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Old 07-26-2018, 07:40 PM
 
Location: Virginia
1,285 posts, read 443,242 times
Reputation: 1141

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I have no special reason for posting this other than Festus is one my all-time favorite TV characters.
(And I try to never miss an episode of Gunsmoke on getTV)






Pics are from this page ... Ken Curtis

The site, (The Old Corral) itself is one that us Oldster/Western fans should save .. The Old Corral at b-westerns.com

NOW ... Which one of these fellows is Festus?


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Old 07-26-2018, 08:10 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
19,353 posts, read 13,010,410 times
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Ken's the good looking guy in the center, wearing the white fringed shirt.

His real name was Curtis Gates. During the 40s, he replaced Frank Sinatra for a while in the Tommy Dorsey band as the singer, after Sinatra was able to get out of his contract with Dorsey and go solo.

That was sort of how his entire career went; he replaced Roy Rodgers as the lead singer in the Sons of the Pioneers after Roy left the group to go into the movies. Ken was always replacing someone else throughout his career.

As Festus, he replaced Dennis Weaver's character Chester. Chester was so memorable and popular that Ken had to create a character that was even more colorful, and that's how Festus happened. It was his idea to have Festus ride a mule.

Ken got into westerns honestly; he was born and raised in eastern Colorado on a ranch, and his Festus character speaks in an accent that's heard in that region, but it wasn't his real speech, and he exaggerated it a lot. His ability to do rural dialects, along with his singing, was what landed him his first speaking roles in the movies.

One of his favorite roles of mine was the part he played in "The Searchers", the John Ford movie starring John Wayne. Ken played a jilted suitor in an authentic, but much different accent, and sang in one scene.

He was mostly a stuntman and a secondary character in the movies, and never had lead roles until he played Festus, but like a lot of other western actors like him, he was under-used.

I always thought that, given the chance, he could have been a real movie star.

p.s.
Spade Cooley, the bandleader in that short, had a real band, and met a very troublesome fate. Google him to read about it.

Last edited by banjomike; 07-26-2018 at 08:34 PM..
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Old 07-27-2018, 03:37 PM
 
Location: Virginia
1,285 posts, read 443,242 times
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Thank You banjomike!

Looked up Cooley.
When I first saw the video, I mistook Cooley for an overweight Roy Rogers!
(I swear, He Does resemble an overweight Rogers)

Killed his wife .. Wow!

Do you really believe that his wife had an affair with Rogers?
NOT ROY ROGERS ...
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Old 07-27-2018, 04:02 PM
 
Location: Nantahala National Forest, NC
17,308 posts, read 3,528,493 times
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He was adorable in a scruffy way on Gunsmoke!
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Old 07-27-2018, 06:28 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
19,353 posts, read 13,010,410 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by claymoore View Post
Thank You banjomike!

Looked up Cooley.
When I first saw the video, I mistook Cooley for an overweight Roy Rogers!
(I swear, He Does resemble an overweight Rogers)

Killed his wife .. Wow!

Do you really believe that his wife had an affair with Rogers?
NOT ROY ROGERS ...
No. Cooley was insanely jealous, and he had beaten his first wife before he killed his second wife.

Spade did look a lot like Roy, so much so that he actually doubled in a couple of movies for Roy when they needed editing and Rodgers wasn't available. He was almost a foot shorter than Roy Rodgers, but their facial features were remarkably similar.

The real tragedy of it all was Spade was a crackerjack fiddle player and a very good bandleader. Bob Wills, the most famous western swing bandleader, came out of Texas, but the music's origins included Oklahoma, where Cooley came from, and Spade had a better ear for dance tunes than Bob.

He was also a better-trained musician, who could write better arrangements, and Spade wasn't afraid to add new instruments into the music. His band was the first to use horns, woodwinds, and even a harp alongside the fiddles, steel guitar and the guitars that Wills employed.
Once in California, Cooley would employ Hollywood studio musicians as part-timers in his band, and they brought a professional sheen to his music Wills lacked. They could play very complicated music that the Playboys could not, and were as good as any of the big bands of the 1940s, like Glenn Miller's or Tommy Dorsey's bands.

His western swing band went head to head with Bob Wills' Texas Playboys after Wills moved to L.A. where it was richer territory for the music than Texas, and Spade beat the Playboys in audience and airplay consistently.

If Spade had only been able to control his drinking and his temper, the band could have been could have had a very long and successful musical career. Cooley was able to make a very good transition from radio to TV in the 1950s, something Bob failed to do.

Spade sobered up while in prison, and his talent won him an early parole. He died of a heart attack onstage shortly after he was freed in 1961, and the infamy of the murder made his band only a footnote in pop music history.

