Happy Trails Children’s Foundation Silver Screen Legend XV.
“Froggy went a courtin’, he did ride. Uh-huh. Froggy went a courtin’, he did ride. Uh-huh. Froggy went a courtin’, he did ride. Sword and pistol by his side. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.” It’s just a silly little song about a frog named Froggy going off to marry Miss Mousey. What is probably even sillier is the fact I remember the lyrics 65 years later. (Don’t ask me about anything 65 minutes ago!) It was 1947, and my aunt was rich. She must’ve been. She had a record player and there was no such frivolous thing at my house as the best we could do was a radio.
I often visited my Aunt Gus and Uncle Jim and what I thought was rich in those days was due to the fact my uncle was a foreman in a tire factory and they could afford things we could not. Simple things like a record player and several albums. In those days records were huge black affairs with one song on a side and albums were actually heavy books with sleeves to accept and protect the records. At this stage in my life I remember three albums we played over and over in those pre-television days. One was a weird concoction, at least for those days, from Spike Jones, another was a very soothing and pleasurable Bing Crosby collection, and finally Froggy came from the Tex Ritter album. We played those records over and over and over again and when the timing was right we could go see Tex Ritter at the Saturday matinee playing at the West theater. Two years later my aunt and uncle had a TV and we could watch Tex Ritter from the comfort of the living room. It was almost like a minor miracle to a 10-year-old kid.
The Happy Trails Children’s Foundation Silver Screen Legend XV raffle this
year honors two legendary Cowboy singers Eddie Dean (far left) and Tex Ritter.
To my Northern ears Tex Ritter had a voice that was pure cowboy. Whether singing or speaking his voice had to be pure South Texas; he had a southern drawl like no other. It was a pleasure just to hear him speak. We didn’t have a record player or a TV in those days but as I said we had a radio. Every afternoon when I would come home from school mom would have on the local country music station’s Melody Roundup. And I can remember not only hearing such songs by Tex Ritter as “Froggy” but also “Hillbilly Heaven,” “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling” from the movie High Noon, and the very moving “Deck of Cards” which told of a soldier sitting in the back of the church using a deck of cards as a Bible. Those were certainly pleasant days today’s kids don’t have the advantage of knowing. I wonder what ever happened to Country Music?
Another top country music singer from Texas was Eddie Dean. In fact, Eddie Dean was regarded as one of the top singers by no less than Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. While Tex Ritter’s voice dripped pure country, Dean’s was much stronger and he probably could’ve been an opera singer. Or so I recall. Long before Tex Ritter recorded “Hillbilly Heaven” Eddie Dean originated the first recording. In the light of most of the singers we have today I would have to say both of these fellows were as pleasing to my ears as anyone could be; however, they were more than country-western singers. They first caught my attention because they were B-Western stars. When TV first started moving across the country, in the late 1940s, early 1950s programming was much different than it is today. Much of the time was taken up with old movies with a major portion being the B-Westerns from the 1930s and 1940s.
The Silver Screen Legend XV is a double gun rig crafted by Jim Lockwood
for the two engraved, ivory stocked Colt SAA .45s donated by Colt Mfg
(Conrad Anderson, engraver and maker of the silver conchos and
Bob Leskovec, gripmaker).
Known By Heart
Every kid in that era could list all the cowboy stars, the names of their horses, and could definitely tell which cowboy was which just by looking at his sixguns and holsters. John Wayne started in B Westerns and it was not until he started making higher-quality Westerns such as Tall In The Saddle and Angel And The Badman did he switch from the typical Hollywood Buscadero rig to a more practical outfit consisting of a holster slid over a cartridge belt.
All the true B-Western stars stayed with fancy Hollywood rigs such as the double holsters worn by Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy (if you watch Hoppy movies notice how his holsters evolved), and most assuredly Tex Ritter and Eddie Dean. These were our heroes as we were growing up and it sad to me today’s kids have very few heroes to emulate. Of course it was all make believe on the movie screen, however we learned straight shootin’ honest values from the stars.
Tex Ritter was born Woodward Maurice Ritter in 1905 in a little town called Murvaul, Texas. Edgar Dean Glosup followed 2-1/2 years later in Posey, Texas. Both started out singing in radio and made the transition to Hollywood in the 1930s. Tex starred in more than 60 B-Western films in the 1930s and 1940s and Eddie started out playing bit parts, often non-speaking parts until 1945 when he became a star and would go on to make 18 singing Westerns.
Probably the greatest artist of the Silver Screen Western-style was Roy Rogers. Not only did he provide much entertainment for young kids he also did things offscreen to help children. The song “Happy Trails” is connected to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and their magnanimous efforts to help children is carried on today with the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation. This is the only children’s charity in the country today that supports the Second Amendment and the shooting sports as well as many children. Every year a special commemorative set of sixguns and holsters is commissioned to raise money for the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation. This is the 15th year and Silver Screen Legend XV is dedicated to two singing cowboys Tex Ritter and Eddie Dean.
Each year some Western cowboy or cowboys is recognized and honored with the beautiful leather and sixguns which are auctioned off to raise money to help abused children. This is the real legacy of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, namely helping children. Over the years the Silver Screens Legend program has raised over $2 million. It is one of the most worthwhile charities in the country.
Silver Screen Legends XV consists of a matched pair of 5-1/2″ nickel-plated Single Actions donated by Colt. They are engraved by master engraver Conrad Anderson who also provided the sterling silver buckle sets, conchos, and spots. The Colts are fitted with elephant ivory grips with the ivory being donated by David Warther and carved and fitted by Bob Leskovec. Ron Love furnished and polished .45 Colt prop cartridges to fill the cartridge loops. That brings us to the man responsible for the original concept, overall theme, coordination and total design. As we go through this world if we are lucky we make friends, real friends. One of my real friends is Jim Lockwood who is a master leather crafter specializing in rigs which are duplicates of those worn by B-Western and early TV Western stars.
Jim is a dedicated student of B-Western history and knows more about the sixguns and leather we saw every Saturday afternoon and in the early days of TV than anyone else. He is a virtual walking encyclopedia when it comes to sixgun leather history. One of the early leather makers to the stars was Ed Bohlin, who not only made beautiful belts and holsters but also silver mounted saddles. In the late 1940s Bohlin made the all-black, silver-mounted rig worn by Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger. In the latter years of their careers both Eddie Dean and Tex Ritter acquired exact duplicates of the Bohlin Lone Ranger rig except finished in beautiful rich brown leather instead of black. This is the rig Lockwood has duplicated as a tribute to Eddie and Tex.
Silver Screen Legends XV will be raffled off with the drawing held on Dec. 15, 2012 in Victorville, Calif. The winner need not be present. Tickets are $10 each or 11 for $100. Total proceeds go to help abused children. Someone is going to win this beautiful double Buscadero rig complete with matching Colts. Tickets may be ordered by phone or online.
By John Taffin
Happy Trails Children’s Foundation
Silver Screen Legend XV
10755 Apple Valley Rd.
Apple Valley, CA 92308