Debbie (Mary Frances) Reynolds was born April 1, 1932 in El Paso, Texas to Raymond Francis and Maxine N. Harmon Reynolds. Raymond had been born in 1903 in Whitewright, Grayson County, Texas. His father was a rural school teacher in 1910. By 1920, Raymond’s father was working in the Post Office and the family lived in Dallas. As of 1930, Raymond and Maxine had married and were living with Maxine’s family in El Paso. Raymond was working as a carpenter for a railroad company. That same year, their eldest son William Owen Reynolds was born to Raymond and Maxine, followed by Mary Frances (likely named for Raymond’s sister) in 1932. Raymond lost his job in Texas during the Depression. Reynolds was not embarrassed by her humble upbringing. She would say of their life in El Paso that her mother took in washing and that they always had plenty to eat, even if her father had to go out in the desert and shoot rabbits. By 1940, the new family had moved to Burbank, California where Raymond was working as a “tinder man” for Southern Pacific.
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Buck Owens was born Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr. to Alvis Edgar and Macie Owens in Sherman, Texas in 1929. He is said to have given himself the nickname of Buck after his favorite mule (alternately said to be a donkey or a horse in different accounts) when he was young. His father, Alvis Edgar, Sr., was a sharecropping farmer in Grayson County, Texas. In 1937, the family moved west to Arizona. The family legend is that their trailer broke down near Phoenix, Arizona where they had other relatives, so they elected to settle there. Similar to the stories of many other musical artists, Buck’s mother sang and played the piano at their home and in church. Buck learned to play the guitar, mandolin and other instruments when he was a youth. He dropped out of school at age thirteen to help the family survive and did all sorts of jobs to raise money. As a young man, Buck began performing in honky-tonks to earn his living. When he was about twenty, he married his first wife, the former Bonnie Campbell, a singer in a band both she and Buck played in called Mac and the Skillet Lickers. Buck and Bonnie eventually moved to Bakersfield, California where Buck began to play around town and in the surrounding area. Buck and Bonnie would remain married for about five years. He was married three more times.
The actress Irene Ryan was born Jesse Irene Noblitt on October 17, 1902 to James Merritt and Catherine J. McSharry Noblitt while her family was living in El Paso, Texas. James was stationed at Fort Bliss and the family did not remain in Texas long, but El Paso has always claimed Irene. The Noblitts lived off the base on Franklin Street near downtown. Irene recounted that she was born at home. James was a sergeant in the United States Army and soon after she was born, they moved to California. Irene began entertaining when she was a teenager and recalled winning a talent contest when she was eleven years old. When she was nineteen, she married actor Tim Ryan. The couple appeared as Ryan and Noblette in vaudeville until that venue declined. After this, the couple appeared on radio as Tim and Irene. Ryan was a character actor who appeared in many films over the years, including From Here to Eternity (1953). The couple was married for about 16 years, and had no children. Ryan died in 1956 of a heart attack.
(Image credit: Associated Press)
Jimmy Ray Dean was born August 10, 1928 to George Otto and Ruth Taylor Dean in Seth Ward, Hale, Texas which lies just outside of Plainview. At that time, the family was to be operating a farm. Ruth was Otto’s second wife, but by the time Jimmy was 11 or 12, Ruth was listed as a single parent, working as a seamstress out of her home in Seth Ward. From that point on, the family consisted of Ruth, her sons Jimmy and Don. Ruth later is said to have become a barber to support her family. At an early age, Jimmy learned to play the piano, accordion, harmonica and guitar as he worked around the family farm. He was active in the local Baptist church there in Seth Ward and attributed his interest in music to his mother and the music in church.
Ann Miller was the stage name of Johnnie Lucille Collier, born April 12, 1923 in Chireno, Nacogdoches County, Texas. Her father was John A. Collier, a criminal defense lawyer known for representing clients such as Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelly and the Barrow Gang. Her mother was the former Clara Emma Birdwell. As a young girl, Johnnie suffered from rickets and took dance classes to help strengthen her legs. She also studied piano and violin. The family moved to Houston, Texas where she lived until she was nine years old. Eventually her parents divorced and she moved with her mother to Los Angeles.