But his band is legendary to those who love Western Swing music, and his fiddling is still very influential as fiddling contest winners for it's musical complexity and speed.
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Old 07-27-2018, 07:23 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
19,353 posts, read 13,010,410 times
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The Sons Of The Pioneers should also be mentioned when talking about Ken Curtis.

The Sons were the most popular singing group in the U.S. in the late 1930s. Their smooth soaring harmonies, sung with very distinctive voices, made their songs Cool Water, Tumblin' Tumbleweeds, Way Out There, Ghost Riders In The Sky, and many others all million-sellers at a time when a million records really meant something.

They were so popular that their western-themed music actually changed the name of their musical genre. Until the Sons of the Pioneers, that kind of music was marketed as Hillbilly, but the recording industry soon adopted Country and Western as a name for the genre after the Sons hit the radio.

They dominated the L.A. music scene of the time, and the band members all became as individually famous as members of rock bands did decades later. Roy Rodgers wasn't the only guy who became famous, for sure; Bob Nolan, the Son who wrote most of their songs and was a rather shy guy who liked his privacy, had to move out of L.A. to avoid the mobs of fans who would chase him down on the street.
It was the same for the Farr brothers, the only real instrumentalists in the band. They were both full Cherokee Indians, and both were offered leading roles in westerns, but preferred to stay musician/singers instead.

The group's membership changed from time to time; Nolan hated to perform live, but was comfortable recording, so he tended to drop out and come back, and Roy left to be a movie star, taking Pat Brady with him later. The group was essentially a 5-singer group, but it would swell up to 7 and shrink down to 4 over the years.

Getting a shot at joining the Sons was a very big deal. They were so popular that they were very selective whenever they needed a replacement, and Ken Curtis was the only new member that was recruited by them. They already knew his singing abilities, and his heritage made him a easy fit into the group.

In performance, the Sons often contracted an instrumental orchestra to help fill their bills, and Spade Cooley's band was often their first choice, as Spade could write arrangements that fit their singing perfectly for his band's back-up.

The association became so close that Tex Williams, Spade's lead male vocalist, would sometimes substitute for a Son who couldn't make a gig for some reason, and the Sons would sometimes use Spade's female vocalist, Carolina Cotton, to add high harmony to their ensemble yodeling in live performance.

Spade also stole away the Son's best bassist, Deuce Spriggens (his stage name), but Deuce's singing wasn't as good as his instrumental prowess on the bass. Deuce held out, because the Sons paid so well, and cost Cooley a lot of money before he joined Spade's band.

After the Western Swing craze died down, the Sons' careers continued on unabated for decades. They were often used to sing the leading theme songs of the westerns by some of the movie's most famous directors. John Ford was one, and he noticed Ken Curtis when Ken was in the studio, recording the songs used in the Ford westerns, and Ford knew Ken could act, as he had been the lead actor in some Starvation Row westerns, the studios who ground out cheap westerns.

Ford gave Curtis is big break in the big-budget westerns, and secured Ken's career as an actor. Once a movie cowboy was in a Ford movie, he was legitimate.

Ford had a very good eye for masculine actors; he plucked John Wayne, Slim Pickens, Ben Johnson, and many other well-known actors out of anonymity and made them movie stars. Most began as stunt men who knew how to ride a horse very well.

But of them all, Slim Pickens was by far the best rider of the bunch, and they were all very good. His stunt riding in Blazing Saddles was both remarkable, and done so well it will never be repeated, and it's the most famous few seconds of the movie to every horseman who saw it, all around the world.
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Old 07-27-2018, 08:37 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
19,353 posts, read 13,010,410 times
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Here's a little tidbit I just found;
This is the full version of the song that was written for "The Searchers", a famous John Ford movie that featured Ken Curtis as one of the actors.

Ken is clearly heard in front of this vocal mix, singing in the Sons of the Pioneers. This song wasn't used in it's complete version, heard here; it was drastically shortened and was used in the end of the flick, just as it ended.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20jAtWu4CxM

Many folks, including me, think "The Searchers" was one of the top 10 movies ever made.
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Old 07-27-2018, 08:43 PM
 
Location: Colorado
18,717 posts, read 4,702,479 times
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Years ago that Festus character was really annoying to me so I looked up Ken Curtis. Nice looking, accomplished actor and singer....after that I just thought what good acting he was doing, didn't bother me anymore.
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Old 07-27-2018, 08:46 PM
 
Location: Old Mother Idaho
19,353 posts, read 13,010,410 times
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Here's Ken singing my father's favorite Sons song. (But not with the Sons of the Pioneers.)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkEAB2NJeWw
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Old 07-27-2018, 08:53 PM
 
Location: StlNoco Mo
5,241 posts, read 4,044,580 times
Reputation: 6706
He kind of resembled his old man.

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/...l-selden-gates
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