badge of trust
There are campfire legends that the plainsmen spin
of the man with the gun
of the man called paladin

Paladin, Paladin
Where do you roam?

Paladin, Paladin,
Far, far from home.
Far, far from home.
Far, far from home.
 - Written by Johnny Western

Largest Fourth of July Celebration in Maine

Posted on Jul 02, 2011 under Uncategorized | No Comment

Elm St Eastport Maine

Eastport is a small city consisting entirely of islands in Washington County, Maine, United States in. The population was 1,640 at the 2000 census. The principal island is Moose Island, which is connected to the mainland by causeway. Eastport is the easternmost city in the continental United States (although nearby Lubec is the easternmost municipality).

Lubec, Maine

Independence Day in Eastport is not simply a festival, but rather a celebration of the birth of a nation. Towns and villages throughout Maine and Canada come together to party, but also to remember those who sacrificed so much to preserve and protect America.

Because “Old Home Week” traditionally begins on Canada Day and runs through Independence Day, it is actually a celebration of the birth of two nations.

Eastport hosts the largest Fourth of July celebration in Maine. Grand Independence Parade (with considerable participation of its Canadian neighbors), Fireworks over the Bay of Fundy, free entertainment at Overlook Park, greasy pole and water sports, antique car show, contests and games for all ages with prizes.

Since 1905, U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard ships have made a port call over the 4th and provided free tours.

Have a Safe and Happy Fourth of July wherever you are!


Many Thanks to Wikipedia for this valuable information.