On Sunday, October 23, 1960, the Texas Prison Rodeo performance in Huntsville was slated to have a personal appearance by actor John Wayne, in Texas to promote the release of his film “The Alamo” in Houston the following week. Scheduled to appear with Wayne was pop singer Frankie Avalon, who had been cast as the character known as “Smitty” in the film. Wayne’s production was only the fourth of fifty-one film or television projects that Avalon appeared in, but he was at a peak of his career in pop music. The previous year, his recording “Venus” was Number 1 for five weeks. Between 1958 and 1962 between two and three dozen of his recordings hit the Billboard chart. The rodeo arena was expected to be filled to capacity at around 30,000.
Category Archives: entertainers
Woodward Maurice “Tex” Ritter was born on January 12, 1905 to James Everett and Elizabeth Matthews Ritter of Murvaul, Texas, in Panola County about 10 miles south of Carthage. He was the youngest of about nine children. His first name is sometimes spelled “Woodard” but in one account it is related that he was named for Dr. S. A. Woodward, the doctor who delivered him. Tex was the grandson of Benjamin Franklin Ritter, who had been brought to Texas as a baby in the early to mid 1830s from Tennessee.
Cyd Charisse was born Tula Ellice Finklea in Amarillo, Potter County, Texas on March 8, 1921 to Ernest Enos and Lela Norwood Finklea. Ernest was a well known Amarillo jeweler of French descent, though he was born in Texas. Ernest was the proprietor of E. E. Finklea Jewelers at 410 South Polk Street in downtown Amarillo. Finklea’s billed itself as “The Jewelry Store of the Panhandle.” The name Cyd is a respelling of the nickname her brother gave her when he could not pronounce “sister” and she adopted it as her stage name. The last name Charisse was actually her married name.
(Image credit: Playbill)
An eight foot tall bronze statue of Peter Pan was dedicated to Mary Martin on July 4, 1976 and is located on the south side of the Weatherford Public Library at 1014 Charles Street, near Soldier Spring Park in Weatherford, Texas. It was dedicated as part of Weatherford’s American Bicentennial celebration. Martin was depicted in a pose as Peter Pan, her 1954 Broadway character. An earlier stylized statue of Peter Pan was dedicated in her honor in Weatherford’s Cherry Park recreation area, 300 S. Alamo Street, not far from her childhood home.
Bill Pickett was born to Thomas Jefferson and Mary Gilbert Pickett in Jenks-Branch, Williamson County, Texas in 1870, one of 13 children. His heritage was African-American and Cherokee. He is credited for having invented the method of steer wrestling commonly called “bulldogging.” For this, his showmanship and his other skills he became the first person of African-American descent to be inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, among his other honors.
(Image credit: gettyimages.com, showing Dale Evans between the actor Jimmy Stewart and Dale’s husband Roy Rogers.)
Dale Evans was born Lucile Smith (later changed to Frances Octavia Smith) on October 31, 1912 in Uvalde, Texas to Walter Hillman Smith and Bettie Sue Coln, according to published genealogy records. The family later moved to Osceola, Arkansas where she attended high school. When she was 14, she eloped and married Thomas Frederick Fox with whom she had her first born son, Tom Fox, Jr. The marriage ended shortly thereafter and two years later, she married August W. Johns. In 1936, she married Robert Dale Butts, which relationship lasted about nine years. She had no children from the latter two marriages. In her early years, she struggled as a single parent and supported herself by working as a secretary, a singer and working in radio in Chicago, Memphis, Dallas and Louisville. She was given the stage name of Dale Evans by a radio station manager who suggested it because it was easier to pronounce than Frances Octavia Smith.
The Light Crust Doughboys are an American western swing band from the Lone Star State created in 1931 to promote Light Crust Flour and other products of Burrus Mill and Elevator Company in Saginaw, Texas, a suburb of Ft. Worth. The original group was formed by the company president, W. Lee O’Daniel and performed until about 1942. During this period they began a radio broadcast on KFJZ in Ft. Worth and the show would open with the announcer saying “The Light Crust Doughboys are on the air!” After the first couple of weeks, O’Daniel wanted to cancel the show, but its early popularity encouraged him to continue the broadcast and it came a popular stable at noon each weekday. This is a YouTube link to a 1934 recording of the group’s theme song.