60s Music

Rex Allen, the Arizona Cowboy

Rex Allen
Photo of Rex Allen and his horse, Koko. Allen was an actor, singer and songwriter as well as a narrator and voice artist in the later years of his career. (Source: Wikipedia)

 

Introduction to Rex Allen

Rex Allen (The Arizona Cowboy) was born on December 31, 1920 and passed away on December 17, 1999. He was the last of the movies “singing cowboys.” Rex was born in Wilcox, Arizona and quickly realized that he loved to play the guitar and entertain.  He started his career as a rodeo rider.  He then became a vaudeville singing, which got him noticed by WLS-AM radio in Chicago where he was signed to perform on the “National Barn Dance” radio program.  In 1949 he moved to Hollywood, signing with Mercury Records to record country songs, and Republic Pictures to make western movies. He became a top ten box office draw, making 19 western movies between 1950 and 1954.  His box office character was also depicted in a series of Rex Allen comic books.  After the singing cowboy era  ended Rex moved on to television where he starred in the weekly TV series “Frontier Doctor”, and later was one of the hosts for “Five Star Jubilee”.  At this time he met Walt Disney who liked his pleasant voice and hired him to narrate many of his television shows and movies. The one constant while Rex moved from one genre to another was his continued singing and recording.  His biggest hits include:  “After,” “Sparrow in the Treetop,” “Crying In the Chapel,” “Marines, Let’s Go,” “Don’t Go Near the Indians,” “Tear After Tear” & “Tiny Bubbles.”  Later in his life he used his pleasant voice to record hundreds of advertising voice tracks including the voice for Purina Dog Chow.  Rex Allen was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, OK in 1993 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Other Rex Allen songs:  “Cowpoke,” “So Long Duke,” “Laramie,” “Only the Hangman Is Waitin’ For Me,” “Sky Boss,” “Fireman Cowboy,” “I Ride An Old Paint,” “Lonesome Letter Blues,” “Fireman Cowboy” & “Knock Knock Rattle.”

 

Short career summary on Rex Allen

Rex Elvie Allen popularly known as Rex Allen  was an American actor, singer and songwriter born on December 31, 1920 in Willcox, Arizona. He was a famous singer especially during the 50s music era. Allen had his first guitar at the age of 11. Along with his father who was a fiddle player, Allen was already performing at some local events until he graduated in high school. Around that time, he also had a brief career as a rodeo rider but a terrible injury made him to stop pursuing the sport.

He switched back to singing, performing on a local radio station in Trenton, New Jersey. After Allen left the station, he became a member of the two groups, the Sleepy Hollow Ranch and the National Barn Dance. He also worked for Chicago’s WLS-AM as well. His popularity in Chicago rose further and eventually led him to a contract signing with Mercury Records. As the first country music artist signed by Mercury, he released numerous records, one of which was his 1949 hit “Afraid.”

 

 

Allen entering the film and recording industry

From 1948 to 1952, Allen released numerous records on Mercury, including his 1949 hit “Afraid.” In 1949, Allen went to Hollywood where he was subsequently signed to Republican Pictures which gave him his first project The Arizona Cowboy. And the film’s name would transform into Allen’s popular alias, The Arizona Cowboy. The successful debut was followed by 19 more musical Western movies from Republican Pictures.

 

 

Allen’s success from making films helped make hit records for Mercury Records: “The Roving KInd” (#20 pop, 1951) and “Sparrow in the Tree Top” (#28 pop, #10 country, 1951). In 1953, Allen left Mercury and switched to Decca imprint where he scored his biggest hit “Crying in the Chapel.” The single yielded at #8 on the pop chart while it peaked at #4 on country music chart. Around that time, he was also doing well with his acting career, appearing on the television program, Frontier Doctor.

 

 

Around 1960’s, Allen returned to his former label Mercury, gaining several minor hits. However, when Allen issued the single “Don’t Go Near the Indians,” it made him to return to the pop chart. It was followed by a couple of minor hits “Marines Let’s Go” (1961) and “Tear After Tear (1964).”

Going back again to Decca Records in late 1960’s, Allen issued another minor hit with the song “Tiny Bubbles.” He also recorded albums for Disneyland, Buena Vista and JMI. In Disney, Allen became well-known as a narrator ad a voice talent for a number of Walt Disney films. He also provided the narration for the Hanna-Barbera animated film Charlotte’s Web.

 

Allen’s later years

In his later years, Allen earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 1983 he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame. On December 17, 1999 in Tucson Arizona, Allen died of a heart failure, causing him to collapse in the driveway of his home. The more tragic about his death is that his caretaker accidentally ran over him, causing him to suffer additional injuries.  He was 78 years old.

 

